Some Muslims play the lottery hoping to win the jackpot despite a clear prohibition of gambling in the Quran. For many people, winning the jackpot is a dream come true — a life of luxury where one doesn’t have to bother getting up early to go to work or to plan ahead for rainy days. With massive wealth, one can pay mortgages, purchase latest-model luxury automobiles, take a tour around the world, and help the poor and the needy. This is how it appears from the outside, looking like nothing but financial security, material comfort, and unending happiness.
Is it real happiness, though, or only a mirage from a distance, alluring like the proverbial desert oasis that turns out to be something illusory? One might ask why Islam denies its followers from pursuing what appears to be a way to gain a life of joy that never ends, and the resources which can be used for good causes. The answer is simple: A believer puts his trust in Allah and whatever the Creator forbids him from doing is to be considered harmful to him, even if it appears otherwise. I had to struggle with this issue for some time but then a thought came to mind in a form of inspiration which helped me to get clarity and peace of mind. The fact is that Allah knows what is best for me. He doesn’t forbid me something to punish me or deprive me of something good. It is all in my best interest and for my well-being. I reflected on whether I would choose 100 million dollars that came with the misery of guilt and anxiety, or a wholesome amount of money that resulted from my honest labor and effort and the peace of mind that comes with that!
Is it real happiness, though, or only a mirage from a distance, alluring like the proverbial desert oasis that turns out to be something illusory?
I concluded that I would rather have a small amount of money with peace – peace with my Lord, with myself, and with my family. There is nothing more satisfying and joyful than a clear conscience! Playing lottery is a waste of money, as the chances of winning the jackpot is almost nil. As affirmed by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company), the chances of winning is comparable to the chance of being killed in a terror attack while travelling, or by being struck by lightning. Then there is the issue of what happens to people after they win huge sums of money. Business Insider, an online magazine, carried stories of jackpot winners who not only lost everything in the end, but some of them faced death threats from their own family members. It mentioned the story of Michael Carroll who won Britain’s £9.7 million ($15 million) jackpot in 2002. But a penchant for life in the fast lane — cocaine, parties, hookers, and cars —nearly destroyed his life in five years. The former garbage truck driver was then hoping to get his old job back. In another example, West Virginia building contractor, Andrew Jackson Whittaker Jr., walked away in 2002 with $114 million after taxes on a $315 million multi-state Powerball draw. That was just about his last stroke of good fortune. In two separate instances, thieves ran off with a total of $745,000 Whittaker had stashed in his car (not a very good idea to leave large sums of money in one’s car!) Then he was sued by Caesar’s Atlantic City for allegedly bouncing $1.5 million in checks. And within four years, his fortune was gone.
Allah, the Almighty and All-knowing will never order His servant to abstain from doing something unless it is good for him in the total scheme of things. He, the Most Merciful, doesn’t forbid him from something unless there is harm in it for him, his family, and the larger community. Now, praise be to Allah, the tempting symbols of wealth and happiness that allure consumers to buy into the jackpot never penetrate into my heart. I just look the other way. I see those winnings as debased money, money associated with nothing but corrupting influences and misery. It has no baraka (blessing) whatsoever. To have little money, to live modestly, to be happy with the provisions Allah SWT has provided me, that lot in life, with baraka, is better than possessing the entire world but being devoid of Allah’s blessing.