Islamic scholars unanimously agree that gaming is halal in Islam if the game’s contents are halal and the believer is not distracted from his/her obligations.
In this article, we’ll explore the scholarly opinions about gaming in Islam and discuss the evidence they refer to.
Table of Contents
Is Gaming Haram?
According to Islamic authority figures, gaming in itself is not haram. However, if the game contains haram content (such as nudity or anti-Islamic content), then it is haram.
Moreover, if gaming distracts you from your other obligations (such as prayer), then scholars consider it haram for you to keep gaming. This is because it has become an addiction that distracts you from your fard (obligations).
Islam Q&A was asked a question about the permissibility of gaming in Islam, specifically concerning electronic games (like those produced by Nintendo and Sony). In their response, the authority site clarified that playing these games is generally permissible. Playing certain games can be haram for the reasons we mentioned above.
Why And When Can Gaming Be Haram?
Gaming as an activity can be haram if it distracts Muslims from our obligations (fard). For example, if playing video games distracts you from salah (prayer) and causes you to miss it, then the activity becomes haram.
Moreover, it is haram to play games that include gambling or betting. Sheikh Dr. Haitham al-Haddad clarified that such games are haram in themselves. (source) It is also haram to introduce gambling or betting into gaming – e.g. to bet on certain teams winning a competition (source).
Another interesting question we encountered concerned prize money involved in video gaming (source). Islam Q&A responded to a question that asked about the permissibility of playing a video game with the intention of winning prize money.
The authority site shared its understanding of a few key points:
- According to them, playing these games on the basis of money being collected by the winner is not permitted except in horse and camel races, archery, and similar games.
- If the prize money comes from both competitors, it is gambling and thus haram.
- If the money is given by one person and not the other, it is haram.
- If the money is given by a third person, it is also haram.
The authority site referenced the following hadith as evidence for point 1 (source):
There should be no (money) prizes for competitions except in archery, camel-racing and horse-racing.Narrated by at-Tirmidhi, 1700; Abu Dawood, 2574. Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani.
Moreover, they clarified that these skills help Muslims prepare for jihad (struggling to achieve something great), and some scholars thus extend the allowance for any games that helps jihad (struggling to achieve something great) in material terms and otherwise. So, these could include games for memorizing the Quran or competitions in boasts/aeroplanes.
Which Games Are Prohibited in Islam?
Games that contain haram content, such as nudity or gambling, are prohibited in Islam.
From consulting various sources that we shared above, we found that majority of Islamic scholars consider the following as haram content in video games:
- Games that contain nudity. This includes animated characters that expose their awrah (we discussed this in detail in our article on if watching anime is haram)
- Games that involve gambling or betting.
- Games that can cause harm to the nervous system.
- Games that glorify the kuffar or disrespect Islamic teachings. This includes games where players destroy sacred places like Mecca in exchange for points.
However, we found that scholars have different opinions about the permissibility of fantasy elements (such as flying, magic, reviving characters, etc.) in video games. Islam Q&A listed playing games with these elements as impermissible (source).
But Sheikh Assim al-Hakeem has a different viewpoint (source). He clarified that since killing and reviving characters or flying in video games is not realistic, he does not consider games with this content to be haram.
He elaborated by explaining that killing a character and collecting tokens to revive them is not the same as taking life in real life, and that the game is detached from reality.
From our research, we found that most Islamic scholars have similar opinions about the permissibility of video games in Islam. They unanimously agree that games in themself are halal (unless they are based on gambling or betting, which are innately haram).
They also agree that games can be haram if they contain haram content, and that playing these games becomes haram for a Muslim if it distracts one from his/her obligations (fard).
We did find that some scholars have different opinions about what counts as haram content. Scholars are unanimously agreed on nudity, gambling, and anti-Islamic content being haram, but they have different perspectives about the permissibility of fantasy elements.
So if you’re not sure about a particular game, you can reach out to a trusted Islamic authority figure to ask them about the allowance for playing it.
Moreover, as the scholars have pointed out, it’s also important for us to avoid getting immersed in video games and distracting ourselves from our obligations.