The Fiqh of Gambling, Betting and Competitions in Islam

The Fiqh of Gambling, Betting and Competitions in Islam

Gambling is a major sin in Islam, but it is not always clear whether certain games or competitions are a form of gambling. This article will examine the Islamic perspective on gambling. Click here if you want to skip the evidence and get straight to the verdict. We also have listed many example of gambling below.

This article was prepared with assistance from

What is Gambling?

Let’s begin by considering the English definition of gambling. The Oxford Dictionary defines gambling as the act of playing games of chance for money. A classic example would be John betting £50 that Chelsea will beat Liverpool 3-2. The house (betting shop) or another person will also join the bet, either at the same stake or, more commonly, using odds. If Chelsea win, John retains his £50 stake and takes from the house/friend, but, if Chelsea lose, John forfeits £50 to the house/friend.

This type of transaction is characterised as Zero-Sum Game in modern finance- one person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, resulting in a net change in wealth or profit of zero. There may be as few as two participants or as many as millions in a Zero-Sum Game.

Gambling in Islam

The prohibition of gambling in Islam comes from the Quran. Allāh states clearly in Surah al Ma’idah,

O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allāh], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful. Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allāh and from prayer. So will you not abstain?

Surah al Ma’idah, Verses 90-91

In Surah Al Baqarah, Allāh says:

They ask you concerning wine and gambling. Say: “In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit.” They ask you how much they are to spend; Say: “What is beyond your needs.” Thus does Allāh Make clear to you His Signs: In order that you may reflect.

Surah Al Baqarah, Verse 219

Gambling is clearly and explicitly prohibited in both of these verses with explanation to why they are immoral too.

In Surah Ma’idah, Verse 3, Allāh specifically addresses a sort of gambling that the Arabs used to engage in, saying, “…(forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows: that is impiety…”. Before Islam, a camel would be slaughtered and divided into several large and small pieces by the pagan Arabs. Each portion of the slaughtered camel was given a name, which was subsequently written on an arrow. Following that, all of these arrows would be gathered, along with some blank arrows, and each participant’s name would be written on an arrow. Those whose arrows had a camel piece inscribed on them received that piece, but those who drew blanks received no piece of meat and they also had to pay the full price of the camel. This type of gambling was known as Istiqsam bi al-Azlam.

When Allāh revealed the verses, “The Romans have been defeated. In the nearer land, and they, after their defeat, will be victorious” Ar-Rum 30:4, Abu Bakr bet the disbelievers a sum of money that the Romans would defeat the Persians within 3 years. When Abu Bakr told the Prophet ﷺ about it, the Prophet ﷺ commanded him to increase the period from 3 to 9 years because the verse indicates the victory will happen between 3 to 9 years. At this point, the verses of gambling had not been revealed. As years passed the Romans defeated the Persians, and Abu Bakr won the bet, but by now, the verses of gambling were revealed, so the Prophet ﷺ commanded him to spend the winnings on the poor.

The Hanafi jurist, Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas, confirms: “There is no difference of opinion between the scholars regarding the prohibition of gambling.” (Ahkam al-Qur’an, 1/329). The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ emphasised the prohibition of gambling to such an extent that even considering to take part in gambling was regarded as blameworthy. Abu Hurayra narrates that the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said: “…Whosoever says to another: “come lets gamble” should give in charity.” Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 4579.

The Islamic Definition of Gambling

If we take a closer look at the word used for gambling in these verses, ٱلْمَيْسِرُ, it literally means ‘games of chance.’ This is akin to the English word ‘gamble’. In the hadith, when the Prophet ﷺ speaks of gambling, the word al-Qimaar is used. Abdullāh ibn Umar says: “al-Maysir is the al-Qimaar.” The same has been narrated from Mujahid, Sa’id ibn al-Musayyib, Hasan al-Basri, Muhammad ibn Sirin, Ata’ ibn Abi Rabah and others (Tafsir Ibn Jarir, 2/358).

Ibn Abbas defined gambling as “The risk of losing on both sides (or putting something at stake from both sides) (mukhatarah) is gambling.” He also says in the commentary of verse 219 of Surah al-Baqarah: “al-Maysir is al-Qimaar. In the days of ignorance (jahiliyyah), an individual would stake/risk his wife and wealth whilst gambling with another person. Then whosoever defeated his opponent would take away his (the defeated person’s) wife and wealth.” (See: Tafsir Ibn Jarir, 2/358).

Ibn al-Arabi describes the nature of Qimaar, wagering or gambling as a game where “each one of two contestants seeks to defeat his partner in an action or statement in order to take over property set aside for the winner” Ibn al-Arabi, 1934; Rosenthal, 1975.

al-Jurjani defines wagering as “taking one thing after the other from one’s partner in a game” or, “every game with a condition that the winner out of two contestants gets something from the loser, al-Jurjani, 1934. Al-Shawkani defines it as a situation where there must be one of the player gains and another loses. Ali al-Sabuni insists that every game which results in profit for one party and loss for the another is prohibited wagering. Ibn Abidin defines gambling in the following words: “Gambling is from the word qamar, that which increases at times and decreases at other times. It has been given the name al-Qimaar due to the possibility that each one of the gamblers may lose his wealth to his counterpart, and it is also possible that one may gain from the wealth of the other.” (Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr, 6/403)

Gambling defined by the Oxford Dictionary and Islam is synonymous linguistically, but there may be differences legally between English law and Islamic law as well as the term gambling used colloquially. For example, Dave invests in a high-risk company and Gary comments, ‘that’s a bit of a gamble.’ This doesn’t mean Dave has gambled, so one should be careful in acalling the right activities gambling from an Islamic perspective.

The prohibition of gambling extends to any level of chance. In skill-based games or tournaments, the outcome is directly dependent on a player’s physical and mental skills. For example, in the game of chess, winning a game or a position depends on a player’s ability to perceive a pattern, their level of strategic thinking and their overall knowledge of opening, defences and attacks. Winning is not based on chance and luck but skill. Gambling in Islam makes no distinction between chance, 99% chance and skill, it is all prohibited. The scholars say, Abu Bakr had 100% conviction that he will win his bet against the Mushrik as it was based on the word of Allāh, but still had to forgo his winnings. It is the element of making money from another based on an unknown future event that makes it haram.

Gambling is also not limited to wagering money, one can gamble away anything they own that carries some value, even if it is their time or labour.

An exception

So based on clear evidence from the Quran, all forms of gambling and betting are harām, however in one narration found in Tirmidhi 1700, Abu Dawud 2574 and others, the Prophet ﷺ said “There shall be no stake (or wager) except in (racing) camels, or (racing) horses, or shooting arrows.” Sometimes this hadith is translated as ‘There shall be no competitions…’, competitions here refer to monetary competitions. There are examples from the Sunnah where mere competition with no stake is permissible, like when the Prophet ﷺ raced his beloved wife Aisha on two occasions (Sunan Abī Dāwūd 2578).

Scholars vary on how we understand this exception, they agree the rationale behind this exception was to encourage and strengthen military might. Increased competition will lead to skilful horsemen and archers. Ibn Al-Qayyim says, “Allāh and His Prophet ﷺ have permitted competition in archery and in horse and camel racing in order to encourage Muslims to learn horsemanship and to be prepared for Jihaad. So, competitions and initiatives for knowledge and evidence are permissible with even greater reason, because by them, hearts are opened, Islam is strengthened and its rituals prevail.” Therefore, many scholars extend this exception to other activities like computer programming and science fairs as these are key areas Muslims need to excel in the modern world. The Hanafi Jurist, Al-Jassas, explains, “There is no disagreement on the prohibition of gambling, except for that kind of bet related to races, like camel races, and shooting or spear throwing.” By extension the Hanafis say, it will include, running, racing of elephants, knowledge of jurisprudence, etc. if done for the sake of advancing. However, others say only the three mentioned in the hadith are the exception.

Another aspect of gambling the scholars agree on is that competitions have to remain fair, in the example of horse racing, the animals competing are of the same species, equally matched, the prize amount is known, the distance and conditions of the competition are known, etc.

Where the scholars disagree is the type of betting. Some have said this exception allows any form of betting as long as it relates to horses, camels and archery but others like the Hanafi’s do not interpret this hadith as gambling or wagering in the classical sense, but similar to it. It is more like a promise to pay. The hadith is an example of what is not gambling.

