Is It Permissible to Enter Online Contests or Giveaways?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick

Question 

Is it permissible to enter online contests or giveaways? How about contests or giveaways where the entry is free? What about contests or giveaways such as writing contests?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah guide us to that which pleases Him, forgive us for our shortcomings, and alleviate our difficulties, Amin.

If the online competitions contain no unlawful elements, they are permissible. Winning prizes (even cash, with conditions) for lawful competitions is permissible. They remain permissible regardless of entry fees if there are no unlawful elements related to the contests, and Allah knows best.

Some may find the above strange, but Sacred Law is beautiful and governs even our past-times, so we have Divine Blessings in every aspect of our lives.

Games, Contests, and Prizes

The scriptural basis for competitions and races entailing prize money is the word of Allah Most High, “And make ready against them whatever force and lines of horses you can.” [Quran 8:60].

‘Uqba Ibn ‘Amir narrates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Force means marksmanship,” (repeating this three times.) [Muslim]

Race for Prize Money

Races with prize money for the winner are permissible between horses, mules, donkeys, camels, or elephants, provided that the animals competing are of the same species. However, it is not, for example, permissible to have such a race between a camel and a horse. The participants must know which animals will be ridden, the amount of the prize, and the distance to be run. [Nawawi, Minhaj al-Talibin]

Both contestants may put up the prize money, either one or by a third party. Suppose either contestant or a third party puts up the prize money. In that case, the race is unconditionally permissible, and the winner takes all (regardless of whether he was the one who put up the money or whether it was the other person).

Suppose both contestants put up the prize money. In that case, a third rider must enter the contest with a mount equal to theirs (in speed, stamina, and so forth) who puts up no money (so that it may be distinguished from gambling. If all three put up the money, then there must be a fourth contestant with them who does not pay, and so on).

Similarly, bets from one side alone, such as saying, “I will give you ten dinars if what you have said proves correct,” are lawful when the other party bets nothing. Here, the winner takes all. If two riders finish together, they divide the prize. [Ibid]

Competitions in Marksmanship for Prize Money

It is also permissible to compete for prize money in competitions of skill at archery, spear throwing, or other combat skill when both contestants put up the prize, either one or a third party. Although both put up the prize money, a third marksman must enter the contest, as mentioned above (one comparable to the others in marksmanship, who puts up nothing). [Misri, ‘Umdat al-Salik]

For the validity of such a competition, the following details must be specified before the contest:

  • who will be shooting;
  • the number of shots per bout, how many shots are needed to win, and the criterion for a hit (that is, in archery, whether the arrow must stick or whether it need merely leave a mark);
  • the distance to the target;
  • and which of the contestants is to begin.

Because Sacred Law permits prize money, non-monetary prizes are a fortiori permissible, and Allah knows best. 

I pray this is of benefit.

[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan. 

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.