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Page last edited on 23 April, 2003

The Lottery Craze

By: Dr. S. M. ad-Darsh
Courtesy of Belfast Masjid

Ever since the government's establishment of the National Lottery, a minority section of the nation, those who are religiously-concerned like Christians and Muslims, have not been at all at ease with this national trend. Those who hail it as a success may look at the minority view as out of date with the material reality facing them in every aspect of their lives, but the minorities view is not about material welfare. It is about moral and religious restrictions imposed on the way people should acquire legally, religiously and morally acceptable wealth which contributes to the welfare of the society. It is not just handing out some charities, but by providing an honourable way in which people can use their God-given mental and physical gifts.

With Muslims the question of the Lottery strikes at the root of their conviction that their earnings must come from lawfully, morally fit sources. If not their acts of worship, their way to God is blown up and there is no acceptance of such means of living.

In the statement of the Blessed Prophet;

"Allah the Almighty is good and accepts only that which is good.

Allah has commanded the faithful to do that which he commanded the Messengers. He said 

"O you Messengers! Eat of the good things, and do right" (23:51). 

And He has said 

"O you who believe! Eat of the good things wherewith We have provided you" (2:172)."

"Good thing" here means lawfully earned. Gambling is not acceptable in Islam as a way of earning a living, it is one of the categories which is censured by the Qur'an on two specific occasions which include intoxicants.

The first is 

"They ask you concerning intoxicants and gambling, say 'In both of there is great sin, and some profit for people, but the sin is greater than the profit'" (2:219).

The other occasion was the total restriction: 

"O you who believe! Most certainly intoxicants and gambling, and idol worship, and fortune telling are an abomination, and Satan's handiwork, so shun them that you may prosper" (5:90).

When I was asked about it by BBC TV on the morning of the launching of the Lottery, the answer was that it is totally banned in Islam. Muslims are not allowed to take part in it. The good thing about society here is the fact that it does not force anyone to take part in things which they feel are not morally and religiously acceptable but the material seduction of gambling proves for some to be stronger than the religious restrictions. Sadly this is one of many human failings and weaknesses in the face of material and physical pleasure. After all they would say 'once, and we repent!'

In an answer to the same question, this time in Egypt, Dr. Ash-Sharabasi, the general guide to the Islamic Youth organisation, wrote:

"In the light of the Qur'anic verses, it is clear that lottery is prohibited in Islam, the profit from it is prohibited, bad gain, devouring other peoples wealth by illicit means, because it is built upon chance and blind deception. It also encourages idleness and dependence upon false hopes, it ruins peoples family lives."

"Sadly", he went on, "some Muslims resort to lottery to collect money for so-called good causes. It is more honourable for them to seek the good ways Allah has made lawful by which to support such worthy causes." He went on to quote another Muslim scholar who said:

"What is called lottery is another aspect of gambling. The government should be very strict in this matter and should not license those who patronise charitable societies to conduct such lotteries. Those who do that on behalf of charitable society are like those who hold parties inviting dancers to dance and collect money. This is totally Haram. Those who indulge in such activities to collect money for good causes think that people have lost interest in good causes, the source of goodness in their hearts has dried up. They have lost their sense of mercy, compassion and righteousness and need to indulge in such prohibited activities to be able to collect money. This is a bad thought on their part towards Muslim societies and faith communities. Let them all remember the statement of the Prophet "Any flesh growing up as a result of illegal means of sustenance, hellfire deserves it more than any other place."

The question which we are bombarded with daily is, "Are we allowed to apply to the commission, which is responsible for distribution of the good causes set aside for that?

The answer has to be clear and direct. This money is coming from religiously unacceptable source. It is known in the books Fiqh as "bad gain".

The first conference for Zakah held in Al Kuwait in 1404 AH, 1984 CE, issued a number of Fataawa. Under the fourth Fatwa entitled "Bonds, interest bearing deposits and illegal prohibited wealth and the like of that" came this ruling:

"Bonds bearing interest, deposits receiving interest, the capital only is zakatable. The rate is 2.5 per cent. As for the interest money accruing on such capital, it is nor zakatable. It is a bad gain which must not be used for any purpose for the person receiving it. He must collect this money from such financial institutions then he should spend it in the general welfare of the community. It will not be considered as an act of charity. It is simply getting rid of such bad gain. However it should not be used for printing, buying or distributing the Holy Qur'an, nor for building mosques."

This is the ruling concerning any bad money coming from other sources, and the money taken by deception, cheating or stealing, the one on whose hands this money is should not pay Zakah on them. He does not own this money, it is the legal property of the people. His responsibility is to return all that to the owner. In the light of that it is not allowed to approach the Commission for money to build, repair or to maintain mosques.

However social institutions in case of need may be allowed to apply for such grants. The money is the legal property of governmental departments. Those applying for it to build a community centre, cultural centre, and educational institutions separate from mosques, are entitled to do so once they give the real facts. In doing so, they are availing themselves of a source of expenditure without cheating or giving false information. This is national wealth made available with the full satisfaction of the Commission concerned. However it will be more honourable to avoid such source as far as is convenient, in order to be self-sufficient.

And Allah says the Truth and guides to the right way.

Shaykh Syed Mutawalli Ad-Darsh. 9 February 1996.

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* pbuh - Peace be upon him; It is a Muslim practise to convey prayers of peace whenever the name of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and other prophets is taken.

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Hate Hurts. Love Cures. Conjecture Fails. Truth Prevails.
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