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Although I can't find a text saying exactly this, making something permissible forbidden or making something forbidden permissible is a (I think major) sin in Islam; see e.g. 16:116 for something related. Now this is clear in the case of someone outright claiming that something that is known to be halal by consensus - such as drinking water - is haram, or claiming that something that is known to be haram by consensus - such as zina - is halal. This could possibly even be considered shirk, I'm not entirely sure.

However, the lines become a bit blurry for me when oaths and contracts are involved. I vaguely remember reading a hadith about a person making an oath that they would refrain from doing some particular halal action, and Muhammad saying something like "don't make the permissible forbidden for yourself" - I'm not entirely sure that's what I read.

In an answer to another question, the matter of the marriage contract stipulating that the husband cannot take another wife came up; if he did, they wife would be entitled to annul the marriage unilaterally. However, this raises the question: does that mean the husband would be sinning if he does take another wife while that first marriage contract is in effect? If his violating that condition is considered a sin, that suggests that marrying another woman has become haram for him, thus making something permissible forbidden. If he doesn't sin, then how would a contract have to be worded to be considered as "making something permissible forbidden"?

In a nutshell:

  • is an oath like "I swear not to eat chicken until the day I die" halal to make?
  • what is the difference in a contract between stipulating a condition that obliges one party to refrain from something halal, and making something permissible forbidden?
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A permissible act, contrary to an obligatory act, gives you a choice of whether or not to do it. For example it is obligatory for you to pray while it is permissible for you to sleep. You can choose to not sleep and there is no blame on you ... its a choice.

This choice can be restricted by an obligation that arises out of some other matter, such obligations can be for example the command of a Ruler, the command of a Parent, a Vow, a Promise or a Contract. If such an obligation restricts you from a permissible act, that permissible act does not itself become inherently haram ... but breaking the obligation is unlawful and haram.

Going with the sleep analogy, you can vow to not sleep until you've done something, a commanding officer can order you to not sleep and keep watch, a parent can order you to not sleep, you can decide to offer a neighbour or room-mate to not sleep for a consideration, you can promise your wife that you will not fall asleep. In each of these cases, an obligation would be imposed on you to exercise your choice and not sleep. None of these make sleep itself inherently unlawful ... though breaking the obligation would be unlawful.

The Quran requires us to obey parents in everything unless their obedience amounts to disobedience to Allah:

Quran 29:8 And We have enjoined upon man goodness to parents. But if they endeavor to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them. To Me is your return, and I will inform you about what you used to do.

Quran 31:14 And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination.

Quran 31:15 But if they endeavor to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them but accompany them in [this] world with appropriate kindness and follow the way of those who turn back to Me [in repentance]. Then to Me will be your return, and I will inform you about what you used to do.

Similarly to those charged with authority:

Quran 4:59 O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you ...

Saheeh Bukhari 56/167 The 'Prophet said, "It is obligatory for one to listen to and obey (the ruler's orders) unless these orders involve one's disobedience (to Allah); but if an act of disobedience (to Allah) is imposed, he should not listen to it nor obey it."

So if a parent or ruler is to forbid you from doing a permissible (not obligatory) act X, you are under an obligation to refrain from it. Act X is not itself made haram, but you sin if you do it.

With regards to a Contract, the general understanding is that you will transact your choice in return for some consideration. For example the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah made it binding on the Muslims to not perform Hajj that year and to return escapees from the Quraysh ... performing Hajj was permissible as was providing asylum but this choice was transacted in lieu of peace and commutation.

Its the view of some scholars that the Prophet took a promise his sons-in- law would not practice polygamy.

Saheeh Bukhari 62/77 and Saheeh Bukhari 57/19 The Prophet (ﷺ) then mentioned one of his son-in-law who was from the tribe of 'Abu Shams, and he praised him as a good son-in-law, saying, "Whatever he said was the truth, and he promised me and fulfilled his promise. I do not make a legal thing illegal, nor do I make an illegal thing legal, but by Allah, the daughter of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) and the daughter of the enemy of Allah, (i.e. Abu Jahl) can never get together (as the wives of one man).

The following is an excerpt from the Hanafi compendium Hedayah:

If he marries her for a mahr of one thousand on the condition that he will not take her out of the city or on the condition that he will not take another wife, then if he abides by the condition she is entitled to the sum named. If he marries another woman or takes her out of the city then she is entitled to [full] reasonable dower(according to her status).


is an oath like "I swear not to eat chicken until the day I die" halal to make?

An oath like this which without any valid reason or recompense, unconditionally and eternally prohibits a common lawful action like eating, drinking or intercourse is greatly discouraged. It is not a sin (the Prophet did it) and an expiation must be paid if it is broken(ref Hedayah).

There is mention of such oaths in the Quran in 5:87-89 where a group of people made an oath to castrate themselves and live like monks and hermits believing it to be pious. And in 66:1-4 where the Prophet made an oath to abstain from eating honey when some of his wives lied to him about it leaving a smell in a ploy to sideline another wife. In both cases an expiation was paid and the oaths were broken since they were based on fallacious information.

So to summarize:

  • Considering something that is halal as religiously haram is haram 16:116. The Jews were guilty of this.
  • Making an oath that unconditionally and permanently obligates you to refrain from a halal thing is disliked.
  • Someone in authority can temporarily prevent you from performing a halal action if necessary.
  • Refraining from a halal action, at your own discretion, is halal.
  • You can trade your discretion within limits. This is especially so when your action will effect the other party.
  • That's pretty much exactly what I was looking for, thanks. – G. Bach Mar 21 '17 at 16:25

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