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Chapter 4; Section 3: Recreation and Play

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Chapter 4; Section 3
The Halal And The Haram In The Daily Life of The Muslim
 
 
Recreation and Play
 

Islam is a practical religion, it does not float in the stratosphere of imaginary ideals but remains with the human being on the ground of realities and day-to-day concerns. It does not regard people as angels but accepts them as mortals who eat food and walk in the marketplace. Islam does not require of Muslims that their speech should consist entirely of pious utterances, that their silence should be a meditation, that they should listen to nothing except the recitation of the Qur'an, nor that they should spend all their leisure time in the mosque. Rather, it recognizes that Allah has created human beings with needs and desires, so that, as they need to eat and drink, they also need to relax, and to enjoy themselves.

 

"A Time for This and a Time for That"

Some of the Companions of the Prophet (peace be on him) attained great spiritual heights. They believed that in order to remain at such a spiritual level they should always be serious, engaged in constant worship, turning their backs on all the enjoyments of life and the good things of the world, neither playing nor relaxing but keeping their eyes and their minds fixed on the Hereafter and its concerns, away from common life and its amusements.

Let us listen to what this great Companion and scribe of the Prophet (peace be on him), Hanzalah al-Usaidi, has to say about himself: Abu Bakr met me and asked, 'How are you, Hanzalah?' I replied, 'Hanzalah has become a hypocrite.' He said, 'Subhanallah! What are you saying?' I replied, 'When we are with Allah's Messenger (peace be on him), he mentions the Fire and the Garden until it is as if we can see them. But when we leave the Prophet's company and play with our wives and children or busy ourselves with our properties, we forget much.' Abu Bakr said, 'By Allah, I have experienced the same thing.' He and I then went to visit the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him), and I said, 'O Messenger of Allah, Hanzalah has become a hypocrite.' He asked, 'And how is that?' I replied, 'O Messenger of Allah, when we are with you, you talk about the Fire and the Garden until it is as if we can see them. Then we go out and play with our wives and children and deal with our properties, and we forget much.' The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) then said, 'By Him in Whose hand is my soul, if you were to continue at the same level at which you were when with me and in remembering Allah, the angels would shake hands with you when you are resting and when you walk about, but, O Hanzalah, there is a time (for this) and a time (for that).' He repeated this phrase three times. (Reported by Muslim.)

 

The Humanness of the Messenger of Allah

The life-pattern of the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) is a perfect example for every human being. When he was in private he would worship his Lord with such intense devotion, standing for long hours in salat, that his feet would become swollen; in matters pertaining to truth or justice he did not care about anyone's opinion, seeking only the pleasure of Allah. But in his living habits and dealings with people he was a human being, enjoying good things, participating in small talk, smiling and joking, yet never departing from the truth. The Prophet (peace be on him) liked happiness and disliked grief; he sought refuge with Allah from difficulties and troubles which result in sorrow, supplicating, "O Allah, I seek refuge in Thee from distress and grief" (Reported by Abu Daoud.)

Concerning his sense of humor, it is reported that once an old woman came to him, saying, "O Messenger of Allah, pray to Allah that He admit me to the Garden." The Prophet (peace be on him) said, "O mother of such a person, no old woman will enter the Garden." The woman broke down and wept, supposing that she would not enter Paradise. The Prophet (peace be on him) then explained to her that no old woman would enter the Garden as an old woman, for Allah would restore her youth and admit her to the Garden as a young virgin. He then recited to her the verse, We created them as a (new) creation, and made them virgins, lovers, friends. (56: 35-37) (Reported by 'Abd bin Humaid and al-Tirmidhi.)

 

Relaxing the Mind

Following the Prophet's example, his noble and pure Companions also enjoyed humor and laughter, play and sport, which relaxed their bodies and minds and prepared them the better to travel on the long, arduous path of striving in the cause of truth and justice. 'All bin Abu Talib said, "Minds get tired, as do bodies, so treat them with humor," and "Refresh your minds from time to time, for a tired mind becomes blind." And Abu al-Darda said, "I entertain my heart with something trivial in order to make it stronger in the service of the truth."

