It’s week 8 of the NFL football season and I sit here writing this while simultaneously attempting to catch every touchdown on RedZone. There are still a few undefeated teams remaining and at least one of them will have a loss by tonight (Packers lost). It may seem futile to being writing this now almost midway through the season and with most people having locked in their fantasy teams since week one. However the Draft Kings and Fan Duel commercials continue to be ballyhooed in our faces so I figured why not?
A hotly debated topic especially in the past several years has been the permissibility of participating in a fantasy football leagues (prize or otherwise). If you’re reading this you probably already understand how the game works. If you don’t, you can check out this link to gain a more complete understanding of how this game is played.
This link will help you understand the money prize aspect of fantasy football leagues.
Allah says, “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.” [Maidah:90] He also says, 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.” [Baqarah:219] Maysir is the term used in each of these two aforementioned verses. Most scholars say that they both Maysir and Qimar mean gambling and this was the view of both Ibn Abbas and Ibn Umar. Other scholars say that Maysir has a broader scope than Qimar (gambling). For the purpose of this Article we’ll refer to both as gambling. Tawus and several other students of Ibn Abbas are quoted as saying “Everything that has to do with Qimar (gambling) pertains to Maysir, even the play of children with dice and walnuts.” Ibn Hajar defines gambling as “for each competitor to wager and the winner takes it all” [Fath al Bari: 6/73]
There are several classes of gambling. There is really no controversy on the permissibility of playing the lottery, slot machines, or sports betting. However, it is permissible for competitors to place wagers in certain scenarios. The Prophet (saw) said: “No stake is acceptable except in archery, racing a camel, and racing a horse.” [Tirmidhi] This hadith is sound. It is permissible in camel racing, horse racing and archery for competitors to bet among themselves. Some scholars add that other sports that are helpful in spreading Islam would fall under this same category of rulings as well.
Other sorts of beneficial competitions that are skill based and not based on chance (Quran competitions, swimming etc) are also permissible given that they meet certain conditions.
1) if a third party is giving the prize
2) if only one of the competitors is liable. ex: if two people are playing head to head and only one person has to pay if they lose.
3) if there is a third party (muhallil) that is involved in the competition but isn’t required to pay (opinion of Said b. Musayyab)
Donating your earnings to charity is a form of purifying illegal wealth. This doesn’t make it permissible to commit this act with the intention of giving it to charity. In Islam the ends don’t justify the means. There are many Muslims who participate in fantasy football leagues with their family, friends, or co-workers who say they will give their earnings to an agreed upon charity. This was actually a practice from the pre-Islam era. A group of people would gamble and the winner would have the honor of sacrificing a camel and distributing its meat to the poor. They even went as far as calling the one who sacrifices “Yasir (from Maysir which means gambling)” and the animal Maysir essentially naming it after the reason it was sacrificed. Despite the noble intention the Quran still clearly forbid it. Imagine someone saying, “I’m going to play the lottery and if I win all of my earnings will go to the masjid.
Many scholars are even against playing games that are rooted in gambling even if there is no gambling involved. Games like poker, blackjack, craps etc. First, for the reason that Allah mentions in the Quran that it is the work of Satan and secondly because it causes animosity and hatred. The $10 Billion fantasy football market (about 4X what America’s team is worth) seems to fit this description.
There are many free alternatives to playing in a prize fantasy football league where you are not required to wage anything and as Muslims we should at the bare minimum make use of those.
-Allah knows best