Sharia & Games
*2*Chapter K29.0: Games, Contests and Prizes
@(O: The scriptural basis for competitions and races entailing prize money is the word of Allah Most High.
“And make ready against them whatever force and lines of horses you can” (Koran 8:60).
Muslim relates from ‘Uqba ibn ‘Amir that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,
“Force means marksmanship,”
repeating this three times.)
@K29.1: Races for Prize Money
Races with prize money for the winner are permissible between horses, mules, donkeys, camels, or elephants, provided that the animals competing are of the same species, though it is not, for example, permissible to have such a race between a camel and a horse.
It is a necessary condition for such a race that the participants know which animals will be ridden, the amount of the prize, and the distance to be run.
The prize money may be put up by both contestants, either one, or by a third party. If the prize money is put up by either contestant or by a third party, then the race is unconditionally permissible, and the winner takes all (N: regardless whether he was the one who put up the money or whether it was the other person).
But if the prize money is put up by both contestants, then it is a necessary condition that a third rider enter the contest with a mount equal to theirs (A: in speed, stamina, and so forth.) who puts up no money (N: so that it may be distinguished from gambling. If all three put up the money, then it is necessary that there be a fourth contestant with them who does not pay, and so on). (A: Similarly, bets from one side alone, such as saying, “I will give you ten dinars if what you have said proves to be correct,” are lawful when the other party bets nothing.)
Here, the winner takes all. If two riders finish together, they divide the prize.
@K29.3: Competitions in Marksmanship for Prize Money
It is also permissible to compete for prize money in competitions of skill at archery, spear throwing, or other military weaponry, when the prize is put up by both contestants, either one, or a third party, though if put up by both, it is necessary that a third marksman enter the contest, as mentioned above (A: meaning one comparable to the others in marksmanship, who puts up nothing).
It is a necessary condition for the validity of such a competition that the following details be specified before the contest:
(a) who will be shooting;
(b) the number of shots per bout, how many shots are needed to win, and the criterion for a hit (A: that is, in archery, whether the arrow must stick or whether it need merely leave a mark);
(c) the distance to the target;
(d) and which of the contestants is to begin.
It is not permissible to conduct contests for prize money that involve birds, footracing, or wrestling (O: since they are not military weaponry or equipment).
@K29.5: Ruling Concerning Games
(N: As for games:
-1- every game played by two or more people that relies on luck, conjecture, and guessing is unlawful, no matter whether money is stipulated or not;
-2- paying prize money in every game that encourages and assists fighting for Allah (jihad, def:o9) is permissible if the terms of the competition conform to the rulings discussed above in this section (k29.1-4);
-3- every game not of the preceding two types is permissible if no money is paid therein;
-4- and any of the above mentioned things which are permissible become unlawful if they prevent one from performing a religious or this worldly duty.)