What is Gambling? What is the view of Islam on Gambling?

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What is Gambling? What is the view of Islam on Gambling?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Gambling means to give or take money or goods depending on something that is not known how it will end. No matter what the name is, any game or bet that has this property and that is played in return for money or goods is called gambling. The word "maysir" mentioned in the Quran is derived from the word "yusr", which means ease, which indicates that money or goods are obtained or lost easily in gambling. 

Gambling is a way of obtaining undeserved money which makes man forget his Creator, prevents him from performing prayers, leads him to laziness, eliminates his strength to work and causes grudge and enmity among people. All kinds of gambling, which causes irreparable wounds in individual and social life, are haram in the religion of Islam.

The following is stated in the Quran regarding the issue:

"O ye who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves in vanities" (al-Baqara, 2/188; an-Nisa, 4/29).

"O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination― of Satan's handiwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper. Satan's plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer (al-Maida, 5/90, 91; Ibn Abidin Raddu'l Mukhtar, İstanbul 1307, V, p. 355; Hamdi Yazır, Hak Dini Kur'an Dini, İstanbul 1960, II, p. 766).

Gambling and its harms:

There is no difference between alcohol and gambling in terms of being forbidden and being a sin. Allah renders them haram in the same verse:

" O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination― of Satan's handiwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper." (al-Maida, 5/90).

All kinds of games of chance that cause benefit or harm are regarded as gambling. Gambling means to get a person's money or goods unjustly and to steal one's money or goods deliberately. Gambling is a social disaster. It is always seen that this destructive evil prohibited strictly by the religion of Islam destroys many families. Those who gamble around a table until morning due to the excitement caused by greed and ambition lose their health, wealth, ethics and money; they lose their human feeling. Those who win today lose some other day. 

Wives, children and the poor have the right on the money lost at gambling. The money obtained by gambling is not legitimate.

As gambling becomes widespread, social harms will increase. Working is replaced by laziness. The productivity in business life decreases. Gambling brings along evil deeds like alcohol, telling lies, greed, grudge, revenge and murder.

Gambling also causes disorders, disagreements and neglects in family life. There are many people who sell their religion, honor and country due to gambling and who tread on all kinds of sacred values.

Gambling becomes an addiction in a very short time like alcohol. It is very difficult to get rid of it. Therefore, gambling and alcohol are very dangerous habits. 

All kinds of games of chance in which you win or lose money like dice, card games, lottery, football pools, lotto, betting and sweepstakes are regarded as gambling.

All games of chance are played to enjoy and to spend time at first. As man wins, he plays for the sake of the pleasure and ambition of winning. As he loses, he plays in order to get back what he has lost. Then, he becomes a gambler. It should not be forgotten that those who lose everything at gambling tables, who sell whatever they have and live in debauchery and poverty, who destroy their wives and children start gambling as a means of pleasure and entertainment at first.  

It is an important duty to keep away from gambling as well as protecting the people around us especially our family members from gambling. The duty of protecting family members from harmful and evil things and educating them for a lifestyle that Allah and His Messenger want is given to the head of the family by the Quran:

" O ye who believe! save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe who flinch not (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allah, but do (precisely) what they are commanded " (at-Tahrim, 66/6).

If games like backgammon, chess, checkers, cards, tennis, and billiards are played with the intention of gambling by risking money, they are also regarded as gambling.

There are various hadiths of Hz. Prophet that prohibit backgammon: "A person who plays backgammon is regarded to have disobeyed Allah and His Messenger ." (Abu Dawud, Adab, 56; Ibn Majah, Adab, 43; Malik, Muwatta', 6; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, IV, 394, 397, 400). "The state of a person who plays backgammon and then performs prayers is like the state of a person who makes wudu with pus and the blood of pig and then performs prayers." (Ahmad b. Hanbal, V, 370).

Acting upon the general prohibition of backgammon in these hadiths, most of the scholars of Islam say that playing backgammon is not permissible.  Ibn al-Musayyab and some other Islamic scholars hold the view that it is not haram to play backgammon if the intention is not gambling. Cards and dominoes are regarded as the same as backgammon.  

The game of chess, which is called "shatranj" in Arabic, appeared during the period of the Companions after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh); therefore, there is no hadith of the Prophet regarding chess. The Companions and Tabiun scholars stated three views about chess:

According to the Companions and Tabiun scholars like Abdullah b. Abbas, Abu Hurayra, Ibn Shirin, Hisham b. Urwa, Said b. al-Musayyab, Said b. al-Jubayr, it is permissible to play chess.  

According to Imam Shafii, chess is makruh tanzihi; according to Abu Hanifa, Malik and Ahmad b. Hanbal, it is haram.

Considering that chess is more like a game of intelligence and a brain sport rather than a game of chance and that there is no definite prohibition about it, this conclusion is made. However, it is understood that the Companions liken it to backgammon. As a matter of fact, the following is narrated from Abdullah b. Umar: "Chess is worse than backgammon." It is stated that Hz Ali regards it as gambling. (Ibn Kathir, Tafsiru'l-Qur'ani'l-Azim, İstanbul 1985, III, 170). On the other hand, it is reported that Yahya b. Sad heard the following from Imam Malik: "There is no good in chess; it is makruh to play chess and other games of chance." Imam Malik was reading the following verse while uttering that sentence:  "…Apart from Truth, what (remains) but error? "(Yunus, 10/32; see Malik, Muwatta, Ru'ya, 7).

Checkers is a game like chess. In the games of tennis and billiards, sport is prevalent. They need to be permissible unless some illegitimate elements are added to them.

In conclusion, four conditions are laid as necessary for the games that are played only for relaxation, entertainment and pleasure without the purpose of gambling to be religiously permissible:

a. They must not make people miss or delay fard prayers.

b. People must not expect any material benefits.

c. Players must abstain from uttering bad and unnecessary words during the game.

d. People must not waste their time by playing so much that cannot be regarded as relaxation and entertainment.

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