This verse forms part of the series of questions asked by the noble Companions. These are as they appear in this Surah along with the answers given. Here, the question is about wine and gambling which has been answered by Allah Almighty by pointing out that the use and practice of these two things breeds major sins while people may also get some benefits from them, but the sin they release is far too grave than the benefit they give, implying that both these are worth abandoning.
Since these two issues are very serious, they need a somewhat detailed inquiry into their nature and the injunctions relating to them.
The prohibition of wine, and related injunctions:
When Islam came, drinking was common practice as part of the general state of Jahili جاھلی customs. When the Holy Prophet ﷺ emigrated to Madinah, people of that city were also accustomed to wine and gambling. Common people were infatuated with these in view of their obvious benefits. They had no idea of the evils inherent in these practices. However, it is the usual practice of Allah that there are, in every nation and in every country, sensible people who use reason to control their temperaments. They would not go near an emotional urge if it goes against the dictates of reason. In this regard, the station of the noble Prophet ﷺ was way high, for he had a built-in distaste for things which were going to be declared haram حرام later on. Even among the blessed Companions ؓ there were some who had not touched wine during the days it was an open practice. It was after reaching Madinah al-Tayyibah that some Companions ؓ became deeply concerned about the evil effects of these two involvements. It was due to this concern that Sayyidna ` Umar al-Faruq and Mu` adh ibn Jabal ؓ along with some Ansari Companions presented themselves before the Holy Prophet ﷺ and told him how wine and gambling not only spoil man's reason but also cause financial loss and sought his advice in this connection. It was in answer to their question that the present verse was revealed. This is the first verse in which the elementary step to stop Muslim from wine and gambling was taken.
What the verse says is clear from its translation, and its explanation which follows immediately. It may be added here that the word, 'Ithm إِثْمٌ ' or sin includes everything that may become a preliminary to sin. For instance, wine dulls senses and weakens the power of reason, something basic to human excellence. Human reason acts as a brake against human indulgence in evil deeds. Once reason is blocked out, the door is opened for all sorts of evil deeds.
It will be noted that drinking has not been clearly identified as something unlawful in this verse, but its evils has certainly been pointed out, which may lead man into many sinful activities. In a way, this takes the form of a good counsel urging man to abandon it. That is why, soon after the revelation of this verse, some noble Companions took this good counsel of the Holy Qur'an so seriously that they stopped drinking then and there. There were some others among them who thought that the verse, in fact, has not declared wine as Haram; it has, instead, identified it as a cause of sin in as much as it does lead to evils religiously undesirable, so, if they can manage to keep themselves immune from such evils, what harm could there be if they continued drinking? Consequently, so they did, until came a day when the blessed Companion, ` Abd al-Rahman ibn ` Awf invited some of his friends from among the noble Companions ؓ at his home. When dinner was over, everybody started drinking wine as usual. In the meantime, came the time for Maghrib salah. Everybody stood up for salah and selected one of them to lead the prayers. The Imam began his recitation from the Holy Qur'an, but drunk as he was, he recited the Surah al-Kafirun all wrong. Thereupon, the second step against drinking was taken and the following verse was revealed:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَقْرَبُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَأَنتُمْ سُكَارَىٰ
O those who believe, do not go near Salah when you are intoxicated. (4:43)
Here, drinking was declared to be absolutely unlawful at the time of the Salah. Other times remained open. Some of the noble Companions ؓ had totally stopped drinking following the revelation of the first verse deducing from it that something which stops one from Salah cannot hold any good at all. And now that Salah has been prohibited in a state of intoxication, one should keep his distance from that which deprives one from Salah. However, since wine was not forbidden clearly and explicitly during hours other than those of Salah, there were some who continued drinking during other hours until when there occurred yet another incident. This time it was the blessed Companion, ` Itban ibn Malik ؓ who invited some Companions ؓ ، Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas ؓ being one of them. Once the dinner was over, wine was served in accordance with the custom. Then, turning to another customary Arab practice at that time, the intoxicated party started talking poetry and began reciting their respective accomplishments and excellences. The Companion Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas ؓ recited a Qasidah49 poem in which he satirized the Ansar (helpers) of Madinah and eulogized his own tribal affinities. This made an Ansari young man angry and he hit Sa'd with a jaw-bone from a camel causing severe injury on his head. Sayyidna Sa'd came to the Holy Prophet ﷺ and complained against that Ansari young man. At that time, the Holy Prophet ﷺ raised his hands in prayer and said: الھم بین لنا فی الخمر بیانا شافیا that is, '0 Allah, give us a clear and conclusive guidance in the matter of wine'. Thereupon, the third verse regarding wine, that of Surah al-Ma'idah, was revealed with details declaring wine to be absolutely unlawful. The verse is as follows:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالْأَنصَابُ وَالْأَزْلَامُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ ﴿90﴾
O you who believe! wine and gambling and stone altars and drawing of lots with arrows are only an abomination, a work of Satan; so shun it, that haply you may prosper. (5:90)
The gradual forbiddance of wine
Being supreme in His authority, Allah alone knows the real wisdom behind all divine imperatives, but a close look into the Islamic legal code reveals that the Shari'ah of Islam has left ample room for human emotions when following its dictates. This is to give man the least possible inconvenience. The Holy Qur'an has itself said: لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّـهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا :'Allah does not obligate anyone beyond his or her capacity' (2:286). It was the demand of this mercy and wisdom that made Islam go slow on forbidding wine.
49. An Arab poetical form introduced by the modern poet, Garcia Lorca in the West.
The gist of the Qur'anic history of forbidding wine through a gradual process is that it has revealed four verses on the subject. As said earlier, one of these verses belongs to Surah al-Baqarah, the explanation of which you are reading through now. Here, wine has been identified as sin-prone, a corrupting agent. The mention of wine has been left at that point. It has not been 'forbidden'. This, in a way, is a manner of saying that the habit of drinking is worth leaving, but the direct command to quit drinking was not given.
The second verse لَا تَقْرَبُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَأَنتُمْ سُكَارَىٰ : 'do not go near salah نماز when you are intoxicated' (4:43) appears in Surah al-Nis-a'. Here, wine was declared to be unlawful during salah hours. At other times, the choice remained open.
The third and the fourth verses belong to Surah al-Ma'idah. In these two, as mentioned earlier, wine was declared to be unlawful clearly and absolutely.
The Shari'ah of Islam used the method of gradual prohibition of wine for the simple reason that it would have been much too hard on human temperament to cut away from the habit of a life-time, specially so the habit of addiction to intoxicants. Scholars have said: فطام العادہ اشد من فطام الفضاعۃ : that is, it is harder to change an ongoing habit for man than it is for a child used to suckling at his mother's breast. So, moving wisely, Islam first stressed on its evil, then prohibited it only at the time of salah and finally after the passage of a certain time, it was absolutely forbidden.
However, the wisdom that required a gradual process before the prohibition had equally required that once the prohibition is promulgated, it should be implemented with its full force. That is why the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، in the early stages, warned people against the use of wine and told them how it invited divine punishment. He said that wine was the source of evils and indecencies and one who indulges in it can go on to commit even the worst possible sins.
In a hadith, he said 'Wine and Faith cannot be combined.' These narrations appear in al-Nisa'i. In the Jami` of al-Tirmidhi, there is a narration from the blessed Companion Anas ؓ which reports that the Holy Prophet ﷺ has cursed ten people in relation to wine, being the crusher or presser or squeezer, the distiller, the user, the server, the carrier, the receiver (the one for whom it is carried), the seller, the buyer, the giver (as gift), and the one who uses the income arising from it. This verbal teaching and persuasion was not all that he stopped at, he took practical steps and made a legally binding proclamation that whosoever has any wine in possession should deposit it at an appointed place.
The matchless obedience of the blessed Companions
As soon as the first order came to them, the noble Companions ؓ ، obedient and responsive as they were, lost no time and took out all wine stored in their homes for personal use and poured it out on the streets there and then. Sayyidna ` Abdullah ibn ` Umar ؓ has reported that at the time when the proclaimer appointed by the Holy Prophet ﷺ went around the streets of Madinah announcing that wine was forbidden, whoever had a vessel of wine in his hands, threw it away right where he was and whoever had cups or goblets or flasks of wine in the house, brought these out and smashed them off. Sayyidna Anas ؓ was happily busy serving wine to a gathering of friends at that time. Present there were great Companions ؓ like Abu Talha, Abu ` Ubaydah ibn Jarrah, Ubaiyy ibn Ka'b and Suhayl ؓ . When the voice of the proclaimer struck their ears, everybody present said, 'Now, pour all this wine down on the ground and break all cups and goblets and ewers and pitchers.' In some narrations it is said that it was immediately with the announcement that wine had become unlawful that everyone who had a cup of wine reaching close to his lips was electrified and threw it away right there. That day, wine was flowing down the streets of Madinah like a stream of rainwater, and as a result of that, it remained usual in the streets of Madinah for a long time that rains would reactivate the smell of wine soaked in the ground, as well as its colour, which would show up on the surface.
When people were ordered to deposit whatever wine they had at a given place, not much was left there to deposit except the limited stock, of wine casks and bags, available in the market for commercial sales. So obedient were the noble Companions ؓ that they deposited those too at the designated place without the least hesitation. The Holy Prophet ﷺ went there personally and slit many leather wine-bags with his own blessed hands and let the rest be slit apart by the Companions ؓ .
Another Companion, a businessman who imported wine from Syria happened to be on a business trip in Syria. He had taken his entire capital with him against which he bought a stock of wine for commercial sales. When he returned with his cargo, he came to know that wine had been declared haram حرام before he could enter the city limits of Madinah. Having heard about the ban on wine, the Companion who was a model of devotion and sacrifice, and who was also returning home after investing all his capital and labour hoping to make a big profit out of it, quietly stacked it on a wayside hillock, came down to see the Holy Prophet ﷺ asking him about this stock of his: 'What should I do?' The Holy Prophet ﷺ ordered him, in accordance with the Divine command, that he should tear out all those leather bags and pour the wine in them down on the ground. This wonderful lover of Allah and His Messenger did not hesitate for a moment. Using his own hands, he poured forth all his invested capital on the sands of that hill-slope. This too is a great miracle of Islam, and a demonstration of mind-boggling and virtually unrivalled obedience that came about during this episode. Imagine how difficult it is to shake off the habit of being used to something while these people were chronically habituated to consuming wine and could not stay away from it even for a little while. For them, it was just that command from their Lord proclaimed by His Prophet ﷺ which brought about such an instant change in their habits that they started hating the same wine and gambling they were so addicted to.
Islamic strategy for a social change
The verses above and the events connected with them present before us a model of active Muslim response to the law making wine unlawful. One may call it a miracle of Islam or a unique outcome of prophetic teaching and training or the inevitable end-product of Islamic methodology of social change, the fact is that its effectiveness was phenomenal. Compared to this was the attempt at prohibition made in the United States with the support of experts, lobbies, law, media and constitutional amendment which failed in the face of much increased use of liquor making the authorities cancel their plans. What is the secret behind this enormous difference?
The secret is that Islam has never depended on law alone as the tool of social reform. Law not being sufficient, it has first prepared and fine tuned the minds of its people tempering their attitudes with the golden prescription of a deep devotion to and worship of their Creator, moderation in worldly living and a genuine concern for the life to come. The great revolution brought in this manner produced matchless men who would eagerly come forward to sacrifice their life, property, honour, anything and everything at one call from their Prophet ﷺ . This task of preparing men who would match the mission continued throughout the Makkan period by means of rigorous spiritual training. Once such a devoted group of people was ready, and then came the law. No doubt, the Americans too did their best utilizing the vast powers of the media, but they had everything with them except the concern for the life to come while the concern for the Hereafter was the very life-blood of Muslims.
The golden prescription is still there, very much valid, waiting for peaceless people round the world to use it. Let the wise think.
The good and evil of wine
The 'good' in wine is popularly known as a certain taste and a feeling of well-being, professed increase of temporary energy, and a given glow on the face. Being transient, these benefits hardly stand against the array of evils it breeds. Take the human body first. Drinking causes mal-function of the stomach, reduces desire to eat, affects facial con-tours, inflates the waistline, hurts the liver and the kidneys and be-comes a contributor to all sorts of diseases. Reason does not work under the influence of hard drinks which goes beyond the time one claims to have become sober. The hangover turns out to be as bad. Wine, a tempting stimulant and a much romanticized poison works slowly, inspite of the spirited defence put up by its users. The fact is that drinking not only harms them but affects their children as well.
Socially, drinking may become the cause of mutual malice and enmity which is a great evil in the sight of Islamic law. It is for this reason that the Holy Qur'an particularly mentions this evil in Surah al-Ma'idah:
إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَن يُوقِعَ بَيْنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَةَ وَالْبَغْضَاءَ فِي الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِر
The Satan only wants that hositility and hatred come to stay between you through wine and gambling. (5:91)
One of the most harmful drawbacks of drinking shows up when a person under its influence lets out his guarded secrets. It becomes much more disastrous if the culprit happens to be a state functionary in possession of vital government secrets. Passing these out to an enemy agent can cause great damage to the state through a coup, a political loss or a challenge to national defence. Clever spies are always on the look out for such opportunities.
So, the habit of drinking is not only an evil in itself but a mother of other evils as well making men ready to commit the worst possible crimes against their fellow-beings.
The physical evils of drinking are too well-known to recount here while its spiritual evils are equally obvious. Wine is harmful because the Holy Qur'an says: وَيَصُدَّكُمْ عَن ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ وَعَنِ الصَّلَاةِ : 'It prevents you from remembering Allah and from the Salah'. Then, the question asked by the Holy Qur'an is: فَهَلْ أَنتُم مُّنتَهُونَ 'Would you then desist?'
The forbiddance of wine: A complete view
Upto this point, we have discussed four verses of the Holy Qur'an which deal with the unlawfulness of wine, and its forbiddance. It seems appropriate that yet another mention of intoxicants made by the Holy Qur'an in Surah Al-Nahl النحل in a different context should be brought into focus here so that we have all Qur'anic statements concerning wine and intoxicants in one complete frame of reference. The said verse is as follows:
وَمِن ثَمَرَاتِ النَّخِيلِ وَالْأَعْنَابِ تَتَّخِذُونَ مِنْهُ سَكَرًا وَرِزْقًا حَسَنًا ۗ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لِّقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ ﴿67﴾
And of the fruits of the palms and the vines, you take there-from an intoxicant and a good provision. Surely, in that there is a sign for a people who understand. (16:67)
In verses preceding the one above, mention was made of Allah's blessings which cause production of human food through unique mechanisms. It was said:
وَإِنَّ لَكُمْ فِي الْأَنْعَامِ لَعِبْرَةً ۖ نُّسْقِيكُم مِّمَّا فِي بُطُونِهِ مِن بَيْنِ فَرْثٍ وَدَمٍ لَّبَنًا خَالِصًا سَائِغًا لِّلشَّارِبِينَ ﴿66﴾
And surely in the cattle there is a lesson for you; We give you to drink of what is in their bellies, between filth and blood, pure milk, sweet to drinkers. (16:66)
The text uses the word, 'nusqikum' نُّسْقِيكُم which means We gave you milk to drink' implying that it needs no further human processing. Following this, it was said that man procures things to eat, as well as, makes things which benefit him. Here, the hint is that human processing plays some part in procuring what he eats and in making what, he uses to his advantage. And it is as a result of the entry of the human factor that two types of things were produced. One of these is an intoxicant known as wine while the other is 'a good provision', such as the dates and the grapes which can be used fresh off the palms and vines or can be dried and stored for later use. In short, Allah Almighty, in His perfect creativity, gave man fruits such as dates and grapes and gave him the added right to use them as food. Now what he makes out of them is his choice, either make intoxicants out of them and thereby spoil his reason, or use them for food and energy. According to this explanation, this verse cannot be used to argue in support of the lawfulness of intoxicating wine. The reason is simple. Here, the purpose is to describe the gifts of nature and to point out to the different forms in which they could be used which is all part of the same Divine blessing. For instance, consider all that man eats and things man uses to his advantage. There are many who use these in ways that are impermissible but, the incidence of someone using things wrongfully does not preclude a blessing from remaining a blessing. So, the context of the statement needs no details as to which use is permissible or impermissible, however, there is a subtle indication embedded here too. If we look at how 'sakar: intoxicant' has been counter-poised by 'rizqan hasana': رِزْقًا حَسَنًا 'a good provision', we would realize that an intoxicant is not a good provision. The majority of commentators take sakar to mean something that intoxicates. (Ruh al-Ma'ani, Qurtubi and Jassas)
There is a consensus of the Ummah that these verses are Makkan while the unlawfulness of wine was revealed later on in Madinah al-Tayyibah. Even though wine was lawful at the time these verses were revealed and Muslims used to indulge in wine generally yet, even at that stage, a hint was made in the verse that indulging in wine is not good. Later on, came the Qur'anic command which clearly and forcefully made wine unlawful.
