Some brothers in the community are planning to arrange a fund raiser for the new local musalla. They are planning to sell tickets of about $100,000. In order to give an incentive to people to buy the tickets they are planning to give back about $20,000-$25,000 in the form of cash or an expensive item, like car, to one or two people in a drawing. Will such kind of activity be considered gambling? What about the people who will be buying the tickets without having any desire for the money back prize? Can the prize won like this be kept? What if the funds are raised in the name of a community center (to be used by muslims) not a masjid?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
Fundraising in the manner explained in the question falls within the ambit of gambling; hence, it would be unlawful and highly sinful to raise funds in such a manner. The fact that this is being done in order to raise funds for a Mosque or a Musalla makes it even worse and more sinful.
The definition of gambling, as explained by many jurists (fuqaha), is to place one’s wealth at stake actually or effectively, in that this wealth may bring more wealth with it or it may be lost completely. This is the reason why all prevalent forms of conventional insurance are unlawful, for the premiums are paid for certain, but the return is uncertain. The various types of lotteries, raffles, and sweepstakes have been declared unlawful for this very reason.
Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas mentions the companion Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) defining “gambling” in the following words: “Placing one’s wealth at stake (mukhatara) is gambling.” (Ahkam al-Qur’an, 2/11)
Another definition given is:
“Ownership of wealth by risking one’s wealth (tamlik al-mal ala al-mukhatara)” (ibid, for more details and an in-depth understanding of the reality of gambling, please refer to my earlier article titled “Fiqh of Gambling”).
In the mentioned scenario, tickets are being sold, with the winner receiving a prize. This is nothing but clear gambling. Individuals are staking their wealth and the return is dependent upon whether their name is drawn out or otherwise. The money spent in purchasing a ticket may be completely lost (although there is a return in terms of the hereafter, but there is no worldly return) or it may bring with it more. The wealth of some donators is being used in order to purchase a prize for the winner. As such, this is gambling and a dangerous route to take in terms of fundraising.
The Qur’an and Sunnah are quite stern in their condemnation of gambling activities. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) emphasised the prohibition of gambling to such an extent that even considering to take part in gambling was regarded to be blameworthy.
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “…Whosoever says to another: “come lets gamble” should give in charity (as a form of expiation for intending to gamble).” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 4579)
Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas (Allah have mercy on him) states:
“There is no difference of opinion between the scholars regarding the prohibition of gambling.” (Ahkam al-Qur’an, 1/329)
It should always be remembered that the “means” taken for noble activities must themselves also be noble or at the least permitted. Ends do not justify means according to sound Sunni understanding of Islam. One will be guilty of committing a major sin by fundraising in such a manner, let alone obtaining rewards from Allah Most High. It will be unlawful (haram) for people to purchase such tickets, with the prize won being unlawful and filthy. The ruling will be similar even if one purchases the tickets without having an intention to take the prize, for it is assisting in the activity of gambling. However, if one makes it clear that they do not want anything in return rather it is a mere donation, then that cannot be considered gambling per se. This ruling of prohibition is the same whether the funds are raised for a Mosque, community centre or any other purpose. The responsible individuals must be made aware of the Shariah ruling and reminded of the severe warnings for gambling in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
However, they may use an alternative method for fundraising, a method that is free from gambling. For example, the organizers may hold a buffet-style fundraising dinner event and sell tickets at a high price. Those who purchase the tickets may be allowed to eat as much as they wish. As a result, a minimum amount of the cash accumulated will be utilized in catering for the food and the remainder can be used towards fundraising.
This kind of arrangement will not fall into gambling, for people will receive a return for their tickets. In order for a transaction to be considered a transaction of gambling, it is necessary that the money which one puts at stake is paid without any return. As such, if one receives the full return for one’s money, it cannot be called gambling.
The participants here will each purchase a ticket (for example) at fifty dollars. They will have the luxury to eat as much as possible with this ticket, but rarely will anyone eat the worth of fifty dollars. Hence, the remainder of their money may be utilized towards fundraising for the Mosque or the community centre. This is a proven, tested and a productive method of gambling-free fundraising.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK