After an exhausting day of unending work, you decide to have a night out with your friends. And you end up in a nightclub or casino where you can enjoy your time by playing a fun and simple-looking game. In no time you find yourself engaged in a gamble which seems to be going on forever. And you end up either losing the money – no matter how much - you have gained through too much effort, or achieve some money without doing any profitable action in return. That is only one instance of this kind of so-called fun called gambling. Though, it sometimes turns out to be much more than simple entertainment and results in losing one’s whole living in a matter of a few seconds. But does Islam allow its followers to go through such an experience? The answer is a definite No [i] & [ii], for this is a lose-lose situation for both parties, financially and psychologically, even though it may not look so. In this matter, Islam, as always plans what is best for the lives of human beings. Let’s regard this issue in depth. Is Gambling in Islam Allowed?
According to all Islamic jurists, games that include the special means of gambling such as cards, backgammon, etc. are forbidden if they are accompanied with betting. Moreover, every kind of game that is played through betting is forbidden. Nevertheless, some scholars believe that playing with the special means of gambling, even without betting, is not allowed [iii]&. This is because the one who plays with particular means of gambling will automatically be accused of betting or may seem like doing it.
The adverse effects of gambling on one’s life as well as the society he/she lives in are many and have been mentioned by many Islamic and/or non-Islamic scholars.
According to a study done in the United States, “more than $5 billion has been lost each year to gambling addictions. In addition, $40 billion has been spent on social services and creditor losses. These studies go on to state that two out of three gambling addicts will engage in illegal acts to pay for their gambling debts. The effect is that the addiction places a severe hardship on prison systems, public assistance programs and legal systems” .
Lose of credit and job is only one among many financial losses that are caused by gambling on an individual but it will not be limited to him/her and requires the society to take care of him/her. Moreover, when a game turns to a real-life lose or win, the one who engages in it sees his/her opponent as a real-life enemy whom he/she needs to defeat. This, as a result, spreads the feeling of enmity, avarice, and vengeance within the society . Quran also emphasizes the evilness of this action: “Indeed Satan seeks to cast enmity and hatred among you through wine and gambling, and to hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and prayer. Will you, then, relinquish?” (5:91).
No matter you lose or win in this game, the effect would be detrimental for you. Let’s say you are a very lucky person and win every time you gamble, what would you do with the growing sense of greed for money? Or with this incessant desire to gamble more and more to the point that you cannot think about anything except gambling? Losing also brings its own destructive results; aside from losing the money that you could spend in a much useful way for yourself or your family, you lose your own self-confidence and feel undermined.
The pressure that is inflicted upon the gambler will inevitably lead to physical problems. According to a study, “the stress of gambling problems sometimes causes health problems, for both the person who gambles and the family. This can include anxiety, depression and stress-related problems such as poor sleep, ulcers, bowel problems, headaches, and muscle pains”. Also, in some cases this mental pressure caused the individual to feel suicidal and want to end his/her life .
When your mind is occupied with gaining more money, how to beat your opponent on the next gamble or how to pay your debts, no place will remain for you to turn and remind yourself of your duty toward Allah and His mercy upon you. And when Allah is absent from your heart and mind, the result is the constant feeling of insecurity and stress, for: “…The hearts find rest in Allah’s remembrance!”(13:28).
Finally, gambling is the cause of many harms to the individual as well as the society. Based on a general rule in Islam, no one is allowed to either “cause harm or return harm”  to him/herself or others. As it was mentioned above, gambling brings many financial as well as psychological complexities for the people involved in it and the society they live in. Therefore Islam does not allow its followers to bear such disadvantages.
[i] (2:219), (5:90).
[ii] Imam Reza (AS) Said: “Allah forbids His followers from any kind of gambling and ordered them to refuse doing them and called them impure and evil…” .
[iii] It is important to note that for the participants in horse racing and archery the action of betting is allowed . The reason for that was Islam’s attention to the importance of learning the martial arts for Muslims.
Islam, as the last divine monotheistic religion, is the most perfect of the religions: “Today I have perfected your religion for you… and I have approved Islam as your religion.” (5:3). By introducing Islam, Allah has completed His blessings upon human beings (5:3). In other words, Islam provides everything that humans need to reach their perfection and salvation in the afterlife ; what they require for a divine life in this world and the tools they need for their social life, too; including their rights and responsibilities. The Islamic responsibilities of each individual towards others were thoroughly discussed previously. Here, the focus will be on Islamic responsibilities that concern the rights and benefits of people in society.
When reviewing the Islamic teachings, one can notice the importance of congregation, unity, and brotherhood in the society. That is why many duties such as those to parents, neighbors, relatives, sick people, the elderly, the young people, mentors, etc. as various members of society are defined in Islam. Doing good to orphans, those in need, the traveler and the beggar, and freeing slaves (2:177) is another Islamic principle that concerns the members of society.
Hence, it can be concluded that in most cases, Islam has preferred the benefits of the congregation over the individual, even if it imposes a limitation or a loss to the individual. This can be compared to some of the social rules that aim to bring order in society but are limiting to individuals (e.g., red light).
In Islam, there is no place for arrogance and racism, but brotherhood towards other Muslims and a general sense of humanity towards every human being have been encouraged . According to the Quran, the diversity of life and the various languages and colors of human beings are all signs of Allah’s majesty (30:22). Also, as Islamic teachings suggest, no privileged class exists, and everyone is equal in society, the only criteria for superiority over others is having piety or moral excellence (49:13).
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) has also emphasized this in a narration where he (PBUH&HP) says that all human beings are from the same father (Adam (AS)) and no nation or race is superior to the other . In another narration, he (PBUH&HP) says that whoever knows more than others is more respected , and he repudiates the discriminations based on tribe, origin, color, and wealth.
By many of its rulings and duties considered for its followers, Islam aims to direct the attention of each individual to other’s needs. One way of achieving this goal is through the Alms-Tax (Zakat). Zakat is an exact amount of money that must be paid according to the rules of Sharia to be used in favor of the people in need or for certain beneficial deeds in society. Zakat can be given to poor people or can be spent on public welfare or creating jobs.
It should be noted that one can directly pay Zakat to the needy people only under the permission of his/her religious expert (Marja’). The aim is to manage and organize the resources by an expert aware of the requirements of the society; Marja’. This is one of the solutions to prevent a particular group of community to manipulate the economy. It empowers those who have been neglected in society to become productive and useful.
Sadaqah is giving away something (money, clothes, food, teaching, etc.) voluntarily to someone in need without expecting anything in return and with the intention of pleasing Allah: “spend from what we have provided you” (63:10). Giving charity in the form of Sadaqah is highly recommended in Islamic teachings. However, the manner of giving charity is of high importance in Islam. Sadagah should be offered discreetly to needy people rather than in public with the intention of showing off and pretending to be generous. This means that Islam encourages the preservation of human dignity.
Here, we reviewed a general Islamic viewpoint that guarantees the rights of every member of the society and the importance it gives to social expediency. These Islamic recommendations will ultimately promote human rights and dignity.
- M H Tabataba'i, “Tafsir al-Mizan”, Surah Al-Maidah.
- islam and humanity
- M. Karajaki, “Ma’dan al-Jawahir wa-Riyadat al-Khawatir”, p. 21.
- Shaykh Saduq, “al-Amali”, p. 27.
Looking at Imam Hussain (AS)'s movement and the incidents that took place on Karbala, one might wonder if Imam Hussain (AS) ever had the intention of going to war with Yazid or not. In what follows, we raise some questions that will reveal Imam Hussain (AS)'s real attitude toward war.
He did not wish to take the oath of allegiance of a ruthless and corrupt person as Yazid, so he decided to peacefully migrate from Medina to Mecca in which many people had not accepted Yazid’s oath of allegiance yet. In his will which he wrote before leaving Medina, he says:
“I am not leaving here out of selfishness or with the aim of oppression or corruption, but for the sake of improving Muslims’ condition of life. I want to enjoin the right (Amr bi-l-ma’ruf) and forbid the wrong (Nahy’ ani-l-munkar) and to act according to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP)’s and Imam Ali’s (AS) way”.
His first motivation to leave Medina was migration, not war. So he left Medina to Mecca along with his family and companions without making any violent move against Yazid. On the day of Ashura on which Imam Hussain (AS) was martyred, 17 to 19 people of his family and relatives were among his companions, including some women and children. Among the martyrs of Karbala, also, there were five teenagers and children. One might ask, as Charles Dickens once asked if Imam Hussain (AS) were after worldly desires as taking over the throne, why would he take his family and children with him and risk their lives?
Imam Hussain (AS) had no intention of going to Kufa, but he was persuaded to do so by the many letters he received from Kufa people asking him to help them against Yazid’s tyranny. His speech in front of Hur’s army proves this fact:
“O’ people! This is my last word to you so that there would be no excuse in Allah’s presence. I would not come to you if you had not sent your letters and messengers and asked me to come to you. You told me that you didn’t have a leader and wanted Allah to guide you through me. So, if you still keep your words, I will come to your city, and if you don’t want me to come, I will return.”
When surrendered by Hur and his army, Zuhair, one of Imam Hussain’s (AS) companions, suggested fighting them. Since they were not still much in number and Imam Hussain’s (AS) camp had the strength to defeat them. However, Imam Hussain (AS) rejected his view and told him that if there would be a war, he did not wish to be its initiator, though he would defend himself if necessary.
Imam Hussain (AS) wanted to postpone the war as much as possible, not because he was afraid of fighting, but to give the enemy more time to think twice about their wrong decision. So, when on the evening of the 9th of Muharram, Umar ibn Sa’ad gathered his army and got them ready for the war, he sent them a message and asked them to postpone the war until the day after and he spent the night praying to Allah.
Even on the very day of Ashura, Imam Hussain (AS) did his best to dissuade the enemy of choosing the wrong path and losing the God-given blessing of life for a ruthless tyrant as Yazid and his vain intentions. That is because Imam Hussain (AS) who was the spiritual leader of Muslims and cared about their fate more than his own life, found it his responsibility to guide them toward what is right before it was too late [i].
[i] For more information see Salam Islam's ebook: 40 Points about Imam Hussain (AS) and the Event of Karbala