#98: Participation Fee as the Prize in a Competition

Question:

Is it permissible to use the participation fee of the competition to buy the prize for the winner?

Answer:

Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions and all those who follow his footsteps until the Last Day.

According to the 4th Edition of Kamus Dewan, gambling is any type of game that uses money and others as a wager, such as a check game, games of dice and others.

Gambling in Arabic is named as al-Maisir (المَيْسِرْ), according to Al-Fayyumi al-Maisir is defined in al-Misbah al-Munir [1]:

قِمَارُ الْعَرَبِ بِالأزْلاَمِ

“The Arabs wager their fate using arrows,”

This definition is similar to the meaning of wager (iqimar) defined by Imam al-Jurjani as: Every game which set the condition that the loser has to give something (such as money) to the winner of the game. [2]

This act is prohibited in al-Quran. Allah SWT states:

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ قُلْ فِيهِمَا إِثْمٌ كَبِيرٌ وَمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَإِثْمُهُمَا أَكْبَرُ مِنْ نَفْعِهِمَا

“They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, “In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit.” [3]

Imam al-Tabari in his commentary interpreted this verse stating that a person who puts out a wager is called a gambler. (See Jami’ al-Bayan, 4/322)

In another verse, Allah SWT also states:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالْأَنصَابُ وَالْأَزْلَامُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

“O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allah], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful.” [4]

Syeikh Dr Yusuf al-Qaradhawi also stated in his book that we’ve translated, Halal & Haram in Islam:

“However, if the prize (or wager) is put forth by both of them and they bet on the condition that whoever wins will have the right to take both (the wager). Then, it is clear that it is gambling and prohibited in Islam.” [5]

Explaining the above issue, we conclude:

  • Whatever competition is originally permissible.
  • Competition based on prize and participation fee, the organizer must avoid deception, wager, exploitation, and wastefulness.
  • Competition should not benefit only one party and oppress other parties.
  • Participation fees must not be made to buy the prize of a certain competition except following the guidance set by syarak.

Thus, the organizers of any competition must be careful when organizing any competition in using the participation fee and consult or get advice from the body of authorities. While the participants must also analyze the terms and conditions of a certain competition. This is to avoid any elements of gambling which has been clearly prohibited by syarak.

Hence, using the participation fee for the purpose of buying the prize for the winner is a form of a wager that is prohibited for it results in the loss through luck for the loser. Thus, it is advised for the organizers to find sponsors for the prize for the winners. If the participation fee is used for other costs such as renting a field and equipment, then this is permissible for it is for the benefit of all the contestants.

Wallahu a’lam.

[1] See al-Misbah al-Munir, 2/680

[2] See al-Ta’rifat, pg. 179

[3] Surah al-Baqarah: 219

[4] Surah al-Ma’idah: 90

[5] See Translation Halal dan Haram dalam Islam, pg. 558

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