Do Muslims gamble?

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According to literal interpretations of the Quran – the chief religious scripture of the Islamic faith, and considered by followers as the revelation from God (Allah) – gambling is a forbidden practice among Muslims adherents.

There are several verses in the Quran which state that gambling, along with drinking alcohol, are sins and a danger to the individual and society, including:

“O you who believe, truly intoxicants and gambling and divination by arrows are an abomination of Satan’s doing; avoid them in order that you may be successful. Assuredly Satan desires to sow enmity and hatred among you by means of intoxicants and gambling, and to hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. Will you not then desist?” (The Noble Quran, 5:90-91).

“They ask thee 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 thee how much they are to spend; Say: ‘What is beyond your needs.’ Thus doth God Make clear to you His signs: In order that ye may consider.” (The Noble Quran, 2:219).

These passages are said to aim to keep followers away from what is deemed the work of Satan, deemed a practice which can become a danger to the individual and society, can bring about feelings of anger, greed and compulsion, and can lead to a neglect towards God and the individual’s duties towards his community and God.

So according to strict interpretations of the Quran, it is considered unlawful for a Muslim to partake in any form of recreational or professional gambling, or to acquire money through such an activity.

Additionally, many Islamic countries prohibit gambling entirely.

While different interpretations of sharia law (the Islamic legal system) exist, there is a general consensus that gambling is sinful. In Aceh, a region of Indonesia at the northern end of Sumatra, full sharia law is imposed, and punishments for a Muslim caught gambling can range from 12 lashes, a one year prison sentence, and a fine for those who provide the services.

Having said that, there are many Muslims who do enjoy the experience of gambling at a casino and betting on sporting events, while retaining an appreciation for their faith and beliefs. Many Islamic adherents believe if you manage your money safely, and do not allow the gambling activity to overwhelm you and your devotion to God, then gambling does not need to be considered a sin.

Additionally, there are progressive interpretations of Islamic scripture which explain that gambling can co-exist with a love and awe for God.

So, within countries where gambling is a legal practice, there are a multitude of Muslims who do partake in the activity, all the while maintaining a strong affiliation with Islam.

While some Islamic followers see these people as having turned away from their God, many more view them as genuine Islamic devotees and believers who have been able to reconcile an enjoyable activity (one which does not have to control your life and actions), with a love for their God.

If you are a Muslim and questioning whether you should gamble, ask yourself this: Can you afford to spend a certain amount of money (an amount you think is acceptable) on a recreational activity which has the potential to offer entertainment?

Oftentimes, many people, including Muslims, will gain a similar enjoyment out of gambling as they would from paying to see a film at the cinemas.

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