Is Sports Betting Permissible?

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Question

I wanted some guidance on Islam’s views on sports betting. Specifically, if one is to bet on the outcome of a particular sporting contest or player’s performance using statistics and other research, analysis, and experience to make an informed decision, does Islam permit or forbid such an act? If forbidden, how does this differ from investing in a business?

Answer

Sports betting is impermissible. A wager in which there could be a two-way loss based on a chance event is the very definition of gambling which Allah forbade. [Quran, 6:90-91]

The use of statistics, analysis, and research are all means of arriving at a sound decision on whether to bet or not. In the end, there is still a bet on this chance event. If the bet is a one-way loss, then it would be permissible. [Halabi, Multaqa al-Abhur].

An example is if Zayd and Ahmad decide to race each other, and Zayd promises to buy Ahmad lunch if he loses. Should Ahmad lose there will be no consequences for him. This is not what prohibited betting is; therefore, it is permissible.

The Difference between Business and Gambling

Firstly, “Allah has made business permissible.” [Quran, 2:275] Secondly, business is essentially the exchange of commodities for money. Both sides stand to gain something: the buyer gains the commodity, and the seller gains the payment. Therefore it is a contract that guarantees the possession of a commodity or its monetary value for each party.

Gambling, however, is a “contract” in which there is no mutual benefit. One side loses, and the risk of winning or losing makes it addictive and a means to waste one’s wealth. The dopamine hit people get when there is the possibility of winning is what they crave, so they keep returning to it.

Researching and analyzing a business before investing in it does not change this. In essence, when you invest in a business, you become a part-owner of the commodity which is to be sold. A loss in a business occurs when the commodity is not sold or its value plummets for some reason. There is no two-way contract that causes this loss. It is from an external source.

This is what differentiates business from gambling, not the research and analysis done to make a better-informed decision.

I pray that helps. May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.

[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 where, for 18 months, he studied with many erudite scholars. In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years in Sacred Law (fiqh), legal theory (Usul al-fiqh), theology, hadith methodology, hadith commentary, and Logic. He was also given licenses of mastery in the science of Quranic recital and he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Quranic sciences, tafsir, Arabic grammar, and Arabic eloquence.