It’s OK for Muslims to use lotteries

That is the clear message from a new paper from Crone & Silverstein ‘THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST AND ISLAM: THE CASE OF LOT-CASTING’ in the Journal of Semitic Studies, 2010, 55(2):423-450.

The abstract includes

It focuses on the practice of using lot-casting to allocate inheritance shares, conquered land, and official functions, and briefly surveys the history of this practice from ancient through Hellenistic to pre-Islamic times in order to examine its Islamic forms as reflected in historical and legal sources. It is argued that the evidence does suggest continuity between the ancient and the Islamic Near East, above all in the first century of the hijra, but also long thereafter, if only at a fairly low level of juristic interest.

You can read the full paper ($25 for non-academics) at (or go to my website

We have seen previously a case where the use of a lottery to share out goods has been rejected on religious grounds by Muslims: Lotteries for Cab Licenses.

This paper shows that although limited, lotteries can be found in the Quran (2 examples), and that most of the various strands of the Muslim traditions have accepted the judicial use of lotteries to divide property. (Thanks to Keith Sutherland and Anthony Barnett for drawing our attention to this paper.)

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