Promises [for marriage] broken

Q511 :How to achieve forgiveness for unfulfilled promises? Let me give the example of a man who promises a girl to marry her but was unable to do so due to the firm opposition by his parents. How should he compensate that girl?

A511 : To start with, a Muslim should always fulfill his promises. The Prophet describes the non-fulfillment of promises as a mark of hypocrisy. This, however, applies mainly to breaches that have no reasonable justification. However, if one is unable to fulfill a promise, he should explain to the other party the reason for his inability and try to make him understand. It may be that going back on a particular promise may cause the other party some harm. In such a case, the two should try to work out some sort of arrangement which reduces the harm as much as possible. A promise for marriage is like all promises. It should be fulfilled unless there are compelling circumstances to go back on it. If there are good reasons for not going ahead with the marriage as in the case where the man learns that the woman has a bad nature, or that her moral standards leave much to be desired, then the non-fulfillment of the promise to marry her is justified. However, if it is likely to cause her some harm, then it will be good of the man to give her some compensation in the shape of a present. The point is that a man may divorce his wife. Hence, it is permissible not to go ahead with the marriage even after engagement, if one realizes that the marriage is likely to be an unhappy one. If the non-fulfillment of the promise is not due to discovering any fault with the woman but is due to an unreasonable attitude by one's parents, then one should try to balance the two alternatives of going ahead with the marriage and declining to do so. The parents do not have the authority to block a marriage of their son unreasonably. If the woman is a good person, strong of faith, with high moral values and a good nature, then there is no reason to stop the marriage simply to satisfy one's parents' whims. One should try hard to bring one's parents around to accepting this marriage by showing how good the woman is. If they continue with their unreasonable attitude, then it is not obligatory that their son should obey them, because he has made a commitment to another party and there is no reason to go back on that commitment.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )