It is important for a Muslim to know the value of his time, for indeed time is life. A Muslim should not waste his time in things that do not bring him closer to Allah, in things that will not serve as a contribution to the betterment of his people, his society and mankind in general. We should keep in mind that everyone needs some leisure activities to relax after hard work, but a Muslim should not fill his life with leisure. Playing pool or billiards is permissible as long as there are no violations to the Islamic rules governing the issue. The prominent Saudi Muslim lecturer and author, Sheikh M. S. Al-Munajjid, states the following: “To begin with, I would like to stress that one of the righteous successors or the salaf passed by some people who were playing and said, “I wish that time could be bought with money, then I would buy these people’s time!” Yes, for those great men, the hours of the day were not enough for research, study and serious work; they used to sleep and eat less so that they would not be wasting time.
Now, we see the youth, unfortunately, wasting the best years of their life with play and leisure. We do not want our young brothers to regard as forbidden the kinds of leisure and play that Allah has permitted them to do, but we wish that this would not be the thing with which they are preoccupied night and day, and that they would look for a game that will benefit them mentally and physically and help them develop their skills.
Second, playing pool billiards in most clubs and in bars is not permissible, not because the game itself is haram (forbidden), rather because these places involve many haram things such as swearing, neglecting prayer, gambling, and drinking alcohol, and playing in them involves keeping quiet about evil with no need to stay in these places.
As for playing this game in places where no evil things are present, there is nothing wrong with that, but that is subject to conditions, for example:
1- There should be no betting.
2- There should be no swearing, name-calling, mockery or hatred.
3- It should not lead to missing obligatory duties such as prayer, seeking knowledge, and looking after one’s family, teaching them and disciplining them.
Most of the jurists, including Imam Ibn Taymiyah, regarded chess as haram, and those who allowed it did so only if these conditions are met. When we think about youth and the way they play, we will see that these conditions are hardly ever met. Imam Ibn Taymiyah said concerning chess – and his words may be applied to pool, billiards and other games that young people play today: “What is meant is that when chess distracts people from their duties, whether inwardly or outwardly, then it is haram according to scholarly consensus. The fact that it distracts people from fulfilling their duties properly is so obvious as to need no explanation. The same applies if it distracts people from duties other than prayer, such as taking care of oneself or one’s family, or enjoining that which is good and forbidding that which is evil, or upholding the ties of kinship, or honouring one’s parents, or fulfilling one’s duties with regard to public office, etc.”
It rarely happens that a person involves himself with these games and they do not distract him from some duty. It should be noted that there is scholarly consensus on the prohibition in such cases.
Similarly, if the game involves something that is haram or leads to something haram, then it is haram according to scholarly consensus, such as if it involves lying, false oaths, cheating, or wrongdoing or helping in wrongdoing. That is haram according to the consensus of the Muslims, even if it is in a race or contest, so how about if it is chess or dice and the like?
The same applies if it involves some other kind of evil, such as getting involved in something that may lead to immorality, or cooperating in aggression, etc., or if the game attracts too many people, which leads to neglecting an obligatory duty or doing something haram. This kind of game and others like it are things that the Muslims are agreed are haram. (Majmu` Al-Fataawa, 32/218)
One of the common ways of gambling in this type of game is loser being the one who has to pay the table rent, this is a kind of gambling, which is haram because Allah says, “O you who believe! Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), and gambling, and Al Ansab, and Al Azlam (arrows for seeking luck or decision) are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. So avoid (strictly all) that (abomination) in order that you may be successful. Satan wants only to excite enmity and hatred between you with intoxicants (alcoholic drinks) and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and from the prayer. So, will you not then abstain?” (Al-Ma’idah: 90-91)
The basic principle is that the rental of this game – if it is free of haram elements – should be paid by all the players. But when the players agree that the loser will pay for himself and others, and the winners will not have to pay anything, this is what is called sabaq or prize money and it is like betting on the game. This is not permissible according to the Shari`ah, except where that has been narrated in a text in cases having to do with developing skills that are useful for Jihad because the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “There is no sabaq except in archery, horse-racing and camel-racing.” (Reported by At-Tirmidhi, 1700; classed as authentic by Al-Albani)
That applies only to archery competitions and horse and camel racing, and the scholars drew analogies to other skills that are useful in Jihad. Some also allowed competitions that have to do with Islamic knowledge, as such competitions support Islam such as Jihad with the sword, if not more so.”