The twenty-first of the Greater sins is ‘Breaking of a promise.’ There are authentic traditions to this effect from Abdul Azīm where he quotes that Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) has proved it to be a Greater sin with the help of the following verse of Holy Qur’an:
“And those who break the covenant of Allah after its confirmation and cut asunder that which Allah has ordered to be joined and make mischief in the land; (as for) those, upon them shall be curse and they shall have the evil (issue) of the abode.”
(Surah Ra’d 13:25)
The Holy Qur’an denounces the breaking of promise in the following ayat too:
“Yea, whoever fulfills his promise and guards (against evil) - then surely Allah loves those who guard (against evil).
(As for) those who take a small price for the covenant of Allah and their own oaths - surely they shall have no portion in the hereafter, and Allah will not speak to them, nor will He look upon them on the Day of Resurrection nor will He purify them, and they shall have a painful chastisement.”
(Surah Ali-‘Imrān 3:76-77)
Similarly we find another verse of the same connotation:
“Surely the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve, then they would not believe.
Those with whom you make an agreement, then they break their agreement every time and they do not guard (against punishment).”
(Surah al-Anfāl 8:55-56)
This ayat is critical of the Jews of Bani Qurayza, who did not honour the pact, which they had formed with the Holy Prophet (S) regarding cooperation with the infidels. They supplied arms to the disbelievers of Mecca for the Battle of Badr and thus invalidated the pact. Later they justified their action saying they had forgotten the pact.
They once more entered into a pact with the Holy Prophet (S) only to violate it at the time of the Battle of Khandaq (trench). They went against the pact and sided with Abu Sufyan.
In various places in the Holy Qur’an we find that fulfilling a promise has been made obligatory and highly emphasised.
“and fulfill the promise, surely (every) promise shall be questioned about.”
(Surah al-‘Isrā’, 17:34)
“O you who believe! Fulfill the obligations.”
(Surah al-Mā’ida 5:1)
Similarly in Surah al-Baqarah the ayat says,
“...and the performers of their promise when they make a promise...”
(Surah al-Baqarah 2:177)
We also find the following verse:
“O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? It is most hateful to Allah that you should say that which you do not do.”
(Surah as-Saff 61:2-3)
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) has explained this ayat in the following manner:
“A believer’s promise to his believing brother is a vow that has no expiation (It cannot be broken). But one who goes back on his word declares his opposition and enmity to Allah, and invokes the anger of Allah.”
After this the Imam (a.s.) recited the above-mentioned ayat.
Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.) advises Malik al-Ashtar regarding the honouring of promises:
“Breaking a promise causes the anger of Allah.”
‘Ali (a.s.) also quotes the same verse after this.
Hazrat Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) said:
“There are four types of sinners who are punished very soon:
a) The person who violates the pact that he has made with you, even though you have respected it.
b) One who inflicts harm upon you even though you caused him no harm.
c) One who has promised you something and you are faithful upon your agreement but he is unfaithful.
d) One who wants to severe relations even though the relative wishes to continue the relationship.”
Abu Malik inquired from Imam Zayn ul-’Abidīn (a.s.), “Inform me about all the rules of religion.” Imam (a.s.) told him,
“To speak the truth, to judge with justice and to fulfill the promise.”
Although a vast number of traditions and ayats denounce the breaking of promises. We shall quote some selected ones.