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Al-Nadhr (Arabic: النذر) means that a person makes it obligatory upon himself to do some good actions for the sake of God or abandons some bad actions for the sake of God. Regarding religion, nadhr becomes obligatory when a specific formula in Arabic – or its meaning in another language – is recited. Nadhr is a tradition which has been practiced by all divine prophets (a) and previous nations and in Islam, it has been legitimate and practiced. Making nadhr for Imams (a) is among the most effective kinds of nadhr.
The word "nadhr" means "making something obligatory for oneself" and in fiqh, it is a practice when a person makes it obligatory for himself to do some good actions for the sake of God or abandons what is bad for the sake of God. The meaning of the Arabic formula of nadhr is that the person says, "I make a nadhr so that if – for example – my sick dear one is healed, for the sake of God, it will be obligatory upon me to give 10 dollars to a poor."
History of Nadhr
Nadhr is a tradition which has been practiced by all divine prophets (a) and previous nations and in Islam, it has been legitimate and practiced. The glorious Qur'an has mentioned the story of the nadhr of 'Imran's wife, Maryam's mother, and says, "When the wife of 'Imran said, 'My Lord, I dedicate to You what is in my belly, in consecration. Accept it from me; indeed You are the All-hearing, the All-knowing." (Qur'an 3:35)
And the Sura Maryam, after narrating the story of Prophet 'Isa (a), God the Almighty tells Lady Maryam (a) that when you see any person (with sign language) say to them, "Indeed I have vowed a fast to the All-beneficent, so I will not speak to any human today." (Qur'an 19:24)
The Qur'an, when mentioning one of the attributes of true servants of God, says,
|“||"They fulfill their vows and fear a day whose ill will be widespread." (Qur'an 76:7)||”|
In a narration received from Imam al-Sadiq (a) commenting on this verse, he (a) has said, "When Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a) were sick, Prophet (s) went to visit them and told Imam Ali (a), "it is good to make a nadhr in order that your children become well." Imam Ali (a) said that I will make a nadhr that if they become well, I will practice fasting for three days to thank God." Then, Lady Fatima (a) and Fidda (servant of Lady Fatima (a)) also did the same nadhr and God the Almighty made the two Imams (a) healthy and they (a) also performed the fasting. Thus, not only nadhr does not disagree with unity of God, contentment, submission and courtesy before God, but commitment to nadhr is also showing mere attention toward God, His Unity, servitude and cause of drawing near Him which has been practiced in the tradition and conduct of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and the faithful.
Conditions of Nadhr
Nadhr is in fact a covenant with God so that as a result of the good actions one makes obligatory for himself, God fulfills a need of him. Making nadhr requires certain manners including the following ones:
Reciting the Formula of Nadhr
Regarding religion, nadhr becomes obligatory when a specific formula in Arabic or in another language is recited so that it includes the following meaning, "For the sake of God, it is obligatory upon me that if such a request of mine and my wish is fulfilled, I will do such an action." However, if this comes one's mind or heart and the mentioned formula is not recited, the nadhr does not become obligatory but it is better to be performed.
Subject of Nadhr
The subject of nadhr should be desirable. If one makes nadhr to do a forbidden or disliked action, or abandons an obligatory or recommended action, his nadhr is invalid. If someone makes a nadhr to do or abandon a permissible action, if doing or abandoning is equal, his nadhr is invalid; but, if doing it is better from one aspect and he does that for that purpose, his nadhr will be valid. (e.g. One makes a nadhr to eat a certain food to be strengthened for prayer) and if abandoning something is better from one aspect and the person makes a nadhr to abandon that for that purpose, his nadhr is valid. (e.g. one makes nadhr to abandon smoking because the smoke is harmful.) If one makes nadhr to do his obligatory prayer in a place which in itself does not add to the reward of the prayer, for example, one makes nadhr to do his prayer in the room. But, if the prayer is better to be done there from an aspect, for example, he can have a better presence of heart due to its isolation, the nadhr will be valid.
Possibility of Performing Nadhr
One needs to make a nadhr which he is capable of performing; thus, one who makes a nadhr to go to Karbala on foot, but he is not capable to do so, his nadhr will be invalid.
Nadhr and Incapability of Performing the Action
Incapability of performing an action with regards to the time of making nadhr has two forms:
- One who has not been able to perform the action prior to make nadhr.
- One who is able to perform the action at the time of making nadhr, but after making the nadhr, he loses his capability to perform the action.
Regarding the first condition, religious authorities say that a person can make a nadhr about an action he is capable to do; thus, e.g. one who makes a nadhr to go to Karbala on foot, but he is not capable to do so, his nadhr will be invalid.
And in the second condition, they have said that, if he has made a nadhr other than performing fast, his nadhr is invalid and he has no obligation with regards to it. But, if he makes a nadhr to perform fasting and unexpectedly becomes incapable of performing it, he has to perform it another time and if he would not become able to perform it even later, he needs to give one "mudd" (specific amount of food, approximately 750 grams of flour or rice or dates etc.) of food to a poor person as alms.
Types of Nadhr
With respect to the intention of the one who makes nadhr, it would be of two types:
It is a nadhr in which the person who makes nadhr, consider its fulfillment upon the fulfillment of a happening; e.g. he would say that, "if such happens, I will do such else." Therefore, fulfillment and obligation of this nadhr is upon the fulfillment of the premise of a conditional statement. Nadhr Mujazati (conditional) is of two kinds:
Nadhr Shukr: in which the person makes a nadhr as a gratitude for fulfillment of a request or wish; e.g. he says that, "if my sick dear one is healed, I will do such for the sake of God."
Nadhr Zajr: in which a person makes a nadhr because of doing a bad deed as a discipline; e.g. he says that, "If I do such a bad deed, I will do such a good action for the sake of God."
It is a nadhr fulfillment of which is not depending on another issue; e.g. someone makes it obligatory for himself to do some action.
Rulings of Nadhr
Opposing a Nadhr
If a person makes a valid nadhr and then intentionally stop fulfilling it, he will have to perform the expiation as well.
Changing the Subject of Nadhr
If a nadhr correctly is made, it is obligatory to use the exact subject of nadhr intended; e.g. a person makes nadhr to sacrifice a sheep (and intends or mentions a certain one), then he has to sacrifice exactly that one he intended or mentioned and cannot sacrifice another sheep.
The material for this article is mainly taken from نذر in Farsi Wikishia.