Question # 523: Assalaamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu Shaykh, I am a teacher in an Islamic School, Chennai, India. Some of our students play online games and earn money through it and they say its skill based not chance… what is the ruling on this please explain. JazaakAllaahkhairan
bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: The majority of scholars held that contests/games with a prize/money are impermissible, even if one does not pay anything, because playing games for material compensation is haraam in all cases, except in cases in which Islam makes an exception (archery, camel-racing and horse-racing) and cases that are similar to that (for example, memorizing the Noble Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah, and competitions in airplanes, ships, and boats that might be helpful in combat with enemies).
Long Answer: The majority of scholars held that contests with a prize are impermissible – even if someone other than the contestants offered the prize money – except for the contests mentioned in the religious text or what falls into their categories, which have been named in the hadith of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) “There should be no (money) prizes for competitions except in archery, camel-racing, and horse-racing.” (Narrated by at-Tirmidhi; Abu Dawood; classed as saheeh by al-Albani)
Hence, it is impermissible to compete for a prize in video games and the like, even if the prize giver is other than the competitors.
In this hadith, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) stated that giving money is not permissible for any kinds of competition or games except in these three cases, because perfecting these skills is something that helps in jihad for the sake of Allah. Hence, some of the scholars added to them everything that helps in jihad in material terms and otherwise, such as competitions for memorizing the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah, and competitions in airplanes, ships, and boats, and so on. These games are mustahabb (recommended) and the one who engages in them will be rewarded so long as his intention is good and he seeks to support the religion thereby.
Dr. Khaalid Al-Muslih wrote in his dissertation Al-Hawaafith At-Tijaariyyah At-Tasweeqiyyah wa Ahkaamuha fi Al-Fiqh Al-Islaami (Commercial Marketing Incentives and their Rulings in Islamic Law): “Regarding competition in lawful activities that do not fall in the category of those mentioned in the text (of the hadith), scholars held two different opinions regarding offering a prize for that kind of competitions:
First: it is absolutely impermissible to offer prize money in such competitions. This is the view of the Hanafis, Maalikis, Shaafi‘is, Hanbalis, and Ibn Hazm from the Thaahiri school.
Second: it is permissible to offer prize money for such competitions if the prize is offered by a non-competitor. This is reported as one of the views of the Maalikis in this regard.”
Ibn ‘Uthaymeen him said, “… however if there is a third party offering a prize to the winner, I hope that there is no harm in that.” (Liqaa’ Al-Baab Al-Maftooh)
He also said: “If someone from outside the contest offered a prize to the winner in the race, there is no harm in that, because the contestants are not harmed; they either win or remain safe (do not lose anything). However, do we say to the third party offering the prize that offering the prize is lawful or unlawful? The answer depends on the outcomes of the contest; if no unlawful outcome results from it, then it is permissible to offer the prize. If the outcome is unlawful, then it is impermissible to offer the prize.” (Liqaa’ Al-Baab Al-Maftooh)
Al-Khattaabi said: “Giving prizes is not appropriate except in horse and camel races, and similar contests, and in archery contests. That is because these matters are preparation for fighting the enemy, and offering prizes for them encourages people … As for contests in matters that do not come under the [above] headings…, accepting prize money for them is haraam and is not permissible.” (Ma‘aalim as-Sunan)
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said: “If one of the two players, or an outsider, gives the prize, it is forbidden nevertheless, except in the case of something that is beneficial such as races or archery, as it says in the [above-mentioned] hadith… because spending money on things that are of no benefit in either religious or worldly terms is not allowed, even if it is not gambling.” (Majmoo‘ al-Fataawa)
(The above reply is based on various answers on similar topics provided by:
- Islamweb.net, a website belonging to the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in the State of Qatar; and
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.