بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
“Allah will not impose blame upon you for what is meaningless in your oaths, but He will impose blame upon you for [breaking] what you intended of oaths. So its expiation is the feeding of ten needy people from the average of that which you feed your [own] families or clothing them or the freeing of a slave. But whoever cannot find [or afford it] – then a fast of three days [is required]. That is the expiation for oaths when you have sworn. But guard your oaths. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be grateful.” (Surat al-Ma’ida, 5:89)
Throughout the Qur’an, Allah gives us ‘exit’ clauses. When you mess up, you can go back to Allah. If you hurt someone, you should make amends.
This verse follows in that same vein, but is even more remarkable and humbling. An oath in this verse refers an oath taken by Allah as your witness, and it is a very serious thing to take an oath by God. Perhaps one would imagine that in order to repent, one would have simply return to Allah or pray extra prayers. But the expiation is “feeding of ten needy people from the average of that which you feed your own families or clothing them or the freeing of a slave.” The way out is to do good to others, and not just any good: sustaining people with food and clothing, or granting a slave freedom.
Only if these means are not available does a person fast for three days, instilling discipline so that one does not commit the same act again.
How beautiful is this faith; in order to make up for a broken oath taken by God, one must do good to His creation.