I have recently started employment as a manager at a voluntary organisation which is reliant upon funding to sustain and develop the local community in which we are based. Many of its inhabitants are from the Black and Minority Ethnic community, suffering from conditions such as poverty, unemployment, poor health and poor housing.
In the UK there is a lottery fund distributed to organisations such as ourselves to help alleviate some of these issues. We take local children to museums, theme parks, set up free homework classes, and help to involve them in sporting activities. Is the use of such money halal? Can we apply for this type of funding?
Allah Most High says:
“They ask you concerning wine and gambling. Say, in them there is great sin and some benefit for men. The sin is greater than the benefit.” (Surah al-Baqarah, V. 219)
Gambling and taking part in National Lottery schemes is without doubt unlawful, sinful, and harmful, and leads to many other evils in the society. Its harms and evils are clear to those who realize.
In the UK the National Lottery Organisation, whose income is undoubtedly haram and filthy, gives a percentage of its proceeds to the government. The government then uses this money, in its capacity of being an agent, to fund various projects and ventures. The National Lottery has funded thousands of projects and organisations across the UK, including charity, heritage, heath, education, sports and arts organisations. Billions of pounds have been spent on ‘good’ causes funded by the UK’s Lotto, with 28p from every pound spent on tickets going to such projects. There is also the community fund where a share of the money raised by the lottery is distributed to support charities and other organisations whose work is beneficial to the community. It also awards grants to UK-based organisations running development programmes abroad.
From an Islamic perspective, the income of the lottery organisation is unquestionably haram and filthy because lottery is a form of gambling that is prohibited in the Qur’an and Sunna. As such, it is unlawful and sinful for any Muslim individual/organisation to initiate lotteries even if the objective is to fund charitable and other community organisations (for ends do not justify the means).
However, when unlawful money is already obtained, the jurists (fuqaha) state that wrongly-acquired money must be returned to its owner(s). If it is not possible to return the money to its owners, such as bank interest or money gained through national lottery schemes, one must give it away in charity to the poor and needy without the intention of attaining a reward but merely ridding one’s self from wrongly-acquired money. (See: Radd al-Muhtar and al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya)
Some scholars have also allowed using unlawful money for charities in general, such as building roads, constructing community centres and financing other public-welfare projects. (See: Fatawa Rahimiyya, 3/260)
Mufti Taqi Usmani (may Allah preserve him) recently in a Q & A session confirmed this by stating that it is permitted to avail of the Lottery fund in order to spend on the poor and needy, and to finance other public-welfare projects.
As such, it would be permitted to avail of the lottery grants provided by the government. The superior and safe way would be to utilize this money only on the poor and needy such as catering for poor orphans and the like. It would also be permitted to use this money to finance other public-welfare projects such as constructing community centres. One should first consult a reliable scholar before applying for any such grants.
It is worth remembering here that “unlawful” money cannot be used for building a Mosque, building a place of worship, buying copies of the Qur’an or any other similar noble cause.
The renowned Hanafi jurist, Imam Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) states:
“Taj al-Shariah said: “If one spends filthy wealth on the Mosque, or wealth which was gained through both unlawful and lawful means, then this will be disliked (m: makruh tahriman), because Allah Most High does not accept apart from that which is pure, hence it will be Makruh to pollute the Mosque with wealth that Allah does not accept.” (Radd al-Muhtar, 1/658)
As such, using unlawful and filthy wealth to construct Mosques/Islamic centres must be avoided. When money is used on the poor and needy, the intention is not to attain any reward, but to merely dispose off unlawful wealth. Such money, hence, must not be used for noble and worthy causes like building a Mosque.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK