Assalamualaikum SS Dato’ Seri Mufti. I observe that recently there are numerous claw machine games that operate in shopping malls. My question is, what is the ruling of playing these machines? Hope for an explanation. Thank you.
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Every Muslim who professes that he is a believer and adheres to the teachings of Islam to ensure that everything in his life is in accordance with the syarak. This includes one’s physical actions as well as what is in their hearts. In a hadith narrated by al-Nu’man bin Bashir RA, the Prophet PBUH said:
إِنَّ الْحَلاَلَ بَيِّنٌ وَإِنَّ الْحَرَامَ بَيِّنٌ وَبَيْنَهُمَا أُمُورٌ مُشْتَبِهَاتٌ
“What is lawful is clear and what is unlawful is clear, but between them are certain doubtful things.”
Sunan Abi Daud (3329)
Claw machine is a type of arcade game where one uses a claw to try to get the prizes from inside the machine, paying a certain amount as a bet.  Specifically and practically, this game has elements of gambling that is prohibited in Islam. Allah SWT state:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالْأَنصَابُ وَالْأَزْلَامُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
“O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allah], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful.”
Surah al-Maidah (90)
Syeikh al-Maraghi said, gambling is the source of enmity and hatred among those who gamble. Naturally, people who gamble will be hostile towards those who win and will be happy on the sadness of others. This will lead to the violation of the rights of one’s parents, wife and children. Ultimately, they will be ridiculed and hated. It is a fact that gambling can sometimes make a poor person rich, but it extorts the property of others, especially for first time losers who will take it as a challenge and try to win the game again and again. Sometimes, someone will keep on losing until he has spent all of his money. At that time, he will become poor and become hostile towards those who win and defeated him. (See: Tafsir al-Maraghi, 4/1691)
Any type of games that depends on luck without any use of one’s intelligence such as games of dice, and cards (that involves betting) and others is prohibited. The reason is, it will make one grow accustomed of depending on one’s luck in anything that he does. They will then believe and depend on luck for anything in this life. This games negatively affects humans. (See: al-Fiqh al-Manhaji, 8/146)
Answering this issue, the concept featured in claw machine games denies the rights of the buyer to choose a prize that he wants according to the payment he made. Hence, this situation violates the proper principles of trade such as khiyar (choice). In classifying certain games as gambling, the scholars set the following conditions:
- It is participated by two or more people, or two or more groups.
- Each party (participant) would bet something; in terms of property or profit.
- Any participant that wins will be rewarded with property or profit from the losing party and gets to keep the property or profit that he puts as a bet in the beginning. (See: Halal Dan Haram Dalam Islam, pg. 427)
As a conclusion, we are inclined to state that claw machine games are prohibited. The reason is, the game directly denies and neglects the rights of the player to choose the prize he wanted based on the price that he paid. Furthermore, this game is based on one’s luck which is prohibited in Islam.
Hopefully, this explanation will open the minds of people to avoid committing anything that is prohibited in Islam. Amin