Posted on 06/28/2012 by __socrates

Arabic yamin يمين, pl. yaminal aiman. The teaching of the Qur’an with reference to an oath, is expressed in the following verses:-
Surah ii. 225 : “God will not; punish you for an inconsiderate word in your oath, but he will punish you for that which your hearts have assented to.”
Surah v. 91 :”God will not punish you for an inconsiderate word in your oaths, but he will punish you in regard to an oath taken seriously. Its expiation shall be to feed ten poor persons with such moderate food as ye feed your own families with, or to clothe them; or to set, free a captive. But he who cannot find means shall fast three days.”
Surah xvi. : “Take not your oaths between you deceitfully.”
The following is the teaching of Muhammad, as given in the traditions :-
“Whoever swears to a thing and says, ‘if it please God,’ and acts contrary to his oath, it is no sin.”
“Swear not by idols or by your own fathers”.
“Swear not by God except it be to the truth.”
“Whosoever swears by the prayers or by the fast, or by the pilgrimage, is not a Muslim.”
The Prophet used generally to swear in these words “No, by the Turner of Hearts.”
According to the Hidayah (Hamilton’s ed. vol. vi.. pp. 1, 2) yamin is constituted by the use of the name of Almighty God, or by any of those appellations by which the Deity generally known or understood.
False oaths are of three kinds:-
(1) Al-Yaminu ‘l-Ghamus اليمين الغموس
An oath taken concerning a thing already past, in which is conveyed an intentional intentional falsehood on the part of the swearer: such an oath is highly sinful, the Prophet having declared — “Whosoever sweareth falsely, the same shall be condemned to hell.”
(2) Al- Yaminu ‘l-mun’aqid اليمين المنعقد
An oath taken concerning a matter which is to come. Thus, a man swears that he will do such a thing, or he will not do such a thing, and where be fails in this, expiation is incumbent upon him, which expiation is established on the authority of the sacred writings.
(3) Yaminu ‘l-Laghw يمين اللغو
An oath. taken concerning an incident or transaction. already past, where the swearer believes that the matter to which he thus bears testimony accords with what he swears, though it should happen to he actually otherwise; which case it may be hoped from the divine mercy that the swearer will not be condemned for such an oath. The expiation, or kaffarah, is of no avail for the Yaminu ‘l-Ghamus, but it is necessary for the Yaminu ‘l-mun’aqid. It consists of either feeding or clothing ten poor persons, or releasing a Muslim captive.
The Muslim law with regard to oaths is a modification of the Talmudic law, for from the Divine Law the Jewish doctors deduced many special cases of perjury, which are thus classified :-
(1) Jus jurandum promassorium, a rash or inconsiderate oath for the future, or a false assertion respecting the past (Lev. v. 4).
(2) Vanum, an absurd contradictory assertion.
(3) Depositi, breach of contract denied (Lev. xix. 11).
(4) Testimonii, judicial perjury (Lev. v. 1). (H. W. P. in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible.) The Mosaic law admitted expiation in the case of rash or forgotten oaths, vide Lev. v.4, but the Yaminu ‘l-mun’aqid of Muslim law allows a much greater latitude, for it applies to all vows or oaths excepting those intentionally false made with regard to future events.
The teaching of Muslim jurists on the subject of oath’s and vows, exhibits that reservatio mentalis of Muslim morality which is so similar to that of the Jewish Rabbis, and which was condemned by Jesus Christ in St. Matt. xxiii. 16.
Sunni writers on jurisprudence say that an oath should be expressed by such attributes of the Deity as are commonly used in swearing, such as the power, or the glory, or the might of God, because an oath is usually expressed wider one or other of those qualities; and the sense of gamin, viz. “strength” is by this means obtained, since as the swearer believes in the power, glory, and might and other attributes of the Deity, it follows that the mention of these attributes only is sufficient to strengthen the resolution in the performance of the act vowed, or the avoidance thereof.
If a man swear “by the knowledge of God,” it does not constitute an oath, because an oath expressed by the knowledge of God is not in use; moreover, by “knowledge” is frequently implied merely that which is known; and in this sense the word knowledge is not expressive either of the name of God, or of any of His attributes. In the same manner, should a person swear “by the wrath of God,” or “by the mercy of God,” it does not constitute an oath, because an oath is not commonly expressed by any of these attributes: moreover by the word rahmah is sometimes understood “rain,” and “heaven” is also occasionally expressed by that term; and by the word Ghaiz is understood “punishment” and none of those are either appellations or attributes of the Deity.
If a person swear by another name than that of God,—such as “the Prophet,” or “the Holy Temple,” this does not constitute an oath, as the Prophet has said, “if any man among you take so oath, he must swear by the name of God, or else his oath is void.” If a person swear by the Qur’an, it does not constitute an oath, although the Qur’an be the word of God, because men do not swear by the Qur’an The compiler of the Hidayah observes that this is where the swearer only says,” by the Prophet,” or “by the temple” or “by the Qur’an.” but if the swearer say, “If I act contrary to what I now say, may I be deprived “of the Prophet,” or “of the temple,” or “of the Qur’an,” this constitutes an oath, because such privation would reduce the swearer to the state of an infidel, and the suspension of infidelity upon a condition amounts to yamin.
Abu Hanifah alleges that if a man should swear “by the truth of God ,” this does not constitute an oath, and in this Imam Muhammad coincides. There are two opinions of Abu Yusuf recorded on this point. According to one, it is not an oath; but according to the other it is an oath, because truth is one of the attributes of the ‘Deity, signifying the certainty of the divine existence, and hence it is the same as if the swearer were to say,” by God, the truth!” and as oaths are common under this mode of expression, so an oath is hereby constituted. The argument of Imam Muhammad and Abu Hanifah is that the term “the truth,” as here expressed, relates merely to the identity of the godhead as the object of obedience, and hence on oath thus expressed appears to be taken by that which is neither an appellation nor an attribute of God. The learned jurists, however, say that if a person express himself thus, “by the truth I will do so and so,” this constitutes an oath, because the truth is one of the appellatives or proper names of God. But if a person ‘were to say, “I will do this truly,” it does not amount to an oath, because the word truly can only be taken, in. this case, as a corroboration or confirmation of the promise contained in the speech, being the same as If he were to say,”I shall do this indeed.” If a man say, “I swear,” or “I vow,” or “I testify,” whether the words “by God” be superadded or not, it constitutes an oath, because such wards are commonly used. swearing; the use of them in the present tense is undisputed; and they are also sometimes need in the future tense, where the context admits of a construction in the present; and attestation amounts to an oath, as in that sense it occurs in the sacred writings. Now sweating “by the name of God” is both customary and conformable to the divine ordanances, but without the name of God it is forbidden. When it so occurs, therefore, it must be construed into a lawful oath; hence some say that intention is not requisite in it; others, however, allege that the intention is essential, because the words here recited bear the construction of a promise, that is, they admit of being received as applying to the future, and also of being taken as a vow without the name of God.
If a person, speaking in the Persian language, were to say “I swear by God,” it, amounts to an oath, because here the idiom confines the expression solely to the present; but if he were to say simply, “I swear,” some allege that this does not constitute an oath. If he were to say, “I swear by the divorce of my wife,” this is not an oath, as an oath is not so expressed. in practice. If a man in swearing say “by the age” or “the existence of God,” it constitutes an oath, because the age or existence of God signifies his eternity, which is one of his attributes.
If a person should say, “If I do this may I be a Jew, or a Christian, or an infidel,” it constitutes an oath; because, as the swearer has made the condition a sign of infidelity, it follows that he is conscious of his obligation to avoid the condition; and this obligation is possible, by making it an oath, in such a way as to render unlawful to himself that which is lawful. And if the oath relate to anything which he, has done in the time past, as if he were to say, “If I have done so may I be a Jew or an infidel.” and so forth, this is yaminu ‘l-Ghamis, or “perjuty.” The swearer is not, however, in this case made a Jew or an infidel, because the words “may I be an infidel,” and so forth, relate to some future indefinite period. Some, on the contrary, have alleged that be becomes actually as an infidel,” because the penalty which the swearer imprecates upon himself relates to the present instant of hits testimony, being the same as if he were to say, “I am a Jew.” &c. But the majority of doctors say, the swearer does not become a Jew or infidel in either of the oases, either in that of a vow with respect to the future, or an oath regarding the past, provided he consider this merely as a form of swearing. But If he boiler, that by thus sweating he fully subjects himself to the penalty expressed, he suffers accordingly, in either instance, because be appears consenting to infidelity, on account of having ventured upon a thing by the commission of which he conceives that he may be rendered an infidel.
If a person say, “If I do this, may, the anger of God fall upon me,” this does not constitute a vow, as not being a customary mode of expression for that purpose. And so also, if a person .were to say, “May I be an adulterer or a drunkard or an usurer,” because these are not generally understood or received as forms of swearing.
The following are considered the meat solemn and binding methods of taking an oath-:
1. Saying three times. “by the Great God.”
2. Taking the Qur’an and saying, “by what this contains of the word of God.”
3. By placing a sword on the Qur’an.
4. By saying, “I Impose upon myself divorcement.”

Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam