More than 53 billion dollars are spent yearly in the US alone on gambling according to some sources. A few weeks ago, the lotto prize passed one billion dollars, and one person from the state of Illinois won it by himself.

The interesting part is that so much attention and focus and social media chatter is about this one person who won such a great amount. No one is talking about the millions of people who lost billions of dollars and gained nothing! There are people who earn less than 30K per year to support themselves and their families, but yet they make sure to put aside certain amounts of their much-needed income to be thrown away in a game that the odds of winning anything in it are one in 300 million!

This is indeed a great Fitnah. The hope for a better life and the desire to get out from poverty should not be on the track of playing a game of chance with such odds, knowing for sure that they will most likely never win. These dollars that are thrown away could be milk for kids, bread for family or medicine for times of illness.

Gambling is not something new. At the pre-Islamic time (Jahiliyyah) many people would buy a young camel with equal shares and then divide it into different meat packages. One package would be of the best part of the camel meat, and then all the way down to the least preferred part. Then these people would throw a kind of a dice that would make people win these meat packages leaving most of those who paid shares with them with nothing. Some wealthy players would play for the sake of fun and then distribute the meat to the needy and for that, the first verse revealed, in the phases of prohibition of wine and gambling, spoke of some benefit like feeding the needy. Allah (ﷻ) said: {They ask you about wine and gambling. Say in them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit.} 2:219. The last verse as an abrogation to the prior ones was revealed to clarify the final ruling that Allah (ﷻ) wanted. Allah (ﷻ) said: {O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allah], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful.} 5:90.

As Muslims we obey God for the honor of responding to His orders. But many prohibitions have reasons behind them, and gambling has many. Here are some reasons for prohibiting gambling:

Unethical.

It is not fair from an Islamic perspective that millions of people lose money for the sake of one person alone to win it in a form of a game of chance! All rulings in Islam are based on matters being just and fair ( العدل ) and it is not fair or just for such a method. Allah (ﷻ) said: {O you who have believed, do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly.} 4:29. The prophet (ﷺ) said; “There are men who unjustly acquire for themselves wealth which belongs to God [that He kept for others], and on the day of resurrection they will go to hell.[1]

It causes animosity.

How many stories have we all heard about people losing relationships with friends and even family members because of gambling and losses? Allah (ﷻ) said: {Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So will you not desist.} 5:91. Islam is all about bringing people together and strengthening relationships among people and against all ways that separates people from each other. Allah (ﷻ) said: {The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allah that you may receive mercy.} 49:10.

It causes destructive addiction.

Islam declared five protective concepts that relate to the well-being of the individual, family, and community. The preservation of religion, self, mind, honor, and wealth. Any addiction that will cause people to lose track of maintaining these five preserved concepts is declared prohibited in Islam. Addiction in gambling particularly can destroy people financially and make them gamble with their savings and income. That is why the prophet (ﷺ) was strict even in matters that lead to gambling, for he said: “If anyone says to his friend, “Come and let me gamble with you”, he should pay a charity.[2]

We are living at a time where gambling is not just in specific places like on casino boats or Las Vegas, but it is online, in stores and cafes, and accessible for all. People should first invest in their relationship with God to help themselves quit. Secondly, avoid hanging out with friends who tend to invite you to play. Thirdly, if addictive, leave your money with your spouse or children so you do not have access to it. Fourthly, keep yourself busy in work and other positive and productive things.

I pray to Allah (ﷻ) none of our beloved community members will take part with any form of gambling, and protect all from any harm.

By Sh. Kifah Mustapha

[1] Bukhari

[2] Bukhari