Accordingly, there is no harm in the Muslim's entertaining himself in order to relax his mind or refreshing himself with some permissible sport or play with his friends. However, the pursuit of pleasure should not become the goal of his life so that he devotes himself to it, forgetting hie religious obligations. Nor should he joke about serious matters. It has been aptly said, "Season your conversation with humor in the same proportion as you season your food with salt."

The Muslim is forbidden to joke and laugh about other people's values and honor. Allah Ta'ala says: O you who believe, let not some people mock at other people; it may be that they are better than thee...(49:11) Nor is it appropriate for the Muslim to tell jokes based on what is untrue in order to make people laugh. The Prophet (peace be on him) warned against this, saying, "Woe to the one who says something which is false in order to make people laugh! Woe to him, woe to him!" (Reported by al-Tirmidhi.)

 

Permissible Sports

There are many kinds of games and sports which the Prophet (peace be on him) recommended to the Muslims as a source of enjoyment and recreation which, at the same time, prepare them for worship and other obligations. These sports, which require skill and determination, and which also involve physical exercise and bodybuilding activity, are related to the martial arts, training Muslims for the battlefields of jihad in the cause of Allah. Among them are the following:

 

Foot Racing

The Companions of the Prophet (May Allah be pleased with them) used to race on foot and the Prophet (peace be on him) encouraged them in this. It is reported that 'All was a fast runner. The Prophet (peace be on him) himself raced with his wife 'Aishah in order to please her, to enjoy himself, and to set an example for his Companions. 'Aishah said, I raced with the Prophet (peace be on him) and beat him in the race. Later, when I had put on some weight, we raced again and he won. Then he said, 'This cancels that (Reported by Ahmad and Abu Daoud.), referring to the previous occasion.

 

Wrestling

The Prophet (peace be on him) once wrestled with a man called Rukanah who was well-known for his strength, throwing him down more than once. (Reported by Abu Daoud.) In another report of this incident, the Prophet (peace be on him) started wrestling with him. As the fight was hard, Rukanah said, "A sheep for a sheep." (This must have occurred before the prohibition of gambling, or perhaps the Prophet (peace be on him) did not accept the bet and hence did not enforce its terms.) The Prophet (peace be on him) then threw him. The man said, "The same again." The Prophet (peace be on him) threw him again, and the man said, "The same again." The Prophet (peace be on him) threw him a third time. The man then said, "What shall I tell my wife? One sheep was eaten by the wolf, one ran away, but what about the third" Then the Prophet (peace be on him) said, "We are not going to defeat you and take something from you as well. Take your sheep!"

From these reports concerning the Prophet (peace be on him), jurists have deduced the permissibility of foot racing, whether it be between men against each other or between men and women who are their muharammat or wives. They have also concluded that foot racing, wrestling, and sports of this type do not compromise the dignity of scholarship, piety, or age.The Prophet (peace be on him) was more than fifty yearold when he raced with 'Aishah.

 

Archery

Among the permissible sports is competition in archery or with other weapons.

The Prophet (peace be on him) once passed by a group of his Companions who were competing in archery. He encouraged them, saying, Shoot, and I am with you. (Reported by al-Bukhari )
He realized that archery was not just a hobby or a sport but, more importantly, constituted that kind of force which Allah has commanded to be mustered: And make ready for them all thou art able of (armed) force....(8:60)
The Prophet (peace be on him) said, "The missiles (arrows) are the force," repeating it three times.
(Reported by Muslim.)
He also said, "Practice archery; that is good for you." (Reported by al-Bazzar and by al-Tabarani on good authority.)

