In German arcades and betting offices you will meet mainly young men, many of whom are Muslims. But gambling is actually forbidden in Islam. Nevertheless, Turkey also operates a state lottery, and in Saudi Arabia bets are placed on camel races. How does this fit together?
“I ruined my life. Today I live in poverty and I feel bad every day. If you regret so much, you can’t be happy anymore. I used to regularly lose control when we played cards in the men’s round in Turkish cafés or when I stood at a machine with my last money again. The coins disappeared one by one. Then it was freezing cold running down my back when I had nothing left to play with. Only then did I remember my responsibilities. To my wife and children. You feel ashamed and want to sink into the ground.”
This man would rather remain unrecognized on the radio. He is a Muslim – many especially young Muslim men in Germany like to bet or play other games of chance. Studies show this, and Mathias Rohe, an Islamic scholar and lawyer at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, confirms it:
“I myself know from my field research that quite a few family conflicts result from the fact that husbands and fathers gamble. And that really by large sums – accordingly the family gets into trouble. Neglect, money problems and the like.”
Gambling is ‘haram
But what does Islam say about gambling and betting? For Serap Güler, Muslim and in North Rhine-Westphalia State Secretary for Integration, this is not compatible with Islam:
“Gambling or betting must – as I understand it – be forbidden after Islam, because there again the big topic ‘haram’ comes up. How did I get this money? Did I hurt anyone? I probably did, somebody lost that money. So in my understanding it’s money earned under bad circumstances.”
Gambling is “haram”, i.e. religiously forbidden. This is also confirmed by Mathias Rohe, an expert on Islamic law:
“There is a very clear opinion. That is rejected. There is also a peculiar statement in the Koran. Maysir – the game, is forbidden. So clear rejection of the whole thing, which obviously does not prevent a considerable number of Muslims from participating nevertheless.”
“Waste of time”
A corresponding passage in the Koran is Sura 2, verse 219:
“You are asked about the wine and the lottery. Say: In them lies a grave sin. And they are useful for people (sometimes). But the sin that is in them is greater than their benefit.”
Nevertheless, numerous sports betting offices or casinos in Germany are run by Muslim men. The integration expert and Muslim Serap Güler has a clear opinion:
“I don’t believe that this is Islamically legitimate, that Muslims run, operate or even worse or just as badly waste their time there these betting offices.”
Gambling in Islamic countries
Nevertheless, there are bets and games of chance in Islamic countries as well. Some Arab states such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia do not allow casinos, but there are camel races with money betting explains the arabic portal allvideoslots. In Turkey the state runs its own lottery, millions of Muslims take part. The president of the state religious authority Diyanet, Ali Erbas, still does not believe in the lottery, as he explained on Turkish television:
“This example shows that something can be legally legal, but at the same time also religiously forbidden.
So if betting and gambling are very clearly forbidden in Islam, why do so many Muslims still participate? Because they are only human beings, says the Islamic scholar Mathias Rohe:
“Muslims, too, are not just Muslims. First of all, they are pious in different ways. Different people are prepared to abide by the rules. And they let themselves be guided by many other things as well, than only by their religion”.