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Definition of Gambling

Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) says in the commentary of verse 219 of Surah al-Baqarah:

    al-Maysir is al-Qimar. 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 persons) wife and wealth. (See: Tafsir Ibn Jarir, 2/358)

The above statement of one of the great Companions clearly indicates that in the days of Jahiliyyah, people would not only gamble with their wealth, rather with their wives and families also.

In the above mentioned verse of Surah al-Maidah, gambling with arrows has been referred to. The pagan Arabs would slaughter a camel and divide it into various big and small parts. Each part of the slaughtered camel would be given a name, and that name would then be inscribed upon an arrow. Thereafter, all these arrows would be gathered along with some other empty arrows, and picked in the name of all those who were taking part. In whosever's name an arrow would be picked, he/she would receive the part of the camel written on that arrow, whilst those in whose name empty arrows were picked, not only did they not receive any share in the camel, rather they would have to pay for the whole price of the camel. The Quran forbade this practice and called it in another verse istiqsam bi al-Azlam. (See: Ahkam al-Quran of Imam al-Jassas, 2/11 & Tafsir al-Kabir of Imam al-Razi, 2/400)

Allah Most High referred to this form of gambling in the following verse: Forbidden to you (for food) are: that which is sacrificed on stone (altars); (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows: that is impiety. (Surah al-Baqarah, v. 3)

Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) defined gambling in the following words: The risk of losing on both sides (or putting something at stake from both sides) (mukhatarah) is gambling. (Ahkam al-Qur?an, 2/11)

Another definition given is:

Ownership of wealth with a risk of losing on both sides (tamlik al-mal ala al-mukhatarah).

The great Hanafi jurist (faqih), Allama Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) defines gambling in the following words: Gambling (qimar) is from the word qamar, that which increases at times and decreases at other times. It has been given the name al-Qimar 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)

In light of the various similar definitions of gambling, Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Shafi (Allah have mercy on him) gave a simple and lucid definition for it in his renowned Maarif al-Quran. He sates: Gambling has been defined as a transaction in which the act of making someone the owner of ones wealth (or something else of value) is contingent on such a condition that both of its sides are equal (i.e. the outcome of which is uncertain). Consequently, there are two equal possibilities of gaining total profit or suffering total loss. For instance, it is possible that the penalty may fall on A, and it is possible that it may fall on B. All kinds and forms of such gambling that were present in the past or are in vogue today or will appear in the future will come under the domain of gambling. (Maarif al-Quran, 1/532)

Hence, we can say that gambling is an activity in which the players voluntarily transfer money or something else of value amongst themselves, but this transaction is contingent upon the outcome of some future uncertain event.

For example:

A says to B: If it rains today, I will give you 100, and if it does not rain today, then you will have to give me 100. Similarly, two people compete in a race on the condition that the loser will have to pay the winner 100. By keeping the above definitions in mind, it becomes clear that there are basically four necessary ingredients for a transaction to be considered gambling:

    a) It is a transaction between two or more people,

    b) In this transaction, in order to gain someone else's wealth, one places his wealth at stake, whether actually or by promising to pay it later,

    c) Gaining of another's wealth is contingent upon some uncertain event in the future, and both possibilities of it occurring and not occurring are present,

    d) The wealth which one puts at stake is either lost completely without anything in return (and because of which one suffers a complete loss), or it brings with it some wealth of the other person without giving anything in return (because of which the other person suffers a complete loss).

Any transaction that has the above-mentioned four elements will be considered a transaction of gambling, hence unlawful.

After understanding the abovementioned explanation regarding the definition of gambling, let us now look at its various forms. Basically, there are two fundamental formations of gambling:

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