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Is it halal to sell lottery tickets?

The permissibility of selling lottery tickets in Islam is a complex issue that involves weighing religious principles, ethical considerations, and practical realities. There are differing opinions among Islamic scholars on this matter, stemming from their varied interpretations of Islamic law and its applications in the modern context. Ultimately, there is no unanimous agreement on whether selling lottery tickets is halal (permissible) or haram (prohibited) in Islam. In this article, we will explore the key arguments on both sides of the debate, examine the evidence from the Quran and hadith, and analyze the issue from legal, moral and economic perspectives. The aim is to provide a nuanced understanding of this topic so readers can make an informed assessment for themselves.

Definition and Overview of Lotteries

A lottery is a form of gambling which involves the drawing of lots for a prize. Lottery games vary in format but generally require participants to purchase a ticket, after which a winner is selected via a random draw. The prize money is sourced from the total pool of ticket sales. Lotteries can be held by governments, charities, or private companies. They are extremely popular worldwide, with national lotteries generating billions in annual revenue for public causes or private gain.

While lotteries have existed since ancient times, their widespread adoption is relatively modern. They only became commonplace in Muslim-majority countries in the 20th century due to European colonial influence. Prior to this, Islamic societies prohibited gambling and games of chance as vices incompatible with religious ideals of social justice. Today, national lotteries operate legally in most Muslim countries despite the ongoing theological debate around their permissibility. This sets the backdrop for our discussion on the halal status of selling lottery tickets.

Evidence from the Quran and Hadith

There is no direct reference to lotteries or lottery tickets in the authoritative Islamic scriptures of the Quran and hadith (sayings and traditions of Prophet Muhammad). However, there are verses and narrations that discuss the prohibition of gambling (maisir) and games of chance (qimar). Let us analyze some of the key evidence:

Quranic Verses

“O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allah ], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful.” (Quran 5:90)

“Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So will you not desist?” (Quran 5:91)

These verses clearly prohibit gambling, along with other vices like intoxication, idolatry, and divination. The Quran stresses that these acts have harmful spiritual, social and moral consequences, being tools of Satan to sow discord and enmity in society. Lotteries and gambling are linked as causes of moral corruption and distraction from faith and worship.

Hadiths on Gambling

“Whoever says to his companion: ‘Come, I will play a game of chance with you’ does not come on the Day of Resurrection except as one who disgraced his face with the disgrace of playing a game of chance.” (Sunan al-Nasa’i)

“Whoever plays dice has disobeyed Allah and His Messenger.” (Sunan Abu Dawud)

“Whoever plays dice is like one who has dipped his hand in the flesh and blood of a pig.” (Jami` at-Tirmidhi)

These hadiths convey an uncompromising stance against gambling, harshly condemning all games of chance and describing them as acts of disobedience. Participating in such activities is characterized as shameful, ritually impure and sinful. This strict prohibition is rooted in the example and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.

In summary, while lotteries are not directly addressed, the Quranic verses and Prophetic hadiths establish a clear basis to consider gambling activities like lotteries to be haram and spiritually harmful. This forms an important plank of the argument that selling lottery tickets enables and promotes sinful means of easy gain through chance rather than honest work.

Views of Islamic Jurists and Scholars

Based on these scriptural sources, the majority opinion historically among classical jurists has been that lotteries and lottery tickets are haram. Prominent scholars like Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn al-Qayyim, Ibn ‘Abidin explicitly prohibited lotteries under gambling (maisir).

However, some notable dissenting views existed too. For instance, the Hanafi jurist Sarakhsi permitted lotteries with prizes coming from the ticket sales pool rather than an outside source. The Maliki jurist Ibn Juzayy differentiated between prohibited games of chance with no skill versus permissible contests of skill and ability.

In contemporary times, Islamic finance experts like M. Umer Chapra have adopted more nuanced positions. Chapra argues that chance-based lotteries for sheer gain are objectionable, but skill-based contests and charity lotteries for welfare goals are permissible if structured appropriately. Others like Monzer Kahf advocate for regulated lotteries and distinguishing between private entry and public welfare objectives.

