Horse breeding for races

Q257 :In India, the only type of sport gambling which is allowed by the law is that of horse racing. Owners of horses which run in races are paid a fixed rate of stake money, which is determined before the season and does not change whether a horse wins or loses. I happen to be a horse lover and it is the enjoyment of my life to breed and train horses. If I run my hoses in races, will that be allowed? I neither gamble nor encourage gambling on my horses. The whole idea of gambling does not appeal to me in any way, because I know it is forbidden. However, breeding horses and training them to be able to win races gives me much enjoyment and provides me with income. Perhaps I should state that a person like myself would have to incur a great deal of money in order to get a horse in shape for racing. My question is whether it is permissible to breed, train, ride, own, buy and sell such horses? Moreover, is the money earned from running horses in races also permissible? May I say that I have a clear conscience about this. For me, the most interesting sport is horse racing. Whether in the capacity of an owner, trainer, jockey, commentator, critic or a breeder, horse racing gives me great pleasure. I only want to know whether Islam permits it.

A257 : My reader seems to be in a little bit of a difficult position. He is not interested in the gambling that takes place on horse racing. He simply wants the enjoyment of breeding, training, and riding horses, and possibly the investment that goes with it. This gives him a clear conscience, but still he feels something within him telling him that Islam may not approve of all this. It is that feeling I am interested in. Why should my reader entertain such a feeling, when horse riding as a sport is perfectly permissible? Similarly, the breeding, training and dealing with horses are all blameless pursuits. It is definitely the gambling that goes with all that which gives him that slight suspicion that he may be helping a process or a business of which Islam does not approve. He knows that gambling is forbidden in Islam and he does not get involved in it, but he realizes that he is going close to it. It is one of the points of strength of the Islamic faith that it develops such a keen sense among its followers that they want all their actions to be permissible and blameless, so that they do not incur God's displeasure. Indeed, Islam goes further than that and encourages followers not to come near to doubtful matters. Consider the following Hadith related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of An-Nu'man ibn Bashir who heard God's Messenger say: "That which is lawful is plain and that which is unlawful is [also] plain, and between the two of them are doubtful matters of which many people remain unaware. Thus he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor, but he who falls into doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful, like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it be well, all body is well, and which if it be diseased, all the body is diseased. Truly it is the heart." Perhaps, my reader does not get involved in gambling, but he is aware that he comes close to it. Hence, the example cited by the Prophet about the shepherd grazing very close to the sanctuary applies to him. The sanctuary, as defined by the Prophet, is the prohibitions God has laid down. I will give my reader an example. After careful study, a farmer realizes that the best fruits he could get out of his land is grapes. He takes very good care of his land and manages to get seeds of top quality. After a few years, he has the great satisfaction of having some of the best grapes in the area. This farmer is a Muslim, but he lives in a country where Muslims are in minority. Most people in his society are in the habit of drinking. There is a very good business in drinks. A brewing company approaches him with an offer to buy all his produce because it makes top quality drinks. When the farmer considers the offer, he finds that it gives him a much higher price than what he is ever likely to get if he sells his produce in the vegetable and fruit market. Moreover, arrangements will be made so that he does not have to worry about collection and transport. To him the offer makes very good business. Encouraging him, some people suggest that with his greater profit, he will be able to give a handsome portion to the poor. Should he go ahead and accept the offer by the brewery? The answer is a definite NO. By selling his grapes to a company, knowing that the grapes will be used to manufacture something which is forbidden to drink, he will be helping this type of business. Somebody may suggest that if he does not sell to the brewing company, other farmers will. True, but let other farmers do what they want; he should not put himself in a position where his business is geared to the manufacture of intoxicating drinks. If he accepts the offer, his earnings will be from a forbidden source. As such, they are not legitimate. My reader is in a very similar position. He does not gamble himself, but he is certainly helping and aiding a forbidden practice. Horse racing is a major enterprise, indeed a complete industry in non-Muslim countries. Getting involved with it so heavily is simply lending a helpful hand. That is not allowed to a Muslim. My reader knows that gambling is forbidden, and horse racing has become a major field of gambling. As such, everything designed to help this type of gambling flourish is forbidden. While there is nothing wrong with the breeding and riding of, and dealing with horses, but when that is geared toward serving a gambling sport, it becomes forbidden. I can say to my reader either to change the purpose of his business so as to make all his efforts geared toward legitimate practices or to leave this business altogether.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )