What Does the Quran Say About Gambling?

A sign advertising a lottery jackpot in Chicago
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In Islam, gambling is not considered to be a simple game or frivolous pastime.  The Quran often condemns gambling and alcohol together in the same verse, recognizing both as a social disease which is addictive and destroys personal and family lives.

“They ask you [Muhammad] concerning wine and gambling. Say: ‘In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit.’… Thus does Allah Make clear to you His Signs, in order that you may consider” (Quran 2:219).

“O you who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, dedication of stones, and divination by arrows, are an abomination of Satan's handwork.  Eschew such abomination, that you may prosper” (Quran 5:90).

“Satan's plan is to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer.  Will you not then abstain?” (Quran 5:91).

Muslim scholars agree that it is acceptable or even commendable for Muslims to participate in healthy challenges, competitions, and sports.  It is forbidden, however, to be involved with any betting, lottery, or other games of chance.

There is some disagreement about whether raffles should be included in the definition of gambling. The most common and sound opinion is that it depends on the intention.  If a person receives a raffle ticket as a “door prize” or side-product of attending an event, without paying additional money or specifically attending in order to “win,” then many scholars consider this to be more of a promotional gift and not gambling.

Along the same lines, some scholars consider it permissible to play certain games, such as backgammon, cards, dominoes, etc. as long as there is no gambling involved.  Other scholars consider such games to be impermissible by virtue of their association with gambling.

  Allah knows best.

The general teaching in Islam is that all money is to be earned – through one’s own honest labor and thoughtful effort or knowledge.  One cannot rely upon “luck” or chance to gain things that one doesn’t deserve to earn.  Such schemes only benefit a minority of people, while luring the unsuspecting (often those who can least afford it) to spend great amounts of money on the slim chance of winning more.

  The practice is deceptive and unlawful in Islam.