However, the Prophet (peace be on him) warned archers against using chickens and the like as targets for practice, as the Arabs of jahiliyyah used to do. Once 'Abdullah bin 'Umar saw a group of peoples doing this and he told them, "The Prophet (peace be on him) cursed the one who takes anything possessing life as a target.'' (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

He cursed such an individual because this sort of act involves the torturing and unnecessary killing of an animal, and a human being has no right to have fun and sport at the expense of a living creature. For the same reason the Prophet (peace be on him) forbade making animals fight each other. (Reported by Abu Daoud and al-Tirmidhi.) Some Arabs used to laugh and find it amusing to see two rams or bulls fight each other until one of them was gored to death. Scholars have said that the prohibition of making animals fight recognizes that such a practice causes them unnecessary suffering merely for the fun of it, without any benefit.

 

Spear Play

Spear play is similar to archery. The Prophet (peace be on him) allowed some Abyssinians to display their skill with spears in his mosque; he let his wife 'Aishah watch their show and encouraged them by saying, "Carry on, O Bani Arfidah," (as the Abyssinians were known to among the Arabs). 'Umar, with his serious disposition, wanted to stop them but the Prophet (peace be on him) prevented him from it. It is reported in the two Sahibs of al-Bukhari and Muslim from Abu Hurairah that while the Abyssinians were performing their show with spears in the presence of the Prophet (peace be on him), 'Umar entered. He picked up some pebbles and started throwing them at them but the Prophet (peace be on him) said, "Leave them alone, O 'Umar."

This indulgence on the part of the Prophet (peace be on him) in permitting and encouraging such a sport in his mosque was to demonstrate that the mosque serves both worldly and religious purposes. Muslims congregate in the mosque not only to worship but also to play. However, this play is not to tee merely for fun but should involve physical exercise and some sort of training. Commenting on this hadith, scholars have said that the mosque is the center of the Muslim's community affairs, and any activity which combines benefits for religion and for the Muslims may be carried out in it. Muslims of the present time should note how devoid mosques today are of vitality and strength, often having become havens for the elderly and the lazy.

The above incidents also provide an example of the Prophet's concern for his wife's amusement and recreation. 'Aishah, his wife, said, "The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) covered me with his cloak while I watched the Abyssinians play in the mosque. He then stood (in his place) for my sake until I was the one who got tired, so estimate the time a young girl eager for amusement would wait." (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

She also said, "I used to play with dolls in the house of the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) and my friends would come over to play with me. They would hide when they saw the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) approaching but in fact he was very happy to see them with me, so we played together." (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

 

Horseback Riding

Allah Ta'ala says, And (He created) horses, mules, and donkeys for you to ride and as adornment....(16:8), and the Prophet (peace be on him) said, "There is blessing in the forelocks of horses." (Reported by Ahmad.)
He also said, "Practice archery and horseback riding."
(Reported by Muslim.)
And again, Any action without the remembrance of Allah is either a diversion or heedlessness excepting four acts: walking from target to target (during archery practice), training a horse, playing with one's family, and learning to swim. (Reported by al-Tabarani on good authority.)

Said 'Umar, "Teach your children swimming and archery, and tell them to jump on the horse's back." Ibn 'Umar reported that the Prophet (peace be on him) organized horse races and gave a prize to the winner. (Reported by Ahmad.) All this was done by the Prophet (peace be on him) to encourage competition in sports involving physical exercise and discipline.

Anas was asked, "Did you bet during the time of the Prophet (peace be on him)? Did the Prophet (peace be on him) bet?" "Yes," Anas replied. "By Allah, he bet on a horse called Subhah. The horse won the race and the Prophet (peace be on him) was very pleased about it.'' (Reported by Ahmad.)

