SMS Competitions


In the celebration of Women’s Day, Spar was offering a R150 OFF pamper voucher. In order to qualify, one has to only send an sms charged at R1.50. Normal sms rates and free sms’s do not apply.

Is it permissible to participate in such an offer?




In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salamu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullahi wa-barakatuh.

In South Africa, any participation in an (SMS) short message service competition is charged at R1.50. On the other hand, a normal message is charged at a lesser rate. An (SMS) short message service competition is structured in the following manner:


  1. The networking company (MTN, VODACOM, CELLC etc.).
  2. The (SMS) competition company (SMSCA/WAPSA etc.).
  3. The Business Company (Spar etc. hosting the competition).

The networking company sells a short code (a five digit code) to the (SMS) competition company to administer the competition. At times, the (SMS) competition company is appointed as an agent to sell the short code to the business company hosting the competition.

The short code is used for value-added messages which can be billed at a higher rate than a standard SMS and may even subscribe a customer to a recurring monthly service.

In order to participate in a competition, a person has to send a message to a short code which will subscribe him/her to the competition.

Costs of Competition/Offer

The customer sends a message to the short code charged at R1.50. The networking company subtracts 60 cents of the R1.50. The remainder 90 cents is charged as the cost of the message.

An amount of 40 cents of the 60 cents is earned by the (SMS) competition company. The balance of 20 cents is earned by the business company.

(Note: the above figures are approximate and may differ using different services).

In analyzing the Shariah compliancy of an (SMS) competition/offer, we have to determine if the element of gambling exists. Gambling is defined as a contract of risking loss or gain.[1]

In a general (SMS) competition, the two contracting parties are the customer and the business company. The customer subscribes to the competition by paying R1.50 in order to win, for e.g. R1000 or lose R1.50. As such, an (SMS) competition constitutes gambling (Qimaar) and is Haraam.

However, in the enquired scenario, that is not the situation. One is paying R1.50 and is guaranteed a R150 Off Spar pamper voucher. There is no contract of loss or gain. This is categorized as a conditional goodwill (Tabaaru-e-Mashroot) by the business company in which the business company gifts the R150 Off Spar pamper voucher to anyone who sends an (SMS) message to the business companies short code in order to qualify for the voucher. This type of a conditional goodwill(Tabarru-e-Mashroot) is permissible in Shariah.[2]

Hence, in the enquired situation, it would be permissible to participate in the Spars R150 Off pamper voucher offer as it does not entail any form of gambling (Qimaar), rather, it is a conditional goodwill (Tabaaru-e-Mashroot) by the business company to anyone who sends an (SMS) to the business companies short code in order to qualify and is permissible in Shariah.

And Allah Ta’ala Knows Best

Mufti Ebrahim Desai.

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