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Question:

Recently, I went to a MAHA expo where there is an exhibition of sado (muscular built) cow. While attending the exhibition, I was invited to enter a game of guessing the muscular built cow and the entrance fee is RM10.00. I hope to get an explanation from Datuk Mufti regarding the ruling of this game.

Answer:

Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.

Before we discuss the ruling for this issue, let us first study the definition of gambling, evidence of its prohibition and the conditions of gambling:

Definition of Gambling

Literally, gamble is also known as al-maisir or al-qimar in Arabic, which means betting on something using arrows and it is a custom of the Arabs. Gambling games also includes gambling using rocks, dice or any type of bets.

The scholars presented several opinions for the usage of term:

  • Ibn Hajar al-Makki said gamble is anything that involves any type of bets.
  • Al-Mahalli states that gambling is any form of prohibited bet that involves winning and losing.
  • According to al-Mawardi, any type of game or contest is considered as gambling when there are two parties involve; winner (takes) and loser (gives) the rewards, through betting.
  • Ibnu Qudamah said that gambling is a game where there will be a winner and a loser.
  • Ibn Taimiyyah states that gambling is when a part of someone’s property is taken and used as a bet and he will end up rewarded or he will lose his bet.
  • While Ibn Qayyim states that gambling is a situation where there will be a winner and a loser.
  • Imam Malik divided gambling into two types:
    • Unbeneficial / useless gambling (lagha), such as the games of dice, chess and any unbeneficial entertainment.
    • Gambling involving bets, such as anything that is harmful or in the form of sacrifice.

From the above discussion of scholars’ opinions regarding the definition of gambling, it can be concluded that gambling is any type of game or contest that involve a bet from the contestants and there will be a winner and a loser.

The Prohibition of Gambling

Gambling is clearly prohibited according to the Quran, hadith and scholarly consensus (ijma’). Allah SWT states:

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ قُلْ فِيهِمَا إِثْمٌ كَبِيرٌ وَمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَإِثْمُهُمَآ أَكْبَرُ مِن نَّفْعِهِمَا وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلِ الْعَفْوَ كَذَلِكَ يُبيِّنُ اللّهُ لَكُمُ الآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَفَكَّرُونَ

“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." And they ask you what they should spend. Say, "The excess [beyond needs]." Thus, Allah makes clear to you the verses [of revelation] that you might give thought.”

Surah al-Baqarah (219)

In another surah, Allah SWT states:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالأَنصَابُ وَالأَزْلاَمُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

“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.”

Surah al-Maidah (90)

إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَن يُوقِعَ بَيْنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَةَ وَالْبَغْضَاء فِي الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ وَيَصُدَّكُمْ عَن ذِكْرِ اللّهِ وَعَنِ الصَّلاَةِ فَهَلْ أَنتُم مُّنتَهُونَ

“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?

Surah al-Maidah (91)

The prohibition of gambling is also stated in a hadith of the Prophet PBUH, where he said:

من قال لصاحبه تعال أقامرك فليتصدق

“Whoever says to his companions, 'Come let me gamble' with you, then he must give something in charity (as an expiation for such a sin).”

Sahih al-Bukhari (6107) and Sahih Muslim (1647)

Furthermore, gambling has also been prohibited by the scholarly consensus (ijma’). Ibn Hazim al-Zahiri, al-Jassas, Abu Hayyan al-Andalusi, Ibn Taimiyyah and al-Qurtubi state that none of Islamic scholars concurs the prohibition of gambling.

After presenting syarak evidences regarding gambling, it is clear that Allah SWT prohibits any type or form of gambling, for it is a method of wrongfully taking someone else’s property, that could lead to conflict, enmity and hatred. The following are the conditions set by Islamic scholars to classify a certain game or contest as gambling:

  • It is participated by two or more people, or two or more groups.
  • Each party (participant) would bet something; in terms of property or profit.
  • Any participant that wins will be rewarded with property or profit from the losing party and gets to keep the property or profit that he puts as a bet in the beginning.

According to Islamic scholars, any type of game where the winner receives a reward from a third party, not from anyone involved with the game, then it is considered as just a game and the reward is considered as a gift.

A game is also not considered as a gamble when the reward is just from one party. For example, if someone said to his friend, “If you could beat me, I would reward you. However, if you lose, you don’t have to give me anything.”. This is in accordance with a hadith narrated by Abu Daud where the Prophet PBUH was challenged by a Quraisy disbeliever named Rukanah to wrestle with him with the reward of a few goats if the Prophet PBUH wins. The Prophet PBUH accepted the challenge and won.

However, any type of game where a person wins all of the bet while the loser loses his bet, then it is prohibited.

Prof Dr Yusuf al-Qardhawi wrote about a type of a game known as lottery and he includes this game as a form of gambling. Since gambling is prohibited, lottery should not be used for social and humanitarian aid purposes. Those who permits lottery for these purposes are really the same people that held charity funds and donations through prohibited concerts and art festivities. The best way to answer them is by citing the words of the Prophet PBUH, where he said:

إن الله طيب لا يقبل إلا طيبا

“Allah the Almighty is Good and accepts only that which is good.”

Sahih Muslim

Regarding to the question asked, there are two main issues in this situation:

  1. The organizer set an “entrance fee” of:
    • 1 guess: RM10
    • 3 guesses: RM20
  2. There is a third party that sponsored the prize of one muscular built cow or RM20,000 (in cash)

Both elements give rise to doubts and polemic, for majority of people considered it permissible because there is an involvement of a third party that sponsors the prize.

Statement from the Mufti of Federal Territories

After presenting the definition of gambling, its prohibition and the conditions of it, in our opinion, the game of guessing the muscular built cow contains elements of gambling, because:

  • The element of entrance fee in this game results in the payment made to win is based on luck.
  • The element of zero-sum game, where the loser loses his money (entrance fee) in this game.

Usually it will be permissible if there is a third party sponsoring the prize for the game. However, it is not so in this case. The entrance fee has made it prohibited as there still are presence of the elements of luck and zero-sum game.

Muslims are advised to be careful in this modern day, to avoid getting involve in sin and transgressions towards Allah SWT. For those who won the game, they should give their prize to Baitulmal to be managed and given to the poor and needy for they have a right to the prize. May Allah SWT protects us in this world and the next.