Muhammad and Oath-Making

Another Example of Muhammad failing to practice what he preached

Sam Shamoun

The Holy Bible emphatically forbids true believers from taking oaths in the name of anyone else besides Yahweh:

"Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Israel, saying, ‘This is what the LORD has commanded. If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.’" Numbers 30:1-2ff.

"Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them," Joshua 23:7

"Whoever invokes a blessing in the land will do so by the God of truth; he who takes an oath in the land will swear by the God of truth. For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes." Isaiah 65:16

"‘If you will return, O Israel, return to me,’ declares the LORD. ‘If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, "As surely as the LORD lives," then the nations will be blessed by him and in him they will glory.’" Jeremiah 4:1-2; cf. 12:16

The Islamic sources concur with the Holy Bible at this point since there are specific narrations where Muhammad forbade any Muslim from swearing by anyone other than Allah:

Narrated 'Umar:
The Prophet said, "If anybody has to take an oath, he should swear ONLY by Allah." The people of Quraish used to swear by their fathers, but the Prophet said, "Do not swear by your fathers." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 177)

Muhammad further prohibited his followers from making oaths in the name of one’s fathers, even likening this to idolatry:

2094. It was narrated from Salim bin ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar, from his father, from ‘Umar, that the Messenger of Allah heard him swearing by his father. The Messenger of Allah said: "Allah forbids you from making oaths by your forefathers." ‘Umar said: "I never took an oath by them (i.e., my forefathers) myself nor narrating, such words from anyone else." (Sahih)


It is impermissible to swear by anyone other than Allah, regardless of whether it is a father, grandfather, shaikh, saint, religious leader, highly virtuous person or a Prophet. As some people take an oath by ‘Ali or by five pure personalities, it is all prohibited.

2095. It was narrated from ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Samurah that the Messenger of Allah said: "Do not take oaths by idols nor by your forefathers." (Sahih)


Taking an oath by an idol is, in fact, an oath by a person because of his importance or honor, due to which that person’s state was made. Thus this type of oath is also taken by saints and virtuous peoples; and taking an oath by other than Allah is prohibited. (Sunan Ibn Majah - Compiled by Imam Muhammad Bin Yazeed Ibn Majah Al-Qazwini, From Hadith No. 1783 to 2718, Ahadith edited and referenced by Hafiz Abu Tahir Zubair 'Ali Za'i, translated by Nasiruddin al-Khattab (Canada), final review by Abu Khaliyl (USA) [Darussalam Publications and Distributors, First Edition: June 2007], Volume 3, Chapter 2. Prohibition Of Making An Oath By Other Than Allah, pp. 201-202)

Yet Muhammad violated his own instructions by swearing by another man’s father!

Chapter 4: The Prohibition Of Withholding While Alive, Only To Squander Upon One’s Death

2706. It was narrated that Abu Hurairah said: "A man came to the Prophet and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, tell me, which of the people has most right to my companionship?’ He said: ‘Yes, BY YOUR FATHER, you will certainly be told.’ He said: ‘Your mother.’ He said, ‘Then who?’ He said: ‘Then your mother.’ He said: ‘Then who?’ He said: ‘Then your mother.’ He said: ‘Then who?’ He said: ‘Then your father.’ He said: ‘Tell me, O Messenger of Allah, about my wealth – how should I give in charity?’ He said: ‘Yes, BY ALLAH, you will certainly be told…’" (Sahih)


… c. An oath can only be taken by the Name of Allah. It is not legal to take an oath over other than Allah’s Name, as in authentic Ahadith it has been made clear. The Prophet said: "Verily! Allah forbids you to swear by your fathers. If one has to take an oath he should swear by Allah or keep quite [sic]." (Sahih Al-Bukhari: 6108.) In this Hadith the oath taken by the father is either before the time when it was prohibited, or just part of Arabian culture, as a habitual custom. It was common in Arabia that during conversation some additional words or phrases without any particular intention were added. (Ibid., pp. 553-554; capital and underline emphasis ours)

The comments by the translator that Muhammad’s swearing by the person’s father may have occurred before a time when such oath making was prohibited is problematic for at least three reasons. First, Muslims believe that the Meccans are descendants of Ishmael and that both he and his father Abraham built the Kabah and instituted the rites of pilgrimage. This means that the people would have known and been informed that such oath-making is forbidden by the God of Abraham. At the very least, Muhammad should have known this in light of his association and contact with both Jews and Christians.

Second, Muslims assert that Allah protected Muhammad from all idolatrous practices even before his so-called prophetic career began. If this is the case then, surely, Allah would have prevented his messenger from committing idolatry by making an oath in the name of the fathers.

Third, Muhammad’s slip occurred after his alleged prophetic ministry began, during the time when Muslims believe that their prophet was receiving inspiration. In fact, Muslims believe that Muhammad only spoke by way of revelation. As one Muslim polemicist puts it:

{Wa-ma yantiqu ‘ani-l-huwa, in huwa illa wa’hyum yu’ha (He, Muhammad, does not speak of his own desire, it is only a revelation revealed)} (53:3-4)

Prophet Muhammad did not only speak, or ‘Nataqa (in the present tense: Yantiqu)’ the Quran, he also spoke the Sunnah. Abdullah Ibn ‘Amr Ibn al-‘Aas used to write everything the Prophet said, meaning, his Hadeeth or religious statements. Muslims from the tribe of Quraish – the Prophet’s tribe – criticized Abdullah for doing this, claiming that sometimes the Prophet might say things in anger. Abdullah Ibn ‘Amr asked the Prophet about it, and he said, while pointing to his mouth …

"Rather, write! For by He (Allah) in Whose Hand is my soul, nothing save the Truth comes out of it." (A Sahih Hadeeth; Sahih Sunan Abi Dawud [3646]) (Introduction to: Muhammad The Prophet of Mercy – Muhammad’s Role in Islam, by Jalal Abualrub, edited by Alaa Mencke [Madinah Publishers and Distributors, First Edition: June 2007], p. 35)

If the assertion that Allah protected Muhammad from idolatry even before he claimed to be a prophet is correct then wouldn’t Muhammad’s lord have gone out of his way to guard his prophet from committing such a sin after the "revelation" began to descend, during the time where Muhammad was supposedly always speaking by inspiration? Should we therefore assume that Allah inspired Muhammad to make an oath in the name of somebody’s father, thereby causing him to commit idolatry?

With the foregoing in perspective it is rather apparent that this is another time where Muhammad failed to practice what he preached and even ended up committing idolatry because of it.

Further Reading

Muhammad's Inconsistency
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page