Betting on horses is permissible if the one who is paying the money is not one of the competitors or if it is paid by one of the competitors; however, if each person bets an amount on the condition that the winner is to take all, this is gambling and is consequently prohibited. The Prophet (peace be on him) termed racing a horse on which bets are laid "the horse of Satan" and considered the price of it, its fodder, and riding it as sinful (Reported by Ahmad.), saying, Horses are of three kinds: the horse of al-Rahman (the Most Merciful, i.e., Allah), the horse of man, and the horse of Satan. As for the horse of the Most Merciful, it is dedicated to jihad in the cause of Allah, so feeding it, cleaning its urine and dung, and everything related to it are counted as good deeds. As for the horse of Satan, it is that on which people bet and gamble. As for the horse of man, it is that which is for breeding, and it is a protection against poverty. (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

 

Hunting

Hunting is among the beneficial sports which are encouraged by Islam. It is a sport, an exercise, and also a means of livelihood, regardless of whether it is done with weapons or with hunting animals such as dogs and hawks. We have already discussed the Islamic conditions and rules for hunting in an earlier chapter.

However, Islam prohibits hunting in two situations. The first is when a person is in the sacred state of consecration (ihram) for the performance of hajj or 'umrah, because this is a state of total peace in which one is not permitted to kill or shed blood, as commanded by Allah: O you who believe, do not kill game while you are in ihram.... (5:98(95) ...But to hunt on land is forbidden to you as long as you are in ihram.... (5:99(96)

The second situation exists when a person is within the limits of the sacred territory of Makkah. Islam has declared this to be a region of peace and security, a sanctuary for every living creature, whether beast, bird, or plant, since the Prophet (peace be on him) prohibited hunting its game, cutting its trees, or disturbing its airspace. (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

 

Playing with Dice: Backgammon

Any sort of game played with money which has an element of gambling is haram. The Qur'an classifies gambling in the same category as drinking, idolatry, and divining with arrows. The Prophet (peace be on him) said, "He who says to his friend, 'Come, let us gamble,' must give charity (sadaqah)" (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim), meaning that merely to invite someone to gamble is a sin requiring penance.

Playing backgammon while betting with money is clearly haram Some scholars consider it haram even if no betting is involved, while others consider it makruh rather than haram. Those who consider it haram base their judgemeon the hadith transmitted by Baraidah in which the Prophet (peace be on him) said, "He who plays with dice is like the owho handles the flesh and blood of swine." (Reported by Muslim, Ahmad and Abu Daoud.)
The same scholars cite the hadith from Abu Musa al-Ashari in which the Prophet (peace be on him) said, "He who plays with dice disobeys Allah and His Messenger."
(Reported by Ahmad, Abu Daoud, Ibn Majah, and Malik in his
Al-muwatta.)
These two sayings of the Prophet (peace be on him) are clearly applicable to all players of backgammon, whether they gamble in playing or not.

Al-Shawkani says that Ibn Mughaffal and Ibn al-Musayyib allowed playing with dice if it did not involve gambling, apparently interpreting the above ahadith to refer to those who played for money.

 

Playing Chess

Chess is a very popular game, and the opinion of jurists concerning it varies. Some consider it halal, others makruh, and still others haram. Those who consider it haram cite some ahadith in support of their position, but researchers have proved that chess did not appear until after the death of the Prophet (peace be on him), thus all such ahadith must have been fabricated.

The Companions of the Prophet (May Allah be pleased with them) themselves held differing views about playing chess. Ibn 'Umar said that it is worse than backgammon and 'All regarded it as gambling (perhaps meaning when it is played for money), while some others merely expressed disapproval of it.

However, some Companions and some of the second generation scholars allowed it. Among these were Ibn 'Abbas, Abu Hurairah, Ibn Sirin, Hisham bin 'Umrah, and Sa'id bin al-Musayyib. We agree with these great jurists, since the original principle is the permissibility of acts and no text is to be found prohibiting it. Moreover, in addition to being a game and a recreation, chess is also a mental exercise which requires thought and planning. In this respect it is the opposite of backgammon, for while backgammon is a game of chance and therefore comparable to divining with arrows, chess is a game of skill and strategy which may be compared to archery.

However, playing chess is permissible only if the following three conditions are met:

  1. One should not get so absorbed in it that he delays his salat; chess is well-known to be a stealer of time.

  2. There should be no gambling involved.

  3. The players should not utter obscenities or vulgarities.

If any of these conditions are not met it should be considered as haram.