The Hanafi position

If the competition relates to camels, horses and anything that advances military training or Islam, then competition with a monetary prize is permitted, with the following conditions:

  1. The money/prize given to the winner is from the caliph, appointed body or authority or any other third party. The money can be their own, from the Muslim treasury or from a third party.
  2. The wager has to be one way, for example, Abdul says, “If your horse beats mine, I will pay you £50 as the winning prize, but if mine beats yours, you don’t need to pay me anything.” Likewise, if there are three in the competition, Abdul, Ahmad and Asghar, and either Asghar or Ahmad wins, then they will win the prize, but if Abdul wins then he won’t win the prize.

This arrangement is not considered as a bet where each puts money in and the winner takes all, but it is like the case of the underdog challenging the champion. In this example, Abdul is the best archer in the platoon. All soldiers are told if they beat Abdul then they will win £1000. This creates hype and a challenge worth pursuing. All the soldiers train hard to beat each other in the competition. If any one of them win, they win the £1000, but since Abdul is the best archer, and will possibly win, he receives nothing for winning. He retains his title as best archer. This transaction goes from gambling to healthy competition. This is like a father saying to his child, I will give you £100 if you pass your exams. It is a promise of a monetary reward of the fulfilment of an uncertain event. As it is a one-way transaction, it is lawful.

If we can identify the principles of gambling, we can then apply them to other games/activities and determine whether or not they are permissible.

  1. It is between two or more parties (at least two people, but could be multiple people, a company or a computer)
  2. On the outcome of an event that has uncertainty
  3. And wealth is placed at stake, either physically or promised, by both of them
  4. One of the parties will lose a percentage of their wealth and the other party will gain wealth (the wealth will be either at 100% gain/loss or based on the odds when the bet was placed)
  5. There is an over-arching intention to bet i.e. one wishes to gain another’s wealth based on outcome of an uncertain event

For example, Jamal bets £50 Liverpool will win the football match and Ali bets £50 Chelsea will win. If there is a draw then no one wins anything. Chelsea win. So, Ali keeps his £50 and wins £50 from Jamal. Jamal sits at -£50. If we align this to the five principles;

  1. There are two parties, Jamal and Ali
  2. The outcome of the football match is uncertain
  3. Both place £50 as their stake
  4. Jamal has lost £50 and Ali has gained £50
  5. They both had an over-arching intention to gain the other’s wealth based on an uncertain event

So, this is gambling. If only one party placed £50 as their stake and the other abstained from wagering any money, nor promising, then it won’t be gambling. For example, Jamal says, I will give you £50 if Chelsea win, but you don’t have to give me £50 if they lose, then if Chelsea win, Ali will gain £50 and if they lose, Ali doesn’t forfeit any wealth nor does Abdul gain anything.

In conclusion, the prohibition against gambling is predicated on the possibility of parties obtaining or losing wealth as a result of uncertain events. It may be argued that conducting business and investing in companies and products are similarly predicated on unknown future events, however in this article, we explain the distinctions between gambling and investing from an Islamic perspective.

Why is gambling prohibited in Islam?

The primary intent of gambling is to win money or valuable materials from making the right guess. In Islam, an individual’s property is sacred; it may not be taken from him except through lawful exchange or unless he gives it freely as a gift or in charity. Allah, the Wise, affirms there is some benefit in gambling, such as making easy money, but the harm outweighs it. This is harm to oneself, family and wider society.

It can result in personal financial troubles such as debt and bankruptcy. One who participates in gambling is frequently anxious while awaiting the outcome. This distracts him from the remembrance of Allah and prayer, or at the very least keeps him distracted throughout prayer. Gambling is rooted in the vice, greed, where one wants more and more. It inadvertently occupies the mind.

Gambling can also lead to addiction since gamblers are frequently close to winning or ‘know’ they will win the next time they play. This occasionally results in a win, but eventually in a loss. This vicious circle continues. The loser plays again in the hopes of winning the following game in order to recoup his previous losses, while the winner plays again to enjoy the pleasure of victory and satisfy his insatiable want for more. Naturally, luck shifts, the loser becomes the winner and the winner becomes the loser, and the thrill of victory becomes the bitterness of defeat. Thus, the gamblers may continue to play the game, unable to pull themselves away. Imagine how this affects mental sate! It is common for a gambling addict to sell his honour, religion, and country for the gaming table, as his devotion to the table dulls his sense of values and composure. This can then damage their relationships and even their professional life. Each loss further induces anxiety and melancholy.

On a social level, gamblers may develop animosity for one another, even if they pretend that losing does not bother them. Always, there is a winner and a loser. Behind the winner’s apparent composure are irritation, rage, and remorse.  Typically, this occurs when the gambler is down to his or her last few pennies or has suffered a substantial loss. Substantial loss with no value returned. It has a ripple impact on other facets of life, such as marriage. Instead of focusing on one’s spouse and children, one is preoccupied with lamenting their defeat and planning their next victory.

Islam prohibits all forms of gambling in order to prevent people from becoming captivated by it. Alcohol is also therefore also prohibited. One glass may have some benefits, but the future possible harms outweighs it. Likewise the vicious circle of gambling must also be stopped.

Common Games/Activities

Betting On Horses

This is betting on the outcome of a horse winning a race with other horses, for example, Steve places a bet in his local betting shop for £100 that horse JockSparrow will win the grand nationals in Liverpool this year at odds of 10/1. If his horse wins, he gains £1000. If he loses, the betting shop keeps his £100.

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.

Betting on a Sports Match

This is betting on the outcome of a sports match between two teams, for example, Adam places a bet of £100 that Pakistan will beat Australia in the one-day international cricket match against his friend Liam who bets £100 Australia will win. The winner will keep his £100 and gain £100.

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.

Entering a Sweepstake

In a sweepstake all participants are assigned to a competitor before the competition begins. They will pay a nominal fee to enter. When the competition ends, the participant assigned to the winner receives all the money, or there may be smaller prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. Bob, for instance, organises a sweepstake at work during the football World Cup. There are 32 competing teams, so he seeks 32 colleagues to pay £2 each to enter the sweepstake and have the chance to win more money. Each colleague is randomly assigned to a team. When the competition ends, the colleague assigned to the winning team receives £40, the runner-up receives £15, and third place receives £9.

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.

One on One Competition

This is where two people bet each other they will win the game/activity, for example, Malik and Shaheed bet each other £10 they will beat the other in a game of chess.

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.

Tournaments with a Prize

This is where an individual or team enters a tournament to compete and win a prize. For example, a football tournament is held for 16 teams to compete. Each team has to pay £20 to enter. The winner receives a cash prize of £100, a trophy and medals for each player.

Verdict: This is possibly gambling and haram.

If each team pays an entry fee and the prize is made up of the pooled amount, then this will be gambling. Even though skill is involved, each player or team puts money down to win a larger sum back.

If the entry fee is intended to pay for the football pitches, equipment, referee fees, admin, etc, and the winning prize comes from another pot e.g. the organisers pay for it, then does not constitute gambling. Likewise if the entry fees go towards a charity cause but the winning prize is paid from another pot, then this will also not be gambling. This is because the players get value for their money. Any team winnings are a gift.


This is where players pay a small fee and have a guess at what the winning numbers will be (or something similar) before the draw. The draw then takes place and the winning lottery numbers are drawn at random. If the numbers picked match those that are revealed, then the player wins a cash prize. There are many variations and types of lottery but the premise is the same. For example, The National Lottery requires players to pick six numbers from 1-59 for a fee of £2. Then on a Wednesday and Saturday numbers are drawn. If the drawn numbers match the picked numbers, the player wins a cash prize- often in the millions. If the player matches only some numbers, they win a smaller prize.

Other common lotteries include EuroMillions, Thunder Ball, Health Lottery, Mega Millions and Powerball.

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.

Lottery Syndicates

This is where multiple players pool their money and buy multiple lottery tickets. This increases their chances of getting winning numbers. If there are any winning tickets, they split the winnings equally.

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.

Postcode Lottery

Postcode lotteries work by players paying a small fee to enter a weekly or monthly draw that selects postcodes at random rather than numbers, then the players in those selected postcodes win a cash prize. These are subscription lotteries, so you can’t just buy a one-off ticket. If a postcode is selected, all subscribers in the postcode will share the winnings.

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.

Scratch Cards

The basic premise of scratch cards is to scratch off a thin layer of foil to reveal a winning combination of symbols/numbers to win a cash prize. The player is essentially paying a nominal fee to test his luck. For example, Alice buys a ‘Super Duper 500’ scratch card for £1. There are 9 foil-covered boxes and each contains a symbol of a fruit. She has to get three of the same fruit to win the cash prize £500.

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.

Raffle Tickets

In a typical raffle, a player buys a ticket with a number on it. The tickets are randomly drawn and those holding the same numbered tickets win the prizes. The same concept can come in many forms like tombola, or lucky jar. For example, George buys five raffle tickets to potentially win from a large selection of high-priced items. In the end, one of his numbers is called out, so he wins an Air Fryer.

Verdict: This is possibly gambling and haram.

If a person pays for a raffle ticket in order to win something worth more, then this is gambling.

If a person doesn’t pay for the ticket then it will be permissible, for example, free raffle tickets are given out on entry to the new shopping centre. Any winnings will be considered a gift. Likewise, if the mosque say the next person to walk in the mosque wins an Umrah ticket then this will be permissible too. Although the outcome is based on chance, the person isn’t paying anything, so it is a gift.

In order to gain more traction, some paid exhibitions have a free raffle on entry. If you intend to go to an exhibition regardless of the raffle, then the raffle is a free gift. However, if you pay for the exhibition only so you can get a free raffle ticket, i.e. you are more interested in the potential prize then this will be gambling. This is why principle 5 is important to consider.

Guess the Name

This is where players pay to enter and randomly pick a name they think an item is named. The player who guesses the right name wins a prize. For example, Sandra names a teddy bear then writes out 100 random names and sticks them on a board. Passer-by’s pay £1 to have a guess at the name. She reveals the name at then end of the day, each person who selected the right name gets a prize. Other examples are ‘How many sweets in this jar’ and ‘How many Balloons in the Car.’

Verdict: This is possibly gambling and haram.

If one pays to have a go, then this is gambling.

The other case is where if you donate, you get a free go to choose a name. If the intention is to donate regardless of any game or prize then it will be deemed as a gift. If one only donates for a chance to win, then this is similar to gambling and impermissible.

Pick a Number and Win a Car

This is where the host will make available twenty numbered tickets for £500 each, then a draw is made randomly to pick one numbered ticket. The winner receives the prize of a car.

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.


This is where players pay to enter and mark off numbers on their cards as the numbers are called out randomly, the winner being the first person to mark off all their numbers in one line (or another variation).

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.

This is a common party game too. If there is no entry fee then this will not be gambling, the prize will be a gift.

Fun Fair/Carnival games

There are many games at the fun fair or carnival where one pays to play and if they win, they win a prize. Some exmples:

  • Shoot the balloons
  • Tin-can alley
  • Coconut shy
  • Get a hoop around a bottle
  • Get 180 on the dart board and win a teddy
  • Hook a duck
  • Three cups
  • Get the ball in the bucket
  • Penalty Shootout
  • Coin Pusher

Verdict: This is possibly gambling and haram.

If one pays to play in order to win the prize, then this will be gambling.

If one is paying for the service, the excitement of knocking all the cans, or shooting the balloons, then this is permissible. If he manages to knock or win the game and the host gives him a prize, this will be counted as a gift.

Some games have a guaranteed prize like hook a duck. There is an entry fee but you will always win something. This in reality is the host selling you an item at a greater price but make it a game to make it fun. This is permissible as there is a guarantee. There isn’t uncertainty in winning. However, if the value of the prize is dependent on the duck selected, then this will be gambling.

There are also games that are impossible to win, if one knows this, then it would be impermissible to deliberately waste money on them.

Prize Tickets in Arcades

Some arcades give players prize tickets after playing on a game machine to incentivise them to play more. When the players have played all their games, they can use their tickets to get an item from a ticket shop. The item can be regarded as a gift. The players pay a fair price to play the game they want; they receive a service for their money so value is met. The tickets are a form of gift from the venue.

Verdict: This is permissible

Mystery Boxes

This is when a set amount is paid for a mystery box containing jewellery, chocolates, or gifts. The host will show the buyers all of the potential items they may win, but no one known what they will get in their box. Sometimes they may only be told the types of items that may be included. The total value of the items might be less, equal, or greater than the initial payment made, in other words, the outcome of the mystery box is determined by chance. People will frequently purchase them in order to pay a low price and obtain a high-priced item.

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.

Some mystery boxes may be advertised to be the value of the money or worth more. There is no loss here but guarantee. The issue here will be of gharaar, which is uncertainty. According to Islamic transactional rules, a buyer must know what he is buying.

Phone Call Competitions

This is where a player needs to call in to give the correct answer to a question. If they are right, they will either win a prize or be entered in to a draw. Another variation is the next caller wins the prize.

Verdict: This is possibly gambling and haram.

If there is a premium rate number to call or some form of entry fee, then this will be gambling. If there is no extra cost on the callers part then this will not be gambling and permissible.

Wheel of Fortune

This is where a person pays to spin a wheel. Depending on where it lands, they will a prize, get to spin again or lose. The outcome is based on chance.

Verdict: This is possibly gambling and haram

If the spin is free, then any win is a gift.

Personal Details

Some competitions allow free entry if you enter your personal details like name, phone number and email or they come as a perk if you join a service like o2 Priority. The company are interested in marketing to you and/or selling your data, and in return they give you free entry to a competition.

Verdict: This is permissible

As your details do not have real monetary value, this cannot be classed as gambling. It will be a free entry competition instead.

Last One Pays

There may be an arrangement amongst friends where the last one to arrive, pays for dinner, or puts it in a pot. At some point in the future, as the pot builds up, the whole group use the money collectively to pay for a meal.

Verdict: This is possibly gambling and haram

If the money paid by the last one is a simple forfeit, then it will be permissible. This is like someone opting to pay for the next meal. If the situation between the friends becomes such that they are competing not to finish last so that they do not have to pay, then this becomes a wager. They in effect promise £10 bets not to come last. The winners keep their capital along with a share of the losers bet. And the loser receives nothing.

Brand Prize Promotions

This is where a brand places a prize in their products to promote their brand and products. Customers are encouraged to buy their product for a chance to win. For example, Walkers’ places £20 randomly in packets of crisps. Whoever purchases a crisp packet with the £20 keeps it.

Verdict: This is possibly gambling and haram.

If the price of the crisp packet has increased in line with the promotion, then this will be gambling. This is because the customer is paying extra to get a chance at winning the prize.

If the price of the crisp packet is the same as it was without the promotion (excluding inflation or a genuine price increase) then it will be permissible to buy and keep the prize. This will be regarded as a gift.

If one seeks to buy lots of crisp packets in order to increase the chances of winning then this will be gambling, regardless of the price of the crisp packet.


Slot machines generally have three reels, each of which has a number of symbols. If the player gets a combination of symbols, then they are paid out. Getting a combination is completely random.

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.


Poker is a card game where each player bets they have a better ‘hand’ than the other. The game goes through a series of rounds allowing players to increase bets. In the final l showdown, all players show what cards they have and the one with the best hand wins all the money. The cards are handed out blind and the one is handed is at complete random then the player continues the game based on further random chances or skill.

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.

Black Jack

This is a card game where players place a bet and are handed cards to attempt to combine cards to reach 21. In the end, either the one who gets 21 or is the closest wins. The cards are handed out blind and the cards you get is purely based on chance.

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.


This is another card game similar to Blackjack but with different rules to make the game more exciting. The difference in the betting options is that in Blackjack a player is betting on themselves to win. In Baccarat, there are three betting options. A player can either choose to bet on themselves to win, on the dealer to win or on a tie. Regardless of the type of bet, it is based on chance.

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.


The host will place a ball in a roulette wheel and spin it. Whilst this happens, players will place their chips down on random numbers they think the ball will stop at. They can also choose a colour or a number type. If the ball stops on the number or colour, they placed their chips on, they win. The ball stops on a number based on complete chance.

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.

Craps (rolling dice)

This is popular dice game where a shooter takes two dice and throws them on the craps table. Depending on what he rolls, he either wins or spins again or loses. This game allows others to bet alongside the shooter. If he wins, they all win. There are many variations and rules to this game and many other dice games, but the basic premise is to roll dice and hope you roll a winning combo! No one know what they will roll, it is all chance.

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.

Online Casinos

The same rulings apply to online casinos.

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.

Free Bets

Betting shops or websites usually make the player bet an amount and give a free bet on top, or will make you sign up to a subscription or may only allow you to cash out once you’ve bet with real money.

Verdict: This is gambling and haram.

If there truly was a free amount, this would still be haram, due to the nature of the game. 

Secret Santa

This is where a group of people wish to gift each other something, but instead of everyone giving everyone else a gift or the same people gifting their best friends, each member randomly picks a name from a hat and it is their job to buy them a gift. There is usually a suggested gift amount e.g., £5.

