Praise be to Allaah.
With regard to contests which consist of a draw for prizes, if the person who
wants to enter the contest can only do so by paying a sum of money, whether
large or small, in such a way that there is the possibility of his losing this
money and this chance is very high, such as the chances of winning being 1 in
10,000 or more, then this kind of contest comes under the heading of gambling.
This is what is known nowadays as a lottery or raffle. For example, one person
offers his car for 100,000 riyals, and he issues ten thousand tickets, selling
each ticket for ten riyals, then he makes a draw and one ticket will win while
all the others lose.
But if the contest does not require participants to pay money, such as
Qur’aan-reading contests for old and young, and it does not dictate that
responses be given on a certain type of paper, then these competitions are
permissible and may be mustahabb (encouraged), because they offer an incentive
to recite the Book of Allaah and learn about its meanings. A similar case is the
academic competitions where no loss is involved in entering the contest as the
answers may be given on any kind of paper.
Based on the above, we can say that the newspaper competitions which are
widespread in our media are a kind of lottery, whereby the entrant loses the
value of the ticket in most cases, and very rarely wins. Undoubtedly this is a
form of gambling, consuming people’s wealth unlawfully, deceiving people and
wasting money. One of the editors of one of our newspapers told me that the
paper he edits used to print forty thousand copies daily, of which nearly ten
thousand copies would be returned. After this newspaper started to run contests,
their print run rose to 300,000 copies daily, with no copies being returned.
Contestants were buying huge numbers of papers, not to read them but just to cut
out the entry forms so that they could enter the contests by submitting more
than one form.
Undoubtedly this is a kind of lottery and is a kind of gambling. I wish that
our brothers who are in charge of our newspapers would fear Allaah with regard
to their country and their countrymen and with regard to their earnings. I wish
that those who are responsible for the media, those who are in charge of the
press, would take a stand that is in accordance with the Islamic identity of our
country and free themselves from blame before Allaah with regard to their
responsibility to enjoin that which is good and forbid that which is evil.
The same applies to the TV contests which can only be entered by buying a
certain chip for entering contests, and the draws run by stores via tickets
which are only given to those who spend more than a certain amount. This means
that the ticket has a value which is paid for in the bill, and this comes under
the heading of a lottery or raffle.
Also included with these practices – contests run by newspapers, TV stations
and stores – are the deposit certificates which permit entry to contests by
giving depositors tickets, as mentioned in the question. The reason why these
are included under the heading of lotteries or raffles even though the bank
returns the deposit in full after the contest has ended is that the deposit has
to remain frozen in the bank until the end of the draw, and this means that this
deposit is rendered inactive and is not invested in favour of the one who
deposits it; rather it is invested in favour of the bank and not in favour of
its owner. What the bank takes from its investment of this deposit is equal to
the amount of money paid by the one who wants to enter the contest in return for
the deposit certificate, hence this practice comes under the same ruling as
lotteries and raffles.
Al-Da’wah magazine, issue # 1796, p. 19