The prohibition of Gambling
The word, maisir مَيْسِر is an infinitive and lexically means to distribute'. One who distributes is called yasir یاسِر . During the days of Jahiliyyah, several types of games of chance were common in Arabia. In one of such games, they used to slaughter a camel following which they would gamble while distributing shares from the meat. Some used to get more than one share while others remained deprived of even one. The one who thus remained deprived had to pay for the whole camel. The meat was, of course, distributed among the poor; the gamblers did not use it themselves.
The catch in this particular game of chance was that it benefited the poor while, at the same time, it demonstrated the philanthropy of the gamblers. That is why this game was considered a matter of pride by them. Anyone who would not participate in it was chided as miserly and wretched.
It is because of the relevance of distribution that Qimar قمار is given the name of Maisir. All Companions, and Successors to them, hold the unanimous view that the word, Maisir includes all forms of Qimar or gambling and that all of them are Haram حرام or unlawful. Ibn Kathir (رح) in his Tafsir and al-Jassas (رح) in Ahkam al-Qur'an report that the blessed Companions ` Abdullah ibn ` Abbas, Ibn ` Umar, Qatadah, Mu'awiyah ibn Salih, 'Ata and Ta'wus ؓ said: المیسر القمار حتی لعب الصبیان بالکعاب والجوز that is, Qimar (of all kinds) is Maisir - even the games of children with dices and walnuts.
Sayyidna Ibn ` Abbas ؓ said ألمخاطرۃ من القمار that is, Mukhatarah مخاطرۃ (to put something on stake) falls under Qimar (Jassas). Ibn Sirin ؓ said: 'That which involves stakes is included in Maisir' (Ruh al-Bayn).
Mukhatarah مخاطرۃ or 'stake' is a deal which revolves between profit and loss, that is, there may be a chance that one gets a lot, and also, that one gets nothing. This is very much like what we find in all sorts of modern lotteries. All these types are included under Qimar and Maisir or gambling, and are haram حرام . Therefore, Maisir or Qimar or gambling has been defined as a deal in which the act of making a person the owner of something of value depends on a contingency the two sides of which are equal, and consequently, there are two equal possibilities of taking total profit or absorbing total loss (shami, Kitab al-Khatar wa Fibahah, volume 5, page 355). For instance, it is quite possible that the penalty falls on A, and it is also possible that it falls on B.
To sum up, the rule is that all kinds and forms in vogue - in the past or current today or likely to emerge in the future - shall all be called Maisir and Qimar and gambling. Prize-awarding cross-word puzzles (in which the participants are charged a fee) and commercial lotteries, the generally known among whatever other forms they may have, are all included under gambling. However, should there be a prize offered by one side only, stipulating that it will be given to one who performs a certain feat, that would not matter subject to the condition that no fee is taken from that person. The reason is that, in this case, the deal does not hang between benefit and harm, but hangs between benefit and no benefit.
Therefore, in authentic ahadith, chess and backgammon and their likes have been declared unlawful where money or property is staked in a win or lose situation. Should there be money staked in playing cards, that too will be included under Maisir.
