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The Erdogan Government’s Justification for Utilizing Gambling Revenue

Last week, journalist Cevheri Güven mentioned in his video a fatwa that allegedly suggested commissions from gambling money could be used for the Islamization of Cyprus and Africa. The fatwa was purportedly issued by Hayrettin Karaman. I immediately wrote on Twitter that he had the right to respond to such a serious claim.

I waited until Sunday, thinking he might address it in his column. He didn’t. Instead, he shared a poem he had written. I thought he might have sent his article to the newspaper earlier, or he couldn’t write due to health issues or other engagements, so I decided to wait another week.

I waited.

In his column this week, he still didn’t mention the issue. He reposted an article he had written 20 years ago about the principles of the Ensar Foundation regarding conflicts and divisions among Muslims, saying he had “slightly updated it.” So, I decided not to wait any longer and started writing the article you are now reading.

Gambling is explicitly and clearly forbidden by God. “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. Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So will you not desist?” (Ma’ida, 90-91)

I only mentioned these two verses, but that’s all. I will neither comment on these verses nor refer to related hadiths or jurisprudence. Because every Muslim with even a basic level of religious knowledge, be it at Imam-Hatip High School or even Quran Course student level, knows that gambling is forbidden in Islam. Whether they practice this knowledge is a different matter, but they know. Wouldn’t Hayrettin Karaman know?

Of course, he knows but…

That but is important. So, what is this fatwa all about? Could Hayrettin Karaman really have issued such a fatwa? I don’t want to believe it. It pains me even to think that a teacher who dedicated all his life after university to religious studies and especially Islamic law would say yes to gambling.

I understand, you might say, “He’s not saying ‘yes’ to gambling, but to using the proceeds from it for a noble cause.” Please, don’t do this. What noble cause? Islamizing people with commissions from gambling money? Also, what does Islamization mean? If it means explaining and spreading Islam, then fine. But becoming a Muslim is a matter of personal free will.

Moreover, when did it become legitimate to explain Islam through illegitimate means? Didn’t Karaman teach us in his books and lectures over the years that one should not serve truth and justice through illegitimate means?

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Let me ask again, has he issued such a fatwa? As I said, I don’t want to believe it, but I can’t say for sure that he hasn’t. I wish I could.

We’re talking about a man who said, “Corruption is not theft!” based on his political views. And it didn’t stop there. He also issued fatwas for oppression and persecution of Muslim individuals and groups that could be obstacles to the government’s supposed ideals, all in the name of public welfare. There’s more, but let’s leave it there. That’s why I can’t say he hasn’t issued it.

Another reason I can’t say he hasn’t is that despite sufficient time passing since Cevheri Güven’s video, he still hasn’t responded. Should we think, “Silence is consent”? But such a claim should not be dismissed with silence, in my opinion. Hence, it only increases the ‘what ifs’ in people’s minds.


They continue to hollow out the essence of Islam at full speed. Even their failure to respond to this widely discussed claim, from social media platforms to friendly gatherings, is one of the most important indicators of hollowing out the religion theoretically. Politicians practice it, while Karaman and his like fill those theoretical gaps by abusing religion.

What a pity!

The day will come when you will be cursed. I have no doubt about that.

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Dr. Ahmet Kurucan is a an author and scholar focusing on Islamic Studies and Law.


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