Verdict: This is not gambling and may be permissible.

This activity does not amount to gambling because although it is between two or more parties, it is not based on the outcome of an uncertain event. There is nothing to lose nor win. Everyone simply receives a gift. A member is not required to put money in a pot and then see what prize/gift they win, but they individually buy the other colleague a gift. The zero-sum principle also does not apply as all parties get what they put in.

There are however multiple opinions regarding this type of activity. Some say it is a social event that involves gift-giving anonymously. This is praiseworthy in our religion. Another opinion is based around the name of the activity and its link with Christmas. We must not participate or associate with anything Christmas related. Muslim have their own holidays and it is best to give gifts on Eid. This latter claim is weak because the name of the game is simply a name, and the time of year is coincidental. The intention behind this activity is to increase bonds with people by buying a gift in a fun way. People enjoy the excitement of not knowing what they will be gifted, as on occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. This activity also goes by the names Yankee Swap, White Elephant and Secret Sahaba.

If a person took the latter opinion, then know that, if one was to give this activity another name, did it another time of the year, or on Eid, the activity in itself is permissible.

Pub Quiz

This is a quiz set up for people to compete in either groups or individually. There may/may not be an entrance fee and the winner/s will get a prize. If it is actually held in a pub then it will be haram to participate. This is like a sports tournament, except that it is skill of the mind over physical skill.

Verdict: This is possibly gambling and haram.

If the fee makes up the prize pot then this will be a form of gambling. After all no one is aware of the questions and there is a chance the questions one knows the answers to come up.

If there is no entry fee then this will be permissible, likewise if the fee goes towards costs like venue hire and food then any prize will be a gift.

Quiz TV shows

This is participating on TV quiz and game shows. There usually is no fee to enter. If you win the game, you win a prize.

Verdict: This is possibly gambling and haram.

This will be permissible if it is free entry.

If towards the end one is faced with a situation of walking away with the prize or gambling it all for a larger prize, then it will depend on the terms of the contract and ownership. If at this point, the money belongs to the winner, then they must walk away, otherwise it will be gambling. If the money still belongs to the production company, then one may continue playing, at this point it will be classed as virtual money or points and it is only money when they give it to you, i.e. you take possession.

Man v Food

This is where a person enters a contest in which if he eats all the food presented in a set time, he does not have to pay and gets to have his name on the hall of fame.

Verdict: This is possibly gambling and haram.

Although the food is not purchased beforehand, there is a promise to pay on loss of the contest. And the outcome is based on chance, even if the person feels, it is high likely they will win. It will be gambling.

If entry is free and there is no forfeit from the loser, then this will be regarded as a gift from the restaurant.

Considering the nature of the contest, it is based on greed and gluttony, so it should be avoided.

The Stock Market

Verdict: This is possibly gambling and haram.

Despite the similarities in risk when investing in stocks and gambling. In stocks and shares you actually buy a share in a company, the transaction is sound. In the future the business might grow or fold. Where as in gambling, there is no ownership. Winning is based on uncertainty. So investing in the stock market will not be gambling. You can read more on the differences here:

It is also important to consider that the stock market is vast across the world and can be complex to understand. If someone without any business knowledge or research in to a company buys shares with hopes they will rise so easy money can be made, then this will be a form of gambling. This is because there is an over-arching intention to gain the other’s wealth based on an uncertain event. This is however a grey area as possession of shares takes place so speak an Islamic finance scholar of your particular transaction. One must also be aware other rules of Islamic finance may apply rendering the investment haram.

Crypto Currencies

Investing in Cryptos is like investing in the stock market except that it is riskier, more volatile and prone to mischief like pump and dumps. They are also more complex to understand. If one does their homework, then it is permissible to invest. If one is after a quick win investing in random coins, then this will be gambling.

Verdict: This is possibly gambling and haram.

This is an incredibly grey area and there are a variety of Islamic verdicts on Cryptos. The best advice if to follow the advice of your local scholar (on the pretence they know what they are talking about).

Be aware that other rules within Islamic finance may apply rendering the investment haram.


Insurance works by paying a premium either monthly or annually, and in the case of an accident or mishap, the insurance company will pay you out to cover your losses.

Verdict: This is possibly gambling but possibly haram.