In Sahih Muslim, there is a report from the blessed Companion Buraydah ؓ which states that the Holy Prophet ﷺ said that one who plays backgammon is like one who dyes his hands in the flesh and blood of pork. Sayyidna ` Ali ؓ said that chess is included in Maisir, that is gambling. Sayyidna ` Abdullah ibn ` Umar ؓ said that chess is much worse than backgammon. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir)
During the early days of Islam, gambling was permissible like drinking. When the verses beginning غُلِبَتِ الرُّومُ ﴿2﴾ in Surah al-Rum were revealed where the Holy Qur'an foretold that the Byzantines have no doubt lost to their rivals - the Persians, but, after a few years, the Byzantines will prevail once again. When the disbelievers of Makkah denied the prophecy, Sayyidna Abu Bakr al-Siddiq ؓ ، challenged them with a bet, something like Qimar, proposing that should the Byzantines prevail in so many years the disbelievers will have to pay a certain amount. The bet was approved. When this prophecy of the Qur'an actually came to pass, Sayyidna Abu Bakr ؓ made sure that he got the waged amount from the disbelievers and brought it to the Holy Prophet ﷺ who expressed his pleasure with what had happened but asked him to give away the bet-money in charity. This is significant because Allah had kept His Messenger ﷺ protected from something that was permissible at that time but was going to be made impermissible later on. This is why he always kept aloof from wine and gambling, and there were particular ones among the noble Companions ؓ who also remained protected against these. It appears in a narration that the angel Jibra'il (علیہ السلام) told the Holy Prophet ﷺ that Allah Almighty likes four character-traits in Ja'far al-Tayyar. He ﷺ asked Sayyidna Ja'far al-Tayyar ؓ as to what these four traits were. He said, 'Till now, I have never talked about these before anyone. Now that Allah Almighty has told you about them, I submit and relate these four to you. I saw that wine ruins reason, so I never went near it. I saw that idols cause no benefit or harm to anyone, so I never indulged in idol-worship even during the days of Jahiliyyah. Since I have an acute sense of honour concerning my wife and daughters, so I never committed adultery. Then, I realized that lying is unbridled meanness, and a terrible disgrace, so I never told a lie even in Jahiliyyah'. (Ruh al-Bayan)
Social ill-effects of gambling
The Holy Qur'an has said the same thing about Qimar or gambling as it has said about wine, that is, in it there are some benefits as well, but the harm it brings is greater than its benefits. Everyone knows this sort of benefit can make a pauper an overnight millionaire, but there are very few people who know how evil the practice is economically, socially and spiritually.
In gambling, speaking briefly, the gain of one person is dependent upon the loss of the other. The total gain of the winner is an outcome of the total loss of the loser because this transaction does not increase the (national) wealth or production. The amount of wealth remains as it was. What happens through this game of chance is that one is sucked dry of his wealth which then reaches the other, therefore, Qimar is a blanket undoing of a people, and the death of human morality. Isn't it that man, who should be an agent of public good, a model of sympathy and sacrifice, stoops to the level of a beast while gambling, and starts seeing his life in the death of his brother, and finding delight in his distress, and searching for gain in his loss, and goes about harnessing all his abilities to promote his selfishness? Contrary to this are the permissible forms of transactions in trade where parties buy and sell releasing profits for both. Then, wealth circulates and increases through exchange of commercial commodities and the buyer and seller both find it beneficial.
To begin with, gambling is harmful because the addicted gambler comes to be deprived of the very habit of earning his livelihood, because he always keeps dreaming that he will simply sit and grab what belongs to the other person in no time through a bet, specially so as it involves no hard work. Some scholars have said that gambling has been called Maisir (as derived from the word 'yusr یُسر ' meaning 'easiness' ) because one can easily take possession of what belongs to the other through it. Even if gambling deals revolve around a small number of people such as two or four, their harmful effects mentioned above show up very clearly. But, here we are in this modern age, called 'the age of progress' by those handicapped by superficial vision and lack of insight into its aftermath, where we see wine of all sorts given new names and labels, where ever-new kinds of interest and ever-innovative corporate methods to promote it have been invented, commandeered and given the safe name of 'banking'; so it is with gambling where thousands of dubious forms have found currency. Some of these are so highly collective that the amount of contribution from a whole nation keeps adding up bit by bit, and in case there is a loss, that gets spread out over everybody and thus does not become conspicuous. When an amount from this total 'take' reaches the hands of one person, his gain appears to be prominent, therefore, people tend to look at his personal gain but pay no heed to the collective loss of their nation or country. Consequently, they are trapped into believing that these new kinds may as well be valid, although present here are all those harmful effects which are found in gambling confined to a small group of two or four people. Looked at from another angle, the harm brought by this large-scale gambling is much worse than that released by the older form of gambling, for its evil effects are far-reaching and spell out the ruin of a whole nation. As evident, the natural result of this practice will be that wealth belonging to the common people of the community will go on decreasing while the capital of some capitalists will go on increasing further. Inevitably then, the entire wealth of the nation will shrink and come to be concentrated into the hands of a limited number of individuals and a limited number of families. This can be witnessed everyday in stock markets and in other forms of Qimar. Now, Islamic economic strategy has an important principle of its own. It declares that every deal which siphons the wealth of a whole community out into the coffers of a few capitalists is haram, unlawful and forbidden. The Holy Qur'an itself, while stating the principle of the distribution of wealth, has proclaimed: كَيْ لَا يَكُونَ دُولَةً بَيْنَ الْأَغْنِيَاءِ مِنكُمْ. It means that the principle of distributing spoils of war among different segments of the society given by the Holy Qur'an aims to make sure that wealth does not shrink and concentrate in the hands of a few capitalists.
