With lottery tickets sold out at gas stations and convenience stores across America, the Powerball hysteria reached new peaks as Americans all over the country gathered around their screens on Jan. 13, 2016, with high hopes of winning. The shortage of winners since Nov. 4, 2015, brought the total amount for the game at a whopping $1.5 billion. It was announced that three tickets were drawn with the winning numbers, changing the lives for these people forever.
In lottery, the chances are slim, but the reward money is high — and what’s the harm in trying, right?
Countless Muslims urge otherwise.
Moe Shama, a Palestinian-American based in the Chicago area recently posted a video on his social media platforms, where he usually spends time creating entertaining clips. In the video, Shama, like others, gently urged fellow Muslims to remember to have faith in Allah (SWT) for financial support, not the lottery. In his video, Shama used the example of a poignant story in Islamic history (he corrects his account with the name in the comments) –- the story of Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA).
Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA), a companion of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), was once traveling on horseback and stopped in an unfamiliar town. Upon stopping outside of a mosque, he asked a nearby young man to watch his horse while he stepped inside to pray. When Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA) returned, he discovered that the young man and his horse were nowhere to be seen. Upon searching, he saw the young man attempting to sell his horse at the nearby market.
Staying hidden from the young man’s sights, he asked another man standing by him to ask the young man how much he was selling the horse for. When the man returned, he informed him that the price was 10 dirhams, which the man claimed to be entirely too much for the horse he was selling. Instead of marching forward and taking back his horse, Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA) asked the same man to purchase the horse.
When prompted as to why he would pay so much for the horse, he informed him of everything and stated that he had planned to pay the young man that exact amount earlier, simply for watching his horse, since he had the wealth and was always willing to help other Muslims.
The story of is honorable — instead of embarrassing the young man, reprimanding him or even refusing to pay him a single coin, Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA) decided to give the man the money he had initially intended to and move on, letting the young man believe he had outsmarted him.
While the story promotes morality and piety in dealing with injustice, it also has a very relevant moral — whether you achieve wealth of any kind in a halal or haram way, you were always going to achieve that exact wealth by the command of Allah (SWT). If you achieve a promotion at work by working hard and climbing up the ladder or if you blackmail your way to the top, the position you receive was always meant for you — you simply choose how you get there.
By this belief, if you were to buy a single ticket for the Powerball, and that ticket were to win you $1.5 billion, Allah (SWT) would have given you that exact amount in a different way that would not have involved purchasing that single ticket. That money is either meant for you or it is not, whatever the case.
Islam teaches us that our fates are already written, but we have the ability to choose between right and wrong — and that decision takes us to our fate, one way or another.
The story of Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA) teaches us that whatever is meant for you is already written — and whatever path you choose to get there is up to you. It teaches us that everything happens for a reason — and that if you put your trust in Allah (SWT), have patience, and make your choices with good intentions, you will have a much easier path to your goals.
It teaches us that, honestly, the Powerball is a huge waste of time and that if you’re supposed to make $1.5 billion in your lifetime, you should depend on Allah (SWT), not a gas station ticket. Because if our destiny was to be the beneficiary of such an amount, it is much better to make it in a way that will reward us tenfold in the afterlife than temporarily in this life.