Changing to whom what is vowed is to be given

Question: Is it allowed for a person to change to whom what he has vowed is going to go to after he finds that there are more deserving recipients, and after he had specifically stated what and to whom he was going to give?

Response: Before I respond to that question, I would like to make some introductory statements. A person should not make a vow, for vows are either disliked or forbidden, as the Prophet has forbidden them. It is narrated that he said:

«It does not bring about any good but it just takes by it something from the stingy», [al-Bukhaaree].

The good that the one who makes a vow expects is not the result of the vow. Many people, when they become ill, make a vow that if Allaah cures them they will do such and such. When others lose something they vow that if Allaah returns it to them they will do such and such. If they become cured or find what they had lost, this does not mean that it was the vow that brought about that result. In fact, that is from Allaah and Allaah is more generous and noble than to lay down the condition that the person has stated. Instead, you should ask Allaah directly to cure your illness or to bring back to you what you lost. But vowing has no effect. In fact, many people who make such vows, when what they desired comes about, become lazy when it comes to fulfilling their vows and might even abandon it completely. This is very dangerous. Listen to what Allaah has said:

{And of them are some who made a covenant with Allaah (saying,) ‘If He bestowed on us of His Bounty, we will certainly give charity and will certainly be among those who are righteous.’ Then when He gave them of His Bounty, they became niggardly and turned away averse. So He punished them by putting hypocrisy into their hearts till the Day whereon they shall meet Him, because they broke that [covenant with Allaah] that they had promised Him and because they used to tell lies}, [Soorah at-Towbah, Aayah 75-77].

Based on that, a believer should not make vows. As for the response to the question, we say that if the person made a vow for something in some place and then he found that another place is better, closer to Allaah and more beneficial to Allaah’s servants, then there is no harm in him changing the direction of his vow in order to get the anticipated better or more virtuous results.

The evidence for that is in the hadeeth where a man came to the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and said: “O Messenger of Allaah (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) I made a vow to Allaah that if Allaah conquers Makkah for you I would pray in Jerusalem.” The Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told him:

«Pray here [instead]».

The man repeated his statement and the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) again told him:

«Pray here».

This happened a third time so the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:

«Follow your own way then», [Ahmad, ad-Daarimee, Abu Daawood].

This indicates that if a person finds a better or more virtuous situation for his oath, he may change it to the better situation. That is permissible.

Abu 'Abdullaah

About Abu 'Abdullaah

- from London, UK. He is a graduate of the Islaamic University of Madeenah, having graduated from the Institute of Arabic Language, and later the Faculty of Sharee'ah in 2004.