The Disadvantages of Violating Promises
By: Ayatullah Sayyid Mujtaba Musavi Lari
One of man’s vital duties in life is observing his vows. It is man’s nature to feel resentful for violating his vows and to feel satisfaction and goodness when fulfilling them in both individual and social cases, regardless of his religion. The fundamentals on which a person is brought up play a tremendous role in his future conduct. Thus, the necessity of an adequate upbringing and the development of its fruitfulness, and refraining from the things which damage man’s nature become readily obvious. Proper upbringing is the key to behavioral perfection.
Morality deems it necessary to observe and respect all verbal vows (agreements) that are contracted between parties, even it they lack legal guarantees. Violation of vows is considered as abandoning the rules of honor and dignity.
According to Buzarjumehr:
“The violation of vows isolates honor.”
He who diverts himself from the right path by violating his vows (agreements) plants the seeds of refusal and resentment in the hearts of others. Eventually the violator’s actions will bring shame on him, hewill then attempt to cover up his actions beneath excuses and contradictions and finally the people who know this person will see that he is a misguided hypocrite.
Violation of oaths is surely among the most active elements in creating social dissention and weakening ties between people. Undoubtedly, a society that is overwhelmed by dissention and mistrust will eventually loose the balance of its social life and as a result its members will not be able to trust anyone not even the closest of relatives.
There is a type of individual who is not only careless about keeping his promises but he considers treason (betrayal of trust) to be cleaver and good management; these people even brag about their actions to others.
Fulfilling promises is essential for a person who wishes to live a social life; it is the basis for social happiness, development, and success.
It is narrated that a group of Khawarij were captured during the time of Hajjaj, who reviewed their cases and sentenced them as he wished. When the last man was standing in front of Hajjaj waiting for his sentence, time for prayer arrived. Hajjaj heard the call for prayer and turned the prisoner over to a noble and told him to bring him back in the morning. The noble man left the palace with the prisoner. As they were walking the prisoner said: “I am not one of the Khawarij. I ask Allah by His Mercy to prove my innocence, for I am an innocent hostage in their hands. I ask you to let me spend the night with my wife and children so I can leave my will with them. I promise that I will return before the roaster crows in the morning.” After a moment of silence, the noble man agreed to the man’s insistence and permitted him to go home for the night. A short time later the noble man fell victim to his fear and imagined that he would be the subject of Hajjaj’s fury. That night the man woke up terrified and was astonished to hear the prisoner, who he had given permission to go home, knocking at his door as he had promised. This noble man was overwhelmed with surprise and could not help but exclaim:
“Why have you come to my door’?”
The prisoner replied: “He who recognizes Allah’s greatness and power, and makes Him a witness to his oath, must fulfill his promise.
The noble man proceeded with the prisoner to the palace of Hajjaj, and narrated to him the complete story. Hajjaj, who is known for his ruthlessness, was so moved by the man’s honesty that he allowed him to go free.
Now suppose that a commercial establishment disregarded its commitment in fulfilling its duties and regulations. Would this behavior lead anywhere but down, for the establishment would lose its credibility among the people.
There is not a more stabilizing factor than exchanged trust between members of a society. Interpersonal relations would not become stable, nor would trust become manifested in any society unless everyone gave as much importance to their verbal commitments as he does to his official and legal contracts. For example, a merchant should transfer goods on time to his clients, a borrower should pay his debts to his lenders.. .etc. It is then that disputes can be eliminated, and life can reach its ultimate goal.
It is essential for a person to review his capabilities before making any promises, and to refrain from commitments that are outside his reach. Even if a person cannot fulfill his promises or meet his commitments he is responsible for them. Thus, if a person is not careful of what he says, he makes himself subject to blame and criticism.
Islam Prohibits Breach of Promises
Man is bound to behave reasonably so as to be considered a human being. The success of human societies is totally dependent upon the unity of its members. Therefore, it is of special importance that every person conduct his life according to the fundamentals of truth and righteousness, and wholeheartedly endeavors to refrain from any action that may cause dissention or disunity. Furthermore, if the sanctity of oaths and promises stem from one’s faith and morality they are more likely to be observed. Islam so greatly condemns the violation of promises that it has made it illegal and unethical for its followers to violate their oaths even if they were made with tyrants and desolates. Imam Baqir (A.S.) said: “There are three affairs for which Allah gave no license (permission to violate): Conveyance of trust to both the righteous and the fallacious; Fulfillment of promises to both the righteous and the fallacious; And kindness to the parents whether they are righteous or sinful.” al-Kafi v.2, p. 162 The Holy Qur`an describes the believers in the following way: “And those who are keepers of their trusts and their covenants.” 23: 8 Furthermore, the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) counted breach of promises among the signs of hypocrisy. He said: “There are four traits that if one possess he is considered a hypocrite. If one of them is found in a person he has the characteristics of hypocrite unless he abandon it: (The four characteristics are) He who lies when he speaks; He who breaks his promises; He who betrays when he makes a vow; and He who erupts when he quarrels (with someone).”
Bihar al-Anw’är v. 15, p. 234
Imam Ali (A.S.) wrote the following to Malik Al Ashtar:
“Refrain from bragging to your subjects about your kindness (to them), and from preferring yourself (as governor) to your subjects, or to promise them and follow your promises with betrayal: for bragging thwarts kindness, preference conceals the light of righteousness, and betrayal deserves Allah’s and people’s resentment. Allah. Glory be to Him, said: it is a great resentment to Allah that you say that which you do not do:”
Mustadrak a!- Wasâ’il v.2, p.85
Imam Ali (A.S.) said:
“Fulfillment (of promises) is twin to truthfulness, and I know of no shield better than (truthfulness).”
Ghurar al-Hikam p. 228
Islam gives special importance to the raising of children. It has clarified to parents their moral duties towards their children through strict and comprehensive commands. Unless parents perform their duties in accordance to these moral principles, they cannot teach their children to adherence to moral excellence.
This is because actions speak louder than words. Therefore, the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) prohibited men from breaking promises to their children. He said:
“And a man shall not make a promise to his child and not fulfill it.’’
Nahj al -Fasähah p. 201
Dr. Alindi said:
“A sixteen old boy who robbed a car every day was brought to me for treatment. I discovered that when the boy was seven or eight years old, his father had forced him to give his toy to an aristocrats daughter, for whom his father worked. That toy, to the boy, represented an ultimate dream for he had worked hard to get it. The boy’s father promised to buy a substitute toy but had unintentionally forgot. The hopeless boy sought revenge by stealing a piece of candy from his father’s pocket. A day later the boy broke into a house and stole some items.
“It was not difficult to treat the boy when he was brought to me. It is possible that the boy would have come to be a dangerous criminal if he was not properly treated. But now his chances of becoming a reasonable and self-confident individual are much greater.’
Imam Ali (A.S.) emphasizes the way one should behave with his friends. He said:
“If you adopt an intimate friend, be his servant and grant him authentic faith and true sincerity.”
Ghurar al-Hikam p.. 223
Only people who possess excellent qualities and good morals are eligible for love and relationships.
The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) said:
“The happiest among people is he who associates with kind people; he who does not oppress people when he deals with them; he who when he speaks does not lie; and he who when lie promises does not betray. He is of those whose valor is perfected, whose justness is manifest, and whose brotherhood is essential.”
According to Dr. Smiles:
“When you associate with spiritual people who possess noble traits, you feel an invincible power calling your souls and manners to excellence and majesty. Friendship with those who holstrong reason, noble traits, and more experience is a very valuable matter for such a relationship gives an opportunity to achieve high spirits, teach us new ways of appropriate behavior and direct our views about others to the righteous paths.” Associating with kind people teaches us goodness and kindness, for good manners are like a light which lights that which is around it and all that is near it. In conclusion, all men should know their responsibilities towards vows and promises.