 

Singing and Music

Among the entertainments which may comfort the soul, please the heart, and refresh the ear is singing. Islam permits singing under the condition that it not be in any way obscene or harmful to Islamic morals. There is no harm in its being accompanied by music which is not exciting.

In order to create an atmosphere of joy and happiness, singing is recommended on festive occasions such as the days of 'Eid, weddings and wedding feasts, births, 'aqiqat (the celebration of the birth of a baby by the slaughter of sheep), and on the return of a traveler.

'Aishah narrated that when a woman was married to an Ansari man, the Prophet (peace be on him) said, " 'Aishah, did they have any entertainment? The Ansar are fond of entertainment.'' (Reported by al-Bukhari.)

Ibn 'Abbas said, " 'Aishah gave a girl relative of hers in marriage to a man of the Ansar. The Prophet (peace be on him) came and asked, 'Did you send a singer along with her?' 'No,' said 'Aishah. The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) then said, The Ansar are a people who love poetry. You should have sent along someone who would sing, 'Here we come, to you we come, greet us as we greet you.' " (Reported by Ibn Majah.)

'Aishah narrated that during the days of Mina, on the day of 'Eid al-Adha, two girls were with her, singing and playing on a hand drum. The Prophet (peace be on him) was present, listening to them with his head under a shawl. Abu Bakr then entered and scolded the girls. The Prophet (peace be on him), uncovering his face, told him, "Let them be, Abu Bakr. These are the days of 'Eid." (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

In his book, Ihya ulum al-deen, (In the quarter on "Habits", in the book Listening to Singing.), Imam al-Ghazzali mentions the ahadith about the singing girls, the Abyssinians playing with spears in the Prophet's Mosque, the Prophet's encouraging them by saying, "Carry on, O Bani Arfidah," his asking his wife, 'Aishah, "Would you like to watch?" and standing there with her until she herself became tired and went away, and 'Aishah's playing with dolls with her friends. He then says:

All these ahadith are reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim in the two Sahihs, and they clearly prove that singing and playing are not haram. From them we may deduce the following:

First: The permissibility of playing; the Abyssinians were in the habit of dancing and playing.

Second: Doing this in the mosque.

Third: The Prophet's saying, 'Carry on, O Bani Arfidah,' was a command and a request that they should play; then how can their play be considered haram?

Fourth: The Prophet (peace be on him) prevented Abu Bakr and 'Umar from interrupting and scolding the players and singers. He told Abu Bakr that 'Eid was a joyous occasion and that singing was a means of enjoyment.

Fifth: On both occasions he stayed for a long time with 'Aishah, letting her watch the show of the Abyssinians and listening with her to the singing of the girls. This proves that it is far better to be good-humored in pleasing women and children with games than to express such disapproval of such amusements out of a sense of harsh piety and asceticism.

Sixth: The Prophet (peace be on him) himself encouraged 'Aishah by asking her, "Would you like to watch?" (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

Seventh: The permissibility of singing and playing on the drum...

and what follows, to the end of al-Ghazzali's discussion on singing.

It is reported that many Companions of the Prophet (may Allah be pleased with them) as well as second generation Muslim scholars used to listen to singing and did not see anything wrong with it. As for the ahadith which have been reported against singing, they are all weak and have been shown by researchers to be unsound. The jurist Abu Bakr al-'Arabi says, "No sound hadith is available concerning the prohibition of singing," while Ibn Hazm says, "All that is reported on this subject is false and fabricated "

However, since singing is in many cases associated with drinking parties and night clubs, many scholars have declared it to be haram or at least makruh. They state that singing constitutes that kind of idle talk which is mentioned in the ayah, And among the people is the one who buys idle talk (at the expense of his soul) in order to lead (people) astray from the path of Allah without knowledge, holding it in mockery; for such there will be a humiliating punishment. (31:6)

Says Ibn Hazm: This verse condemns a particular behavior, that of doing something to mock the path of Allah. Anyone who does this is an unbeliever; if he even should buy a copy of the Qur'an, doing so in order to make it the object of his mockery and thereby leading people astray, he would be an unbeliever. It is this type of behavior which is condemned by Allah and not the idle talk in which one may indulge for mere relaxation, without intending to lead people astray from the path of Allah.