This range of scholarly opinion reflects genuine interpretational differences on applying scriptural sources to this complex modern phenomenon. There are reasoned bases in Islamic law for both prohibitive and more flexible stances. Recognition of valid alternative views is important when analyzing this issue holistically.

Arguments against Selling Lottery Tickets

Let us now closely examine the common arguments put forth for why selling lottery tickets violates Islamic principles and ethics:

Promotes Gambling

The primary objection is that selling lottery tickets promotes and enables gambling (maisir), which is clearly prohibited in Islam. Just as selling alcohol is haram, so too is sale of lottery tickets impermissible based on the logic of avoiding sinful means even if the profit is appealing.

Exploits False Hope

Lotteries exploit human tendencies of greed and false hope in easy fortunes. They lure people into wasting money for elusive winnings, which generates huge unjust profits for lottery companies. Islam denounces such deceptive means of extracting wealth from those nurturing unrealistic dreams.

Risks Addiction

Lotteries can lead to addictive habits that destroy families. The lure of overnight riches causes people to obsessively gamble beyond their means. Easy availability of lottery tickets facilitates this social evil.

Winners Gain Without Effort

Winnings from lotteries are unearned gains without any honest labor. Islam strongly advocates prosperity through hard work, skill and legitimate trade – not through mere chance and luck. Lotteries represent spiritually harmful modes of wealth acquisition.

Harms the Poor

The poor are most vulnerable to lottery gambling as a desperate escape from poverty. Their compulsive spending on lottery tickets worsens financial strains on low-income families. Lotteries thus exploit the poor instead of helping them.

Misdirects Spending

Money spent on lotteries is drained away from productive channels that benefit families and communities. Lottery spending can become socially and economically harmful when it divertsfunds from essentials.

Risks Corruption

Private lotteries can enable money laundering and tax evasion. Lottery operations are also vulnerable to rigging and corruption scandals if not properly regulated. These ethical concerns add to the arguments against selling lottery tickets.

In light of these issues, most Islamic scholars have opposed lottery sales as unethical and harmful for society. Enabling a prohibited activity for lucrative gains raises moral dilemmas that outweigh potential economic benefits.

Arguments for Permissibility

Despite the strength of scriptural and ethical arguments outlined above, some contemporary scholars have advocated positions in favor of allowing lottery sales under certain conditions and controls:

Not Direct Gambling Involvement

Those selling lottery tickets are not participating in the gambling directly. They simply enable others who choose to participate. This indirect involvement may avoid the explicit prohibition and sin of gambling applicable to buyers.

Regulated Industry

Modern lottery enterprises are regulated businesses, unlike unrestricted gambling dens. With proper controls and oversight, the worst social harms associated with gambling can be mitigated while channeling some benefits for public welfare.

Potential Public Revenue

Revenue generated from lottery ticket sales can be directed to good causes like public infrastructure, social programs and charities. This avenues for lawful benefit may make sales permissible, especially for government lotteries.

Lawful in Some Muslim Countries

The permissibility of regulated lotteries is reflected in the fact that they legally operate in many Muslim countries today. The judgments of democratically elected governments have allowed this activity in the public interest.

Financial Need and Limited Choices

In many low-income Muslim communities, financial constraints severely limit licit income sources. Lottery vending offers a means of survival for the poor, overriding the ideal prohibition under darura (necessity).

Prevents Underground Operation

Banning lottery ticket sales will not necessarily eliminate them; it may just drive them underground into unregulated black markets. Keeping lottery distribution licit may be a pragmatic option.

While these arguments have validity, most conservative scholars reject them as misguided rationalizations or concessions from higher ethical ideals. Nevertheless, they reflect realities that lead some experts to reluctantly accept regulated lottery commerce for sake of public order and policy.

Key Considerations in Islamic Legal Reasoning (Istidlal)

Given the strengths and weaknesses of arguments on both sides, what are the key considerations for reaching a holistic Islamic legal ruling (hukm) on this issue? Some critical questions arise:

– Is a lottery just a special form of gambling, or are there significant distinctions? Do technical differences between various lottery formats matter?