There is an argument that a person pays little in hope to receive more back in the future. This is based on uncertain event as there may be no pay out at all. The scholars do not have a definitive stance on whether this is gambling or not. But many claim the issues of gharaar, uncertainty, come in to play. In Islamic transactions, when one pays for something they must receive something of the same value for it. If they don’t know what they are receiving then this is called gharaar. the premiums paid are in effect paid for a promise. Other scholars say the individual is paying for a service, that results in peace of mind, so they are getting some value for the premium.

Other Questions Relating to Gambling

What should you do, if you intend to bet then pull out

Abu Hurayra narrates that the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said: “…Whosoever says to another: “come lets gamble” should give in charity.” Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 4579.

Virtual money or Fake money or Play Chips

If virtual money is used for the entry fee, the bet or the winnings then as no real money changes hands, any of the of the above-mentioned games will be permissible.

Some scholars do however say it is disliked to participate in such competition as it imitates gambling especially those that are known to be pure gambling like the casino games.

Using Vouchers for Betting

A voucher entitles the holder to a discount, or exchange for goods or services. Although they state they do not carry monetary value and cannot be exchanged for cash, they do have some subjective value, just like any property. Semantic value counts. If one gambles using vouchers, it will still be gambling and prohibited.

What should you do with money obtained from gambling?

If you have won money from gambling then either the bet has to be reversed, i.e. return the won amount or if this is not possible then give the money in charity. As form of cleansing, one should seek istighfaar and give some money in charity.

Using Funding from Gambling Sources

In the UK, the National Lottery fund many charitable causes. This money however is as a result of gambling activities, so will be impermissible to use in any Islamic project.

Working for a betting shop

It will be impermissible to work for a betting shop, casino or a job that indirectly supports gambling like working for IT Support or Tech Development to create betting platforms.

If the job was a cleaner, then as this doesn’t directly or indirectly support gambling activity it may be a permissible role. If the environment is impermissible like a betting shop or casino, then one should avoid being a cleaner there. But if it is the office space for a Betting company then it will be permissible to work as a cleaner.

Does the principle of ‘Block the means’ apply

Yes this principle will apply but may be subjective. For some people engaging in bets using virtual money may lead to rel money, espeicially if thery win often. So for this person it will be haraam to even bet with virtual money. If one doesnt bet at al, but plays games of chance and skill then it will be permissible but other Islamic principles and guidelines for manners may apply.

Is Matched Betting permissible?

Matched betting is a betting technique used by individuals to profit from the free bets and incentives offered by bookmakers. Its proponents consider it risk-free in theory as it is based on the use of a set of mathematical equations rather than left to chance.

Basically, matched betting involves placing multiple bets to trigger these offers. One back bet is placed (e.g. for Team A to win) and then one lay bet is placed at a betting exchange, but for the opposite result (e.g. Team A not to win). Regardless of the outcome of the event, the value of the free bet is unlocked.

Example: A bookmaker is giving away 10 pounds if a better bets 10 pounds. The better bets on Team A to win and bets against Team A with another betting company. If the odds are in his favor, he will break even and be rewarded a free bet of 10 pounds. This free bet is then used in another event. The better will bet for and against Team A, for example. The mathematical calculation utilized will give him the exact amount he needs to bet against Team A which will guarantee him a positive yield. If Team A wins or loses, he’ll win with one bookmaker and lose with the other. The balance will be positive.

Verdict: This will still be gambling and impermissible. Any loop hole or workaround will be impermissible.

9 thoughts on “The Fiqh of Gambling, Betting and Competitions in Islam

  1. For the verdicts, is there a scholar who has mentioned these things? It is important to have reference. JazakumAllahu khairan

    1. This will be fine as you are engaged with the actual sporting event not the external factors.

  2. Excellent Article Jazakallah!

    (The ad at the bottom was a bit strange: “Get your lucky numbers for 2023… ask the medium” Hard to control ads but perhaps they can be fine tuned? )

    1. Jazakallah khair for notifying us. We have blocked alcohol, nudity and gambling but I guess some have fallen through the cracks. We will try to refine ads further. Apologies for the haram ads.

  3. There are certain video games online where you can put money in virtual banks and make money through interest, or take out loan, all of this is in a video game and nothing in real. Would this be haram ? No actual currency is used

    1. No as there is no actual loss. Scholars do warn things that lead to haram are also haram. So let’s say its addictive and may lead you to use real money then it’s haram to play as a game too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.