Ibn Hazm also refutes the argument of those who say that since singing is not of "the truth" it must be of "error," referring to the verse, "And what is beyond the truth except error?" (10:32). He comments, The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said, 'Deeds will be judged according to intentions, and everyone will get what he intended.' (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.) Accordingly, the one who listens to singing with the intention of using it in support of a sin is a sinner, and this holds true of anything other than singing (as well), while one who listens to singing with the intention of refreshing his soul in order to gain strength to do his duty toward Allah Ta'ala and to dogood deeds, is a good and obedient servant of Allah, and his action is of the truth. And he who listens to singing intending neither obedience nor disobedience is doing something neutral and harmless, whicis similar to going to the park and walking around, standing by a window and looking at the sky, wearing blue or green cloths, and so on.

However, there are some limitations to be observed in the matter of singing:

  1. The subject matter of songs should not be against the teachings of Islam. For example, if the song is in praise of wine, and it invites people to drink, singing or listening to it is haram.

  2. Although the subject matter itself may not be against the Islamic teachings, the manner of singing may render it haram; this would be the case, for example, if the singing were accompanied by suggestive sexual movement.

  3. Islam fights against excess and extravagance in anything, even in worship; how, then, can it tolerate excessive involvement with entertainment? Too much time should not be wasted in such activities; after all, what is time but life itself? One cannot dispute the fact that spending time in permissible activities consumes time which ought to be resaved for carrying out religious obligations and doing good deeds. It is aptly said, "There is no excess except at the expense of a neglected duty."

  4. Each individual is the best judge of himself. If a certain type of singing arouses one's passions, leads him towards sin, excites the animal instincts, and dulls spirituality, he must avoid it, thus closing the door to temptations.

  5. There is unanimous agreement that if singing is done in conjunction with haram activities—for example, at a drinking party, or if it is mixed with obscenity and sin—it is haram. The Prophet (peace be on him) warned of a severe punishment for people who sing or listen to singing in such a situation when he said, Some people of my ummah will drink wine, calling it by another name, while they listen to singers accompanied by musical instruments. Allah will cause the earth to swallow them and will turn some of them into monkeys and swine. (Reported by Ibn Majah.)
    This does not mean that they will be physically transformed into the bodies and outward form of monkeys and swine but rather in heart and soul, carrying the heart of a monkey and the soul of a pig in their human bodies.

 

Gambling, the Companion of Drinking

While permitting a variety of games and sports, Islam prohibits any game which involves betting, that is, which has an element of gambling in it. We have already quoted the saying of the Prophet, "He who says to his friend, 'Come, let us "amble,' must give charity."
It is not lawful for the Muslim to seek relaxation and recreation in gambling, nor is it lawful for him to acquire money through it.

There are sound and noble objectives behind this strict prohibition of gambling:

  1. The Islamic teachings urge the Muslim to follow Allah's directives for earning a living, to use natural laws and direct means for the attainment of his objectives, and to employ such causes as produce the desired effects. Gambling, which includes raffling or the lottery, on the other hand, makes a person dependent on chance, "luck" and empty wishes, taking him away from honest labor, serious work and productive effort. The person who depends on gambling loses respect for the laws of causation which Allah has established and commanded people to use.

  2. In Islam, an individual's property is sacred; it may not be taken from him except through lawful exchange or unless he gives it freely as a gift or in charity. Accordingly, taking it from him by gambling is unlawful.

  3. It is therefore not surprising that gamblers develop hatred and enmity toward one another, although they may claim that losing does not trouble them. There is always a winner and a loser. The loser may seem composed but behind his composure is frustration, anger, and regret: frustration due to disappointment, anger at the loss of money, and regret for not having played a winning game.

  4. Gambling has its own compulsion. The loser plays again in hope of winning the next game in order to regain his earlier losses, while the winner plays again to enjoy the pleasure of winning, impelled by greed for more. Naturally, luck changes hands, the loser becomes the winner and the winner the loser, and the joy of winning changes into the bitterness of loss. Thus the gamblers may persist at playing the game, unable to bring themselves to leave it; this is the secret of the addiction to gambling.

  5. Because of this addiction, gambling is a danger to the society as well as to the individual. This habit consumes gamblers' time and energy, making them non-productive idlers and parasites on society, who take but do not give, who consume but do not produce. Moreover, due to his absorption with gambling, the gambler neglects his obligations toward his Creator and his duties toward his community. It often happens that a gambling addict sells his honor, religion, and country for the sake of the gaming table, since his devotion to this table dulls his sense of values and kills all other devotions.

How correct the Qur'an is in mentioning drinking and gambling together in its verses, since their harmful effects on the individual, the family, and society are very similar. What is more like alcoholism than addiction to gambling? This is why one usually is not found without the other. Again, how correct the Qur'an is when it teaches us that both of these, drinking and gambling, are inspired by Satan, that they are akin to idolatry and divining by arrows, and that they are filthy and abominable habits which must be shunned: O you who believe, truly intoxicants and gambling and divination by arrows are an abomination of Satan's doing; avoid them in order that you may be successful. Assuredly Satan desires to sow enmity and hatred among you by means of intoxicants and gambling, and to hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and from salat. Will you not then desist? (5:93-94 (90-91))

 

The Lottery, a Form of Gambling

What is known as the lottery or raffle is likewise a form of gambling. There should be no laxity or permissiveness toward it in the name of "charitable institutions" or "humanitarian causes." Those who consider it permissible in relation to such causes are similar to people who raise funds for the same causes by means of haram dances or "artistic" shows. To both such groups we say, "Allah is pure and does not accept anything except what is pure."

People who resort to such means of raising money assume that members of society have become devoid of goodness of heart and feelings of charity, compassion and mercy, as a result of which there is no other way of getting money from them except through gambling and sensuous entertainment. But Islam does not assume this for its society. It believes in the basic goodness of man and appeals to that goodness, seeking nothing but pure means for noble causes. The Islamic means of raising money are to invite toward righteousness, to appeal to human sympathy, and to recall to peoples' minds the implications of the belief in Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala and the Hereafter.

 

Movies

Many Muslims ask about Islam's stand concerning the watching of movies, dramatic performances and the like. Is it permissible or not?

No doubt movies are important tools of instruction and recreation. Their situation is like that of any other tool which in it self is neutral and harmless, and any ruling concerning it will depend on how it is used.

Consequently, movies may be regarded as permissible and good —in fact, desirable—if the following conditions are met:

First: The content must be free of sin and immorality—indeed, of anything which is against the Islamic beliefs, morals, and manners. Portrayals which excite sexual desire or greed, glorify crime, or propagate deviant ideas, false beliefs, and the like are haram, and it is not permissible for the Muslim to watch or to encourage them.

Second: The watching of movies should not result in the neglect of religious obligations or worldly responsibilities. Thfive daily prayers constitute the foremost of the religious obligations; hence it is haram for the Muslim to miss any prayer—for example salat al-Maghrib—in order to watch a movie. Allah Ta'ala says, Then woe to the worshipers who are neglectful of their prayers (107:4-5), referring to those who postpone a prayer until its time is past. Again, one of the most important reasons mentioned in the Qur'an for the prohibition of drinking and gambling is that they keep people away from the remembrance of Allah and from salat.

Third: Physical intermingling and free mixing among men and women in movie theatres must be avoided in order to prevent sexual undertones and temptation, particularly because showing a film requires a darkened hall. We have already mentioned the hadith, It is better for one of you to be pricked in the head with an iron pick than to touch a woman whom it is unlawful to touch. (Reported by al-Bayhaqi and al-Tabarani on sound authority.)