The word maisir is derived from different roots, such as yasara means to become gentle, to draw lots by arrows, or yasar means affluence because gambling bring about profit, or yusr means convenience, because gambling is a means of earning without toil, or yasr means dividing a thing into a number of shares. Zamakhshari (d. 538/1144) in Kashshaf (1:261) cites the word maisir as denoting the Arabic word qimar means gambling, namely “taking some one’s property in an easy way without effort and labour.” Shawkani (d, 1250/1832) in his Tafsir (1:220) lists the word maisir as meaning al-jazur, means a slaughtered animal, the division of whose parts were subject to gambling among pre-Islamic Arabs. The word maisir occurs three times in the Koran. Thus, maisir or gambling denotes a game of haphazard in all matters, particularly a game of chance by means of divinatory arrows. Maisir is of various categories; some of them are seeking omen or fortune by divinatory arrows, backgammons, chess, lottery etc. Gambling means all dealings in which people are required to make a bet, which involves some aspects of gambling is maisir. The Koran says: “They ask you about intoxicating liquors and games of chance. Say, in both of them is great sin and some utility for men, and their sin is greater than their usefulness” (2:219), and “O you who believe! Intoxicants and games of chance and sacrificing to stones set up and the divining arrows are only an infamy of Satan’s work; shun it therefore that you may be successful. Satan seeks only to cast among you hatred and strife by means of wine and games of chance, and turn you aside from the remembrance of God and from (His) worship. Will you not, therefore, abstain from them?”(5:90-91).
It is evident from the above verses that games of chance (maisir) entail great sins and promises petty benefits and that maisir is an abominable act of Satan. It is therefore, imperative to avoid gambling in order to achieving success and happiness.
Muhammad Iqbal Siddiqi writes in Why Islam forbids Intoxicants and Gambling (Lahore, 1981, p. 133) that, “There is no difference of opinion among the jurists that every sort of gambling is harmful, except betting for horse-race and archery, which have been declared lawful for persuading for horsemanship archery and preparation for jihad, which God says: “Make ready for them all you can of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby you may dismay the enemy of God and your enemy” (8:60).
As far the stone-altars, they were stones erected round the Kaba in the pre-Islamic period. People used to slaughter their sacrificial animals beside these altars and seek nearness to them through worship. Such altars were 360 in number. On the advent of Islam, these altars were removed from there. This dismantlement of altars took place on the eve of the victory of Mecca when the Prophet climbed on them with a staff in hand and demolished them one after the other and recited the verse: “And say: truth has come and falsehood has vanished away. Lo, falsehood is ever bound to vanish” (17:81). Every stone clod of clay, tree or sea that is worshiped falls under the category of altars.
As far divining arrow (azlam), they are arrows cut off in thin slices of wood in the shape of arrows having no heads. In the pre-Islamic period the Arabs were taken to draw lots with a view to seeking good or bad omen.
As far abomination (rijs), everything loath-some, whether physically or abstractly is rijs (abomination). Accordingly, it is said rajulun rijsun means an abominable man, and rajulun arjasun means abominable men. Abomination is of various kinds: abomination by nature, abomination in the eye of intellect, abomination declared as an abomination by the Shariah like wine and game of chance or an overall abomination like a corpse because it is despicable by nature and in the eye of intellect and Shariah.
When famine broke out the Arabs brought sacrificial animals like camel and sheep and slaughtered them. Then they divide them into 28 shares and place ten arrows near them, namely fadh, tawam, raqib, hils, nafis, musbil, mu’alli, manih, sanih and waghd. One out of these 28 shares was earmarked for fadh, two for tawam, three for raqib, four for hils, five for nafis, six for musbil, seven for mu’alli; and mu’alli would receive a major share and from this a proverb came into vogue, every one who would have a lion’s share of anything was called sahibu al-qidhil mu’alli. The last three arrows manih, sanih and waghd had no share at all. This process always was completed among ten persons like drawing lots. These shares were distributed among the needy and they themselves did not eat anything out of them. They felt proud of that act and condemned those who did not participate in this ritual. The later were nicknamed as baram i.e., a mean and niggardly man devoid of manly traits. Later on, they forgot the spirit of the ritual and made the arrows a means of business without any consideration of munificence and help to the needy. Then a man began to gamble with all his property and as a result therefore became a destitute and penniless.
During the period of ignorance, the Arabs used to make ten arrows, which were strips of wood without headpoints. They named them aqlam (pen-sticks), qidah (featherless arrows) and azlam (divinatory arrows); which were put in a ribabah or leather-bag tossing on the arm. Then a man would put his hand in it to bring out an arrow in the name of a polytheist, and son on. If an arrow having some share was brought out for a man, he took the share specified for it and if an arrow having no share was brought out for a man he would not get anything but loses the entire cost of the sacrifice.
Gambling entails religious, social, moral and economic harms. It distracts those who partake the game from the remembrance of God and prayer. When a gambler sits continuously for hour together, he is so absorbed in it that he forgets everything around him; rather he becomes unconscious of his own self. He forgets his household and family. Gambling sows the seeds of disputes and quarrels among the gamblers, which ultimately assumed the shape of enmity and hatred. It corrupts morals making people sluggish in waiting for providence by whimsical means and giving up activities essential for making earnings. It enslaves the gambler who becomes a mute slave in the hands of gambling and seldom succeeds in abandoning it. When he earns some benefit, his greed for gambling increases and when he loses the game, even then his interest in the games of chance increases to make good the loss. In this way, he remains awfully engaged in gambling till he becomes a destitute.