An exposure to the views of the earlier authorities on the Qur’ānic oaths must have, I believe, led you to learn that the best view they held in this regard is that the oaths evidence certain theses. However, the problem that remained hidden to these scholars and the bottleneck they could not escape from is their adherence to the belief that the oaths decidedly consist of glorification of the muqsam bihī. This is the error which proved to be a great hindrance in the proper understanding of the Qur’ānic oaths. It is this belief that is the headspring of all the objections (shubhāt). I will, therefore, start with negating this belief so that it becomes clear that the oaths have nothing to do with glorification of the muqsam bihī, though some of the muqsam bihīs may be glorified things.
I shall then explain that when the Qur’ān swears an oath by the created things it presents the things sworn by (muqsam bihīs) as evidences for the sworn statements (muqsam ‘alayhis). Such evidentiary oaths form a category which is distinct from oaths of glorification (al-aqsām al-ta‘ẓīmiyyah). The Qur’ānic oaths, in my view, are not sworn by attributes of God, as held by Ibn Qayyim.
Then I shall turn to explain in what instances an oath may be taken and at what others, it is better avoided. This will help us understand that it is not right to say that swearing an oath is absolutely prohibited.
Discussions in this book will revolve around these three points. Since this issue calls for detailed and exhaustive treatment, at points, I have been forced to discuss the history of oath and its social function, both in the past and present, and its various forms. I will also explain the meaning of the particles of oath, oath formulas, their basic meaning and implications, including respect (ikrām), sanctification (taqdīs) and argumentation (istidlāl); all these three are distinct from glorification.
I will explain the oaths in the light of clear proofs from the Qur’ānic verses and explain why this explanation has remained hidden so that the great scholars of the past are excused. Then some rhetorical aspects of the Qur’ānic oaths will be highlighted. I will also discuss in what aspects taking an oath is forbidden, what instances it is allowable, and in what other places, it is desirable. The directive of prohibition of taking an oath ascribed to the Prophet Jesus (sws) will also be elucidated. A fair treatment of the Qur’ānic rhetorical excellence exhibited in its choice of words for oath also forms part of this discussion. This will clarify what kinds of words are not appropriate for oath.
The above is a brief plan of the present book. Now I turn to deal with these issues in detail. God alone is the guide to the truth.