QUESTION: What is the position of raffle-tickets in Islam?
ANSWER: This amounts to gambling. One of the arguments in favour of raffle tickets is that the scheme is widely used for philanthropic causes. It must be borne in mind that gambling in the Quranic times in Arabia was no exception. In fact, owing to its philanthropic aspect, gambling was considered a boon rather than a bane. The rich would indulge in drinking and gambling and would give whatever they won to the poor. Indeed, the abstainer was regarded as niggardly. However, the Quran very clearly pointed out that the moral corruption that ensues from such activities is greater them whatever benefit they provide:
"They ask you about gambling and drinking. Say: There is great sin in both and also some benefit for people, but their sin is greater than their benefit." (2:219)
Of this moral corruption, one aspect particularly worth mentioning is that these so-called philanthropic schemes develop the attitude of selfishness and indifference. In an Islamic society, infaaq, or spending in the way of Allah, is a basic value. The destitute, therefore, are the direct responsibility of the society and their problems cannot be left to the mere adjustments of demand and supply as in the laisser fair concept. It should be impossible for a Muslim to sleep with the peace of mind, if he finds out that a neighbour had not been able to eat at night owing to poverty. Destitution, poverty, misery and disease should be sufficient enough as reasons for impelling a Muslim to spend whatever he can spare. `Spend in the way of Allah that ye may be rewarded in the Hereafter'. `Spend in the way of Allah that ye may enter the Kingdom of Heaven'. Such adages used to be the underlying reason for infaaq. But whatever is this: `Spend in the way of Allah that ye may get a refrigerator (or a deep-freezer or a VCR)'? and `Spend in the way of Allah that ye may win tickets to Madame Noor Jehaan's concert'?
Millions are spent merely on organising these `philanthropic' schemes --- millions that could be directly spent on the poor --- and thousands are spent by the gentry on the apparel they need for just one such occasion. It is the height of indifference, prodigality and selfishness that a person who can afford to spend thousands on buying tickets to the concert and thousands on new clothes for the function is not motivated to spend in the way of Allah by the misery of a fellow human being and by the reward in the Hereafter. The mere knowledge that a human being is in need of what a Muslim can spare should give the Muslim sleepless nights. Yet there are Muslims who can spare millions but do not take out a penny unless they are certain of a news items and a photograph lauding their altruism. Would that they were able to appreciate what Jesus (sws) had said:
"Take head that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and the streets that they may have glory of men. Verily, I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou doest alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly." (St. Matt. 6:1-4)
The Quran says:
"O you who believe! do not mar your almsgiving by reminders of your generosity and by hurting the feelings [of the one you had helped], like the one who spends his wealth to be seen of men but believes neither in Allah nor the Final Day." (2:264)
"And if you allow them to be revealed when you do your alms, that too is good; but if you conceal them and make them reach the poor in secret, that is best for you. And Allah remains well aware of what you do." (2:271)
When a concert or a refrigerator not the `Kingdom of Heaven' becomes the reason for charity, it means that the whole foundation of moral values, which are so essential to an Islamic society, has been impaired to the extent that the edifice that rests on it may collapse in the wake of the mildest of storms.
The raison d'etre for charity should be concern for others and the reward in the Hereafter not Madame Noor Jehaan's concert or a refrigerator. Loss of values means the death of society. Loss of the spirit of infaaq --- a basic value in an Islamic society --- means the death of Islamic society. That must never be.
"Those who spend of their wealth [in charity] by night and by day, in secret and in public have their reward with their Lord. For them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." (2:274)