– Can the rules on gambling devised centuries ago be directly applied to modern lottery systems and regulations?

– Does the purpose behind selling tickets (private profit vs public welfare financing) affect the Islamic legal status?

– In cases of genuine darura (necessity), can exceptions be made to the default prohibition?

– Is a rule utilitarian approach justified to allow regulated lottery trade for sake of limiting greater harms?

– Do policy goals of public order override theological objections to prevent black market activity?

Reasonable scholars can analyze these questions and reach different conclusions through independent interpretation (ijtihad) rooted in Islam’s scriptural sources (Quran and Sunnah) and legal methodologies (usul al-fiqh). There is scope for valid disagreement on this issue.

Absolute claims of unanimous consensus on either blanket rulings of prohibition or permission are questionable. Prominent scholars past and present have expressed well-argued positions on both sides. Ultimately, arriving at a careful personal ruling requires wrestling thoroughly with the evidence and assessing the realities of one’s social context.

Economic Perspectives

Beyond scriptural and legal injunctions, what do economic considerations say about lottery sales? Here too a nuanced analysis yields mixed results. Potential benefits exist but also major downsides.


– Generates significant government revenue for public welfare programs and infrastructure

– Provides income source for licensed vendors and lottery corporations

– Channel for discretionary entertainment spending like other leisure industries

– If addiction is rare, occasional lottery play may provide harmless diversion for some people

Costs and Harms

– Promotes socially harmful addiction and obsessive gambling for some

– Drains income from low-income households who can least afford it

– Exploits human tendency to overvalue tiny probabilities of huge wins

– Can encourage get rich quick mindset rather than value of hard work

– Diverts spending from more productive economic channels

– Private lottery profits often bypass public benefit and amount to unearned gains

On balance, analysts argue the public costs tend to outweigh the economic benefits for lottery activities. The prevalence of state-sponsored lotteries reflects government addiction to easy revenue earned through encouraging compulsive gambling habits.

Case Studies: National Lotteries in Muslim Countries

To add more perspective, let us examine case studies of major government-run lotteries in populous Muslim countries:


– National lottery began in 2005 to generate funds for public welfare projects
– Generates over $200 million in annual revenue
– Critics argue funds are insufficient for claimed social benefits
– Religious scholars contested and continue to oppose lottery as un-Islamic


– Government lottery introduced in 2001 despite initial objections
– Generates around $500 million in annual revenue for state treasury
– Highly popular among Egyptians with pervasive ticket outlets nationwide
– Islamic institutions like Al-Azhar oppose lotteries but unable to prevent government monopoly


– Government launched lottery in 1969 for poverty eradication programs
– Provides over $500 million in annual funding for Ministry of Finance
– Religious authorities like JAKIM emphasize lottery haram status but accept policy goals


– National lottery began in 2004 despite strong initial opposition
– Generates around $2 billion annually for government budget
– Popular among Turkish citizens looking for life-changing winnings
– Directorate of Religious Affairs affirms lottery prohibition but cannot override laws

These cases reveal that government lotteries have become entrenched in major Muslim countries today due to lucrative revenues. Religious groups uniformly object to the inherent gambling but have largely acquiesced to lotteries for pragmatic policy reasons. However, grassroots opposition remains robust.


In conclusion, there are numerous considerations in assessing the Islamic permissibility of selling lottery tickets. There is a longstanding consensus among scholars on the prohibition of gambling including lotteries. This position has strong basis in the Quran and Sunnah and rests on ethical objections to easy unearned gain through chance. However, some interpretations allow for exceptions under strict regulation and genuine necessity. As lottery systems vary greatly, and policy contexts differ, there is room for reasonable disagreement rather than blanket rulings. The economic impact also does not decisively confirm either viewpoint. Muslims must carefully weigh all evidence and priorities in judging this issue for themselves. For the state, pragmatism often overrides theology for revenue goals. At an individual level, abstaining from lottery participation and sales remains the safest religious option, while respecting diversity of opinion on organizing public policy. Given the nuances involved, we should avoid casual or absolute claims on the definitive halal or haram status of selling lottery tickets in Islam.