Raffles & lotteries for raising funds

Q559 :Is it allowed to conduct raffles or lotteries in order to raise funds for a noble cause?

A559 : Even when there is a noble cause, raising funds for it must conform to Islamic principles. The principles that "the end justifies the means" is simply unacceptable. If we want to serve a noble cause, we must do so by appropriate means. When people buy lottery tickets, what is the aim behind this purchase? It is clearly to win the jackpot or a high prize. In other words, a person may be willing to pay SR. 100 just to have a chance of winning a prize of, say, SR. 100,000. If he wins it, then he is actually getting 1,000 Riyals for each Riyal he had spent. That is a great gain by human standards. It is certainly to make such gains, or to win such prizes, that people buy lottery tickets. Little do they think of the cause for which a lottery is organized. On the other hand, governments organize national lotteries in order to raise funds, which they may use for financing public projects or some other government business. Governments certainly raise large amounts of money in this way. They normally allocate about 30 percent for prices and around 25 percent for the administration and expenditure, while the remainder goes to finance its projects. People part with their money knowing that they have little or no chance of landing a major prize or hitting the jackpot. But it is to satisfy their dreams of sudden wealth that they are prepared to buy such worthless tickets. There is no doubt that such an exercise is forbidden in Islam. It is forbidden for a government to organize it and forbidden for individuals to buy lottery tickets. The reason is that, for the major part, this exercise lures people and offers them next to nothing. If raffles are organized on the same lines, then the same verdict of prohibition applies. However, we can make a distinction here. Suppose a charitable association organizes a dinner or a party and fixes a high price for the tickets. Suppose also that the actual cost of the dinner or the party is SR. 50 per person, while the charitable organization fixes a price of, say, SR. 200. People come forward and buy those tickets, knowing that they are actually helping the cause for which that charity works, but they are getting an outing in the bargain. They do not expect anything more for their money. They are happy to do so because they want to help the charity. Suppose that the charity organizes a draw offering some prizes which it received from companies or other patrons. It uses the tickets sold for that party in the draw. They make the draw and offer the prizes to those whose ticket comes out. That is permissible because no one was expecting such prizes. They only paid [willingly a high price] for the dinner and got what they paid for.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )