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Ruling on educational contests in newspapers

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Question

A few days ago I bought a religious newspaper and I found that it was running a contest. I found that I was able to answer the questions, so I sent in my answers. 

Is it permissible for me to accept the prize if I win?.

Praise be to Allah.

Firstly: 

The Muslims are unanimously agreed that gambling is haraam
according to sharee’ah, and that it is consuming people’s wealth
unlawfully. 

Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted, says (interpretation
of the meaning): 

“O you who believe! Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic
drinks), and gambling, and Al‑Ansaab (stone altars for sacrifices to false
gods, idols etc), and Al‑Azlaam (arrows for seeking luck or decision) are an
abomination of Shaytaan’s (Satan’s) handiwork. So avoid (strictly all) that
(abomination) in order that you may be successful.

91. Shaytaan (Satan) wants only to excite enmity and
hatred between you with intoxicants (alcoholic drinks) and gambling, and
hinder you from the remembrance of Allaah and from As‑Salaah (the prayer).
So, will you not then abstain?”

[al-Maa’idah 5:90-91]

The scholars counted gambling as one of the major sins. 

See: I’laam al-Muwaqqi’een (4/309) and al-Zawaajir
(2/328) 

Concerning the reason for the revelation of the verse quoted
above, it was narrated that Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him)
said: During the Jaahiliyyah, a man would bet his family and wealth against
another man, and whichever of them won, he would take the wealth and family
of the other. So this verse was revealed. Narrated by al-Tabari in Jaami’
al-Bayaan (2/369). 

Hence the scholars laid down the important principle which
refers to what is meant by gambling. They said: It is a situation where
anyone who participates in it will either win or lose i.e., he pays a sum of
money, which is his bet, and he will either lose it all or win the amount
stated in the contest, as in the case of lotteries. 

Based on this, it is only gambling if the person who enters
the contest pays some amount of money which he risks losing. This money may
be called by several names, none of which change the ruling on gambling in
the slightest. They may call it an entry fee or the price of buying a ticket
to enter the contest and so on. It is all gambling. 

But if the contestant does not pay anything to enter the
contest, then this is not regarded as gambling and there is nothing wrong
with entering. 

Secondly: 

There remains the issue of educational contests that are
published in newspapers and magazines – is it permissible to take part in
them and accept prizes or not? 

Some scholars are of the view that it is haraam to take part
in these contests. 

Shaykh Ibn Jibreen (may Allaah preserve him) was asked the
following question (Fataawa fi’l-Buyoo’, question no. 43): 

What is the ruling on contests held by newspapers and
magazines? 

He replied: 

Undoubtedly these contests that are held by newspapers and
magazines only serve their own interests, such as increasing their sales and
circulation, thus making much more money from sales than they give in
prizes, even though there is nothing to distinguish this paper from others,
and it may in fact contain corrupt and evil material, indecent pictures and
reprehensible articles. They seek to increase their circulation by means of
these prizes. Based on this, it is not permissible to take part in these
contests, because that is encouraging them and strengthening their
newspapers. And Allaah knows best. End quote. 

In the answer to question no.
20993 we have quoted the fatwa of
Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allaah have mercy on him) stating that these contests
are haraam. 

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) was of
the view that these contests are permissible subject to two conditions: 

1 –That the contestant buys the product or newspaper because
he needs it. If he is only buying it because of the contest then it is not
permissible, because in that case it is a kind of gambling, as the
contestant is risking the money that he pays (the price of the newspaper) in
return for the possibility of winning the contest. 

Based on that, if he buys the newspaper not in order to read
it but only to cut out the coupon for the contest, or he buys more than one
copy of the newspaper, then his entering the contest is haraam and is a kind
of gambling. 

2 – The price of the product or newspaper should not be
raised for the sake of the contest. If the newspaper cost 3 riyals then it
is raised to 4 riyals because of the contest, then entering it is haraam,
because this extra amount is because of the contest, so it is also a kind of
gambling. 

See: As’ilat al-Baab il-Maftooh by Shaykh Ibn
‘Uthaymeen (1162). 

Based on this, your taking part in the contest is
permissible, because you did not buy the newspaper for the sake of the
contest, so long as the price of the newspaper was not raised because of the
contest. 

And Allaah knows best.

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