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4. Fulfilling Promises

This virtue is derived from Allah’s ﷻ names: The Sustainer (Ar-Razzaq); The Lord (Ar-Rabb); and The Wise (Al-Hakeem)

Holy Names: The Guarding (Al-Hafeez); The Trustworthy (Al-Mu’min)

Being characterized by the name of “The Guarding” involves keeping deposits, secrets, and promises; being characterized by the name of “The Trustworthy” means reassuring others that they will not be betrayed or cheated in any manner. Every one of us wishes to deal with honest people in all our life matters. Such people instill a feeling of security and trust in our hearts, and that is what makes the virtue of fulfilling promises a virtue of prophets and messengers, for it spreads trust and honesty among people.

Fulfilling promises means that we keep our word if we give it to someone, even if this comes at the expense of our benefit and comfort. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: ((Whoever has the following four characteristics will be a pure hypocrite: if he speaks, he tells a lie; if he gives a promise, he breaks it, if he makes an agreement, he betrays; and if he quarrels, he behaves in an immoral and sinful manner))(1).

By embracing Islam and declaring the testimony “I testify that there is only One God, Allah, and that Mohammad is His Messenger,” we are liable to keep our promise to Allah ﷻ through being committed to all obligations like praying and fasting and to keep our promise to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ through following his path and adopting his virtues. Our commitment to fulfilling our promises also applies to people, for our word should be as accountable as a written contract. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ taught us to deal with promises the same way we deal with our debts. In other words, there should be no excuse for breaking our promise even if it is not documented in a contract. We are similarly committed to fulfilling the promises we make to ourselves by developing ourselves, honing our skills, and promoting our potentials for a better performance while maintaining our high values. Applying the virtue of fulfilling promises should be done with relatives and strangers because we should be keen on giving people their rights as if they were our debts. That is why we need to be careful not to rush into yielding promises that we may not keep, and, instead, we should say, “If Allah ﷻ wills, we will accomplish this task.” Then we get the habit of promising only what we know we can surely do.

Embracing the virtue of fulfilling promises can significantly impact reviving our hearts and strengthening our family and social relationships. We can achieve this by recognizing that we should apply this virtue in all our life matters and not only with the people we trust or value. That is exactly what we learned from Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, whose integrity and honesty were acknowledged even among his most ruthless atheistic enemies, and who emphasized to his companions the importance of fulfilling one’s promise. A memorable story reveals to us how much Prophet Muhammad ﷺ valued the virtue of fulfilling promises. It happened when Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was emigrating to Madina, and one of his companions, “Huthaifa bin Alyaman,” could not migrate with him because he was captured and imprisoned by Quraish. He had to promise not to fight against them for his ransom if any battle took place between them and the Muslims (although there is doubt about him being forced to make such a promise). After that, Quraish went out to fight the Muslims at the Battle of Badr, where the infidels outnumbered the Muslim soldiers by three times, yet Prophet Muhammad ﷺ refused to accept “Huthaifa bin Alyaman” among the fighters because of the promise that the latter had made to Quraish. This situation is a beautiful testimony of Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ integrity and his insistence on teaching us the value of loyalty just as we have been taught in the Quran: ﴾They are those who honor Allah’s covenant, never breaking the pledge; and those who maintain whatever ties Allah has ordered to be maintained, stand in awe of their Lord, and fear strict judgment﴿(2).

The human history of wars has not recorded a similar manifestation of fulfilling promises as we witness in this profound chronicle, and historians have never encountered a noble attitude in fulfilling promises that is even close to Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ on the day of Badr.

A Story from the Life of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ promised “Aba Alhaitham ibn Altihan” a servant, and so he was brought three servants of whom just one stayed. After that, Fatima  asked Prophet Muhammad ﷺ for a servant because the stone grinding work exhausted her. However, her father told her that he had already promised to give the servant to “Aba Alhaitham ibn Altihan” and that there was no way he could break his promise. He decided not to postpone fulfilling his promise to Aba Alhaitham Ibn Altihan, although his daughter was the dearest person to his heart. However, he taught her and her husband to make a du’a that could serve them much better than a servant. He told them, ((Shall I tell you a thing which is better than what you asked me for? When you go to your beds, say, 'Allahu Akbar (i.e., Allah is Greater)' for 34 times, and 'Alhamdulillah (i.e., all the praises are for Allah)' for 33 times, and Subhan Allah (i.e., Glorified be Allah) for 33 times. This is better for you than what you have requested))(3). We learned that saying these words could, with Allah’s ﷻ will, fulfill our needs, asking Allah ﷻ to send us soldiers to help us as He says: ﴾…and no one knows the soldiers of your Lord except Him﴿(4).

A Story about the Caliphate Omar Bin Al-Khattab 
Two young men once approached the Caliphate “Omar Bin Al-khattab”  and brought a Bedouin in front of him. They reported that the Bedouin had killed their father. The man admitted his deed and said the young men’s father had brought his camel into the Bedouin’s land and refused to withdraw despite the Bedouin’s warning, so the latter threw a stone at him, the father dropped dead instantly. At this moment, Omar  said that the Bedouin would be executed. Omar announced his decision without knowing the status of the Bedouin or asking whether the accused man belonged to an influential tribe. He did not care for the criminal’s social rank because he would never jeopardize justice for anyone’s sake. But the Bedouin appealed to Omar and begged him to visit his family before the execution takes place, for the Bedouin’s family had no other supporter but him. He needed to let them know of his destiny. Omar asked who could guarantee the Bedouin, but no one accepted because the man was a total stranger. At the same time, the two young men refused to forgive the killer of their father. Although he did not know the Bedouin, the companion “Abu Dahr Al-Ghifari”  volunteered to guarantee that the Bedouin would come back after three days to get executed. This meant that if the Bedouin did not show up after three days, “Abu Dahr Al-Ghifari”  would be killed instead. He explained to Omar, who warned him against this dangerous step, that the Bedouin had the features of an honest believer and that he would surely come back as he promised. The Bedouin was released and allowed to go and say goodbye to his family. Three nights passed. In the afternoon, Omar gathered the people, and the two men were waiting to avenge their father. “Abu Dahr Al-Ghifari”  looked at the setting sun, which signaled the end of the grace period. Tension reached its peak among the companions, for everyone knew that Omar would not exempt “Abu Dhar Al- Ghafari”  despite Omar’s known reverence for him. Justice had to be applied. Surprisingly, moments before the sunset, the Bedouin appeared, and the Muslims called “Allah Akbar!” Omar told the Bedouin that the latter could have chosen not to come back and that no one could have ever reached him. To that, the Bedouin replied, “I gave a promise to Allah ﷻ, who knows every known and hidden matter. I had to leave my wife and children with no supporter and where there is no water or trees, and I came to be killed because I did not want people to say that loyalty has disappeared.” Omar then asked “Abu Dahr Al-Ghifari” , “Why did you guarantee him?” and to that “Abu Dahr Al-Ghifari” replied, “I did not want people to say that the good deeds have disappeared.” Here Omar looked at the two young men and asked for their last word. They said with tears in their eyes, “We pardon him. We do not want people to say that forgiveness has disappeared.” Omar then called “Allah Akbar!” He said “May Allah reward you, young men, for forgiving the man, and may Allah reward you, “Abu Dahr Al-Ghifari,” for releasing this man’s distress.”

The Story of a Man from the Israelites
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ tells of a story that embodies the virtue of fulfilling promises and assures us that when we intend to keep our words, Allah ﷻ helps in unexpected ways, regardless of the challenges we might encounter. The story is about a man from the Israelites searching for someone to lend him one thousand dinars. He found a man who agreed to lend him the money and who asked for witnesses on that deal. The borrower said, “Allah suffices as a witness.” Then the granter asked for a trustee, and the first again said, “Allah ﷻ suffices as a trustee.” They had a deal, and the borrower traveled to a distant place, taking with him the loan. When the time came to pay back, the borrower had collected the amount and wanted to sail back home, but he could not find a boat, so he inserted the one thousand dinars in a piece of wood and let it float in the sea, saying, “Oh, Allah you know I borrowed this money. The man asked me for a witness, and I made You my witness, and the man asked for a trustee, and I made You my trustee. You know I could not find a boat, so I leave this money under Your protection.” He then went to search again for a boat to go back home. On the other side of the sea, the granter went out to the shore and kept gazing at the horizon in the hope of seeing a boat bringing the borrower back. Instead, he saw the piece of wood float in front of him. When he took it home, he cut it to use it for fire, and then he found his money in it. The days went by, and the borrower came back holding another one thousand dinars, for he was not sure if the piece of wood reached the granter. He said: ((“I could not find a boat before now to come and give you your money.” Here the granter said, “Allah ﷻ has already delivered the payment sent in the piece of wood”))(5)

A Story from Modern Life
A man once offered his house for sale and asked for three hundred thousand euros. He accepted a deal from someone who did not want to pay more than two hundred seventy thousand euros and promised to pay the amount in the next three days. However, the next day, the house owner received a proposal from someone willing to pay three hundred thousand euros. It was such a dismal decision to reject the temptation of the new offer, but the house owner knew that fulfilling his promise with the first customer would benefit him more than taking the higher price. He knew that it would seem like he lost money, but he would gain the blessing and love of Allah ﷻ, who said: ﴾If you love Allah (sincerely), then follow me, and Allah will love you.﴿(6) Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: ((The best of earning is the earning of merchants: those who, if they speak, do not lie; if they are entrusted, they do not betray; if they promise, they do not break their promise; if they buy, they do not slander; if they sell, they do not praise; if they grant, they are lenient; and if they borrow, they pay back.))(7) In other words, we should not exaggerate in praising the goods we are trying to sell, we should not postpone paying our debts, and we should be patient with debtors. We should embrace the virtue of honesty and fulfilling promises, which is Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ most distinguished merit, remembering that statement written on his room in Al-Madina Al-Munawara: “There is no god but God, The King, The Truth, The Manifest, and Muhammad ﷺ is the Messenger of God, the Truthful, the Faithful.”

1.Sahih Al-Bukhari 3178.
2.Surah Ar-Ra’d : 20-21.
3.Sahih Al-Bukhari 3113.
4.Surah Al-Muddathther : 31.
5.Sahih al-Bukhari 2291.
6.Surah Ali-Imrân : 31.
7.Al-Albani 1390.

ADAPTED FROM: Revive Your Heart with 52 Prophetic Ethics