Is Sports Gambling Permissible after Doing Proper Research?

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch

Question

A hot topic in our local community has become the topic of sports gambling as it is now legal in NY. Many argue its permissibility and say that their picks have gone under extensive reach and not randomly chosen. They also refer to the hadith, which permits sports gambling for horse racing.

I have asked many local shuyukh, but they give very robotic answers. I beg that this question is answered and looked into if it may be permissible. Another example would be the stock market. Its movement, in a way, is also random. Bu a majority say it is permissible still (yes, if the company is halal and whatnot, lol).

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

Gambling of all its forms is impermissible. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar] [Ala’ al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyat al-‘Ala‘iyya]

Allah Most High says, “They ask you ˹O Prophet˺ about intoxicants and gambling. Say, “There is great evil in both and some benefit for people—but the evil outweighs the benefit.” They ˹also˺ ask you ˹O Prophet˺ what they should donate. Say, “Whatever you can spare.” This is how Allah makes His revelations clear to you ˹believers˺, so perhaps you may reflect.” [Quran, 2:219]

This prohibition is definitive despite any skill involved in the decision.

No Skill Better Than Revelation

One support for this is the story of Sayyiduna Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (Allah be pleased with him). When the opening verses of Sura al-Rum were revealed, Abu Bakr made a wager with some of the leaders of Quraysh.

Allah Most High says, “Alif-Lãm-Mĩm. Rome faced defeat in a nearby land. Yet following their defeat, they will triumph within three to nine years. The ˹whole˺ matter rests with Allah before and after ˹victory˺. And on that day, the believers will rejoice at the victory willed by Allah. He gives victory to whoever He wills. For He is the Almighty, Most Merciful.” [Quran, 30:5]

Rooting for the Monotheists

The Persians were polytheists and fire-worshippers, so they were the favorite of the Quraysh, who were themselves, polytheists. On the other hand, the Muslims rooted for the Christians, as they were People of the Book and closer to monotheism. [Qurtubi, al-Jami li Ahkam al-Quran]

Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) bet against some of the Quraysh after the Romans lost, saying if the Romans conquer the Persians, within five years, you pay us the such and such amount, and if the Persians win, we will pay you the such and such amount. [Ibid.]

Afterward, Abu Bakr told the Messenger (may Allah bless him and give him peace) about the wager, and He said, “Who said it would be five years? (This is because the word ‘bid’a’ translated as some years meant any number between 3-9) Increase the wager and lengthen the time.” [Ibid.]

Abu Bakr offered the Quraysh an amendment to the original bet and increased the wager, to which they agreed. In short, the Romans conquered the Persians, and Abu Bakr won the bet. However, the verse prohibiting gambling had already been revealed, and Abu Bakr was commanded to do away with the money. [Ibid.]

It Wasn’t a Gamble

The reason for bringing this story is to answer the part of your question regarding wagers based on knowledge and research instead of chance. Abu Bakr’s bet was not present on research; the base is on revelation from Allah Most High. There was an absolute certainty that he would win; therefore, one could argue that there was no risk whatsoever: it wasn’t a gamble, in the true sense of the word. Despite this, it still fell under prohibition.

The Stock Market

Despite the similarities in risk when investing in stocks, stocks and gambling differ. When purchasing supplies, you are buying something: a share of a company. The transaction is, therefore, sound in the Sacred Law since the contract’s integral, the item of sale, is found. [Maydani, al-Lubab fi Sharh al-Kitab]

In gambling, there is no item of sale. A chance to win does not meet the conditions of a valid object of sale. Without a commodity of purchase, the transaction is invalid and corrupt. [Ibid.]

Other Reasons for the Prohibition

This leaves aside the other reasons for which gambling is prohibited, such as the harm it causes to the individual and society and the hatred it builds in the hearts of those wagering against one another.

Allah Most High says, “Satan plans to stir up hostility and hatred between you with intoxicants and gambling and to prevent you from remembering Allah and praying. Will you not then abstain?” [Quran, 5:91]

Summary

The Sacred Law intends to offer the best for people in this and the next world. Muslims must frame their lives based on the Sacred Law and not seek to prepare and fit the Sacred law into their lives.

There are challenges in doing this in a society that, for the most part, is not religious and, in some ways, carries itself upon an antithetical path to religion. Trust and reliance on Allah Most High and the fact that Allah Most High knows best are required from all.

Hope this helps
Allah knows best

[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.