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987 I would like to know if any of the following two competitions are Haraam. Also if you could detail as to when can (if possible) for a competition involving money to be Halal.

1. Reverse auctions SMS. This is carried out by sending a text message being charged at say £1.50. You are bidding for an item say a car for example. You have to text the lowest unique bid that no-one else has already done so, to win the car. For example you could text 10pence, if no-one else texts 10pence and that is the lowest unique bid then you win. But if someone else also decides to text 10pence then your bid no longer becomes unique and so you will have to choose another text if you want another try?

2. Competition lines charged at premium rate numbers. You have to ring a premium rate number, charged at say 50pence per minute. You have to be the 1000th or 2000th or 3000th caller etc.... when you call, the computer voice will let you know what calling number you are. If for example you are the 995th number, you may want to quickly call again to be the 1000th caller; you may be quick or miss it and have to wait to try for the 2000th. You win a prize or monetary value if you get one of the number sequences. Is this Haraam or not?
Gambling is clearly forbidden in Islam and is described ‘as the work of the devil’ in the Holy Quran. This includes all types of games of chance. If a person wages an amount of money in the hope of gaining a larger amount, and this larger amount will be decided by a draw or some other random manner, then such a transaction is Haraam.

Therefore the premium rate call example is forbidden, because you have paid for the call, in hope of gaining a larger amount that depends on sheer chance.

As for the first SMS text auction case, a conventional auction is not forbidden. This is because a transaction in Islam is simply when the buyer and seller agree to a price. But the nature of the SMS text auction that you describe is gambling in all but name; you are paying for the text and then the chance of gaining the item is down to luck.

In a normal auction, the price is determined by supply and demand; the market forces in essence sets the price. If the item is valued then the price will be higher, and it is not, it will sell for a cheaper amount. But here, it depends more on luck and it is not a conventional transaction; the provider is making money from the texts and the eventual purchase. Therefore, such an auction is not permitted.

(Answered by: Alims at Islamic Centre, Leicester, UK.)
Category (Halal / Haram)