Wednesday word: maysir

May 9, 2012

Maysir means “gambling,” and it is prohibited by Islamic law.  Muslims throughout the centuries have regarded maysir as any type of game of chance with money at stake.

In the time of Muhammad, however, it is possible that maysir simply referred to one particular game of dice, as described in Franz Rosenthal’s book Gambling in Islam.  Nonetheless, Rosenthal says that no proof is available either way, and Muslims have been consistent in outlawing virtually any type of gambling.

The Koran, Sura 5, Verse 90 says, “O ye who believe!  Strong drink and games of chance [maysir] and idols and divining arrows are only an infamy of Satan’s handiwork. Leave it aside in order that ye may succeed.”

The advocates of sharia law are so adamant on this point that they’re willing inflict severe injuries on those who gamble.  See this recent news (h/t Atlas Shrugs) out of Aceh, Indonesia, where 11 were caned for gambling.

Would you look forward to living under Islamic law where a private bet over a sporting event or a game of cards subjects you to a public caning?  Do you, like some in Washington, D.C., Paris, and London eagerly anticipate the ascension of “democratically” elected Muslim Brotherhood partisans in the wake of the Arab Spring who will impose penalties such as the ones Acehnese authorities have meted out against low-stakes gamblers?

The prohibition on maysir is based on irrational superstitions, petty whims, and ill-conceived utterances of a violent man 14 centuries ago.

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