Oman imam returns Dh2.4m won in bank raffle, citing Sharia

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The imam of an Omani mosque has returned a 250,000 rial (Dh2.4 million) cash prize from a bank raffle, saying it would be unlawful for him to accept the money under Sharia.

Sheikh Ali Al Ghaithi, 70, who lives in the northern city of Sohar, returned the money on Tuesday after he was notified by the National Bank of Oman over the phone of his “good fortune”.

“They told me I was fortunate but it is not a ‘fortune’ to win money I have not earned. Islamic laws say I cannot keep such money. So I told my bank to keep it. It is that simple,” said Mr Al Ghaithi, who has an account with the National Bank of Oman.

The bank entered all customers with a minimum of 1,000 rials in their account into the annual raffle and Mr Al Ghaithi’s name was drawn at random for the cash prize.

But the imam said he had put money into his bank account to save it and not “to make more money from doing nothing”.

The National Bank of Oman, which is the country’s second biggest in terms of assets, confirmed that Mr Al Ghaithi had returned the money.

“We always respect the wishes of our customers,” a spokesman for the bank said. “This is not the first time a customer wins a raffle draw and returns the money to us.”

Last year, another customer won 100,000 rials in the annual raffle and opted not to take it on religious grounds, the spokesman added.

Many Muslims consider such raffles to be the same as lotteries, which are prohibited under Sharia.

But some religious experts say a bank customer could give the prize money away as charity.

“You can accept such money and donate it to poor people. It is completely permissible in Sharia law,” Sheikh Rashid Al Khanjari, an imam in Barkah, a town north of Muscat, told The National.

However, another school of thought among experts of Islamic law disputes that, stating that money won in lotteries cannot be accepted or given away.

“It is tainted money,” said Sheikh Abdulrahman Al Kindi, an imam at a mosque in the Seeb area of Muscat.

“You have not worked for it. It is not yours to give it away. It is forbidden even to donate it as charity. Just return it and that’s it.” (source credit – The National)

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