If I were to make a list of the most frequent adverts I see on TV, alcohol and gambling/betting would be near the top of the list. Humans have desires and when the desires are met, they want more of it. Everything is good in moderation but many find it difficult to keep alcohol and gambling at that level.
Allah says in the Quran (2:219): “They ask you about intoxicants and games of chance. Say: In both of them there is a great sin and means of profit for men, and their sin is greater than their profit”
God tells us that indeed there is profit in both but this profit is outweighed by the sin attached to the activities. I wish to examine this verse based on what we see today.
The purpose of all adverts is to evoke a desire within the human being. During the Christmas period there is an increase in toys and games advertisements, with the objective of inciting a desire within children (whom it is the easiest to advertise to) so that they nag their parents for them to buy said products. There is actually a term for this called “pester power”. Charities try and reach out and touch our hearts and emotions, travel companies reach out to our desires and dreams of sun, sea and sand and so forth.
Gambling and alcohol play on our desires for wealth and to enforce the belief that alcohol is a precursor for a good night out. Before we look at the sin aspect of the two and examine why God has forbidden them, let’s have a look at the ‘profits’ in them as stated by God Almighty.
Alcohol does have health benefits. Moderate alcohol intake has benefits for the heart, brain and can reduce the chances of diabetes. The obvious benefit of gambling money is that there is a ‘chance’ you will double your money, therefore what God has stated is true. Both have an impact on the economy, generating a huge revenue stream through taxes etc, but up against the amount of lives that are destroyed as a result, it’s simply not worth it.
Alcohol and gambling advertisements have warning messages, now why is that? The reason anything has a warning message is because it’s dangerous, for example, all medicinal drugs have detailed instructions of when and how often to ingest and in what circumstances not to. Therefore alcohol and gambling organisations are required to encourage the activities on a moderate level. These messages are written in small at the bottom of our TV screens during the adverts, hardly prominent, whilst the advert itself is so lavish; one believes they cannot get enough of it.
These vices cause human beings to develop serious addictions and the majority of us; especially our youth are unable to indulge on a moderate level. You’re at a party and you have a glass of alcohol and you like the buzz so you want more or you can’t feel any buzz so you want another to feel that buzz. A person walks into a casino with £20, doubles it to £40 and then £80, he wins and wants more- the concept of moderation is not practised because one has that all sought feeling and wants more of it. We see this behaviour frequently in the West despite all those ‘powerful’ messages in advertisements. The number of celebrities who fall into alcoholism and waste their fortunes in gambling is telling. This is why Allah has forbidden it. He is our Creator and He knows our nature and tendencies, He will not forbid something without a just reason.
Indeed there are many people who indulge on a moderate level but I cannot emphasise how severely they are outnumbered by those who fail to control themselves. The effect of addictions includes problems in personal, social, work and family life as well as major health implications. The indirect results of consumption is that it depression and other mental health issues. They’re drugs and they destroy the human being.
What God has told us about these vices is true and we must adhere to His guidelines in order to live a happy and productive life. As Muslims, we must solely rely on Allah for sustenance and anything we earn is by due to Him, therefore by indulging in games of chance, we are relying on something else, usually ‘luck’ or our guesses, whereas all reliance should be placed upon Him. Whilst playing these games we are forgetting this all-important factor and it drives us away from His remembrance, as does excessive alcohol consumption, hence Allah has forbidden these activities for our benefit on a spiritual level as well as the aforementioned physical/material well-being levels.