Gambling, like wine, becomes the cause of mutual disputes reaching the limits of hatred and animosity, so fatal in a civilized society. To quote once again, the Holy Qur'an mentions the evil of gambling in the following words:
إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَن يُوقِعَ بَيْنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَةَ وَالْبَغْضَاءَ فِي الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ وَيَصُدَّكُمْ عَن ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ وَعَنِ الصَّلَاةِ
The Satan only wants hostility and hatred to come to stay between you through wine and gambling, and to prevent you from remembering Allah and from the Salah. (5:91)
The effect of gambling, like that of wine, is that one gets recklessly involved in it, becoming unable to attend to the remembrance of Allah, and the prayer. Perhaps, this is why the Holy Qur'an has elected to mention wine and gambling side by side in an identical manner since Qimar or gambling has an intoxicating pull of its own which makes one ignore the concern of what is good or bad for him.
As partly mentioned earlier, the basic evil in gambling is that one can falsely devour what belongs to others through this method without any reasonable compensation or brotherly consideration. This is what the Holy Qur'an prohibits in the following words: لَا تَأْكُلُوا أَمْوَالَكُم بَيْنَكُم بِالْبَاطِلِ (And do not eat up each other's property by false means) (2:188).
The destroyer of many a home, the ill effects of gambling do not remain restricted to the gambler alone. They affect his whole family and become contagious to a much larger social circle because people may have entered into transactions, contracts and 'loan deals with him which will hurt all concerned in the event of his becoming insolvent.
Finally, in the background of rising social addiction to various Qimar forms, it is useful to keep in view that this evil distorts one's natural attitude to work and rivets it on imagined gains. Rather than concentrate on his physical or mental skills to increase his earnings steadily, one starts getting fixed on finding ways and means to usurp the earnings of others.
That is why the Holy Qur'an has said: وَإِثْمُهُمَا أَكْبَرُ مِن نَّفْعِهِمَا that is, the evils of wine and gambling are greater than their benefits.
Some juristic rules and related notes:
In this verse, the acknowledgement of some benefits of wine and gambling has been combined with the instruction to desist from them which helps us deduce the rule that the presence of material benefits in something or act is not contrary to its being declared haram حرام under the Islamic law. We know that a certain medicine or food item is called harmful if its harmful effects are far stronger than 'its benefits. If this was not so, nothing in this world, not even the worst, would turn out to be totally devoid of any benefit. A deadly poison, the snake and the scorpion and the wild beasts, they all have their benefits but, speaking generally, they are called harmful and people are told to watch out against them. Similarly, keeping in view the essential sense, things the evils of which are greater than their benefits are declared haram or unlawful under the Shari'ah. None of the crimes such as theft, robbery, adultery, kidnapping and fraud are devoid of some benefit, for had they been totally benefitless no sane person would ever go near them, even though the most perfect people in all such crimes are those known for their tact and intelligence. This tells us that some or the other benefit does show up in all crimes but, since their harmfulness is greater than their benefit, no sane person stands up to declare them as useful and permissible. It is under this principle that the Shari'ah of Islam has made wine and gambling unlawful.
2. This verse also provides the rule that the elimination of evil takes precedence over the acquisition of benefit, that is, should something give a certain benefit along with causing some harm, it becomes necessary to abandon the benefit in order to stay safe against the harm. In other words, a benefit which comes with harmfulness attached to it is ignored.
The first part of verse 219 related to the question asked about wine and gambling, a detailed explanation of which appears in previous pages.
The second part of the verse appearing here relates to another question -- about how much should be spent in charity. The answer given is 'al-` afw' العفو which has been translated here as 'the surplus'. It means that one should not, by such spending, get into personal trouble in the material life of this world, or by wasting away somebody's due right, get into the pain of answerability in the life to come.