Elaborating on the rationale behind the prohibition of gambling in Islam, Dr.Monzer Kahf, a prominent economist and counselor stated the following:
“Number One, the Haram issue: 1) Definitely, the word “stay away from it (fajtanibuh)” means it is Haram. It is even more than Haram because it also means “don’t come close to it” This is why for instance in alcohol the prohibition covers not only drinking but also producing, carrying transporting, serving as we are told by the beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). And that is why in all these four things that are mentioned in this Verse the prohibition covers any amount because a “little” violate the order “stay away from it” (for instance having a small idol for decoration in a room, not for worship, is also Haram), etc. 2) Add to it: look at other things that are mentioned with gambling, all of them are definitely haram. 3) The word Rijs that is translated as “filthy works” is mentioned in the Qur’an 9 times all of them in relation to either prohibition or disbelief. 4) The four things that are mentioned in this Verse 5:90 are described as works of Satan’s. Work of Satan are certainly prohibited. And 5) the last sentence of the next Verse (5:92) also tells about prohibition, literally “won’t you obey the order of quit (fahal antum muntahun)”
Number Two, reasons for prohibition: What is mentioned in Verses 5:90-91 are not all the reasons. This is evident because “dedication to idols (Al-Ansab)” has a primary reason of believing in gods other than The God and alcohol can be used socially between friends (opposite of hatred!). In other words, what is mentioned in these two Verses are the reasons that suit the context of the Surah and surrounding Verses (please read Verses 5:87-96). There are other reasons that relate to each one of the four prohibitions that are mentioned in Verse 5:90.
The basic reason of the prohibition of Gambling is: transfer of wealth for no reason. It is UNJUST. Why should you take a million and why should you pay the ten? What is the reason? There is no rational reason for it. Reasons of getting a property from another may be: a gift (one will decision), a sell/buy (including work, this is an exchange of wills/properties) or the laws of entitlement (like inheritance, Entitlement also includes obtaining a property that was not owned before by justice-based laws like distribution of open land or simply getting water in your pitcher from a river). Are the roll of numbers, fall of a dice and flip of a coin reasons to transfer property? Of course they are not. This is “vain (`abath)”, it does not make a reason to change hands on property.
Number Three: We need to understand the issue of definitions. In all matters of “do” or “do not do” under all laws and in all human minds there must be a reference to a definite matter/thing. Therefore in Prohibition and Obligations in Islam (and in fact is all systems) the definition of the action/thing is basic because no one can apply do or not do without a clear-cut definition. Definitions put terms and determine boundaries. It is evident that there will be points around boundaries that may seem close to each other (paying for lottery, or having it free, having lottery for noble reasons like helping the poor or the sick….). I understand that some people say look at such closeness as puzzling. But in fact it should not be once we determine the definition and understand them. In the case of this question, since the definition of the reason of prohibition of gambling is taking other people’s property for no valid reason. If I take it with a one side will it becomes permissible as in prizes given to winners or in free lottery, there is a clear will.
Yet, while free lottery is not, strictly speaking, within the boundary of prohibition, I personally never mentioned that it is permissible for two reasons: 1) it takes the form of prohibited action; and 2) it has a bad intention behind it on those who offer it because it attempts to create addiction of gambling. For these two reasons (add to them it promotes a mentality of “getting it free”) I have never said that this free gambling is permissible although its prohibition is Ijtihadi and not for the same reason as the prohibition of gambling.
Finally the issue of creating an addiction. It is known scientifically that gambling creates addition. If it does that for only ten percent of gamblers, this will be a sufficient reason to disallow it in all societies, not only in our religion alone! It is like drinking alcohol, it does not hinder correct judgment if it is below certain level, do we accept it then within these levels? No because, looking at the macro level of a whole society, social drinking and a little of gambling always give a chance that some people shall exceed the limit. Therefore, it is an evil and we Muslims must stay away, rather far away, from it.”