What is the ruling on buying or selling virtual money in return for real money?
This question arises in some computer games, where the player fills the account with virtual money by means of real money, or sells it in return for real money. What is the ruling on that?
There is nothing wrong with filling a person’s account in a computer game in return for real money, whether the account is filled with virtual money equal to the amount paid, or is less or more than that. This has nothing to do with riba (usury), because the exchange here is not between money and money, rather it is between money and virtual credit.
Paying money in return for getting this credit so that one may play the computer game comes under the heading of permissible things.
All that is involved in this case is renting for a permissible purpose, according to the rules of the game, and renting things for the purpose of leisure or playing a game is permissible and there is nothing wrong with it.
Al-Khateeb ash-Sharbeeni (may Allah have mercy on him) said: If a bird is rented out for its voice, such as a nightingale, or for its colour, such as a peacock, that transaction is valid, because the benefits mentioned, namely enjoying its voice or colour, are things that are sought after and are valuable.
End quote from Mughni al-Muhtaaj, 3/446
Ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy on him) said – discussing what we learn from the hadeeth “O Abu ‘Umayr, what happened to the little bird?” – In it we see that it is permissible to spend money on permissible things to amuse small children.
End quote from Fath al-Baari, 10/584
The same ruling applies to spending real money to buy extra tools in the game, such as covering a distance, extra speed, or ammunition and weapons in fighting or war games, or fuel in car racing games, or credit to buy some of the things mentioned above and complete the game, and so on.
This is permissible and there is nothing wrong with it, because the purpose is to pay money in return for having the opportunity to play the game with extra advantages. If the game itself is basically permissible, then it is permissible to buy these extra things, the aim of which is to gain some advantage in the game.
Buying virtual money in the game is in fact paying a fee to play the game.
It makes no difference if it is bought for a set amount or it is said “pay such and such to start the game,” or “pay such and such to reach the second level,” or “pay such and such to buy a stockpile of weapons with which to fight the enemy in the game.”
With regard to the player selling the account or virtual money that he has earned in the game, for real money:
1. If he is going to sell it to the producer or owner of the game who let him play this game by way of challenging him to earn extra money, then this comes under the heading of gambling which is haraam, because his position in relation to the owner of the game is like that of those who make bets, in which they will either be winners or losers.
Playing games in return for financial compensation to the player is haraam in all cases, except in the case of exceptions made by Islam, namely archery and horse and camel races, and other activities that are similar to them in that they help prepare people for jihad and fighting.
Al-Khattaabi said: Giving prizes is not appropriate except in horse and camel races, and similar contests, and in archery contests. That is because these matters are preparation for fighting the enemy, and offering prizes for them encourages people to prepare for jihad.
As for contests in matters that do not come under the heading of preparing for war or strengthening oneself for jihad, accepting prize money for them is haraam and is not permissible.
End quote from Ma‘aalim as-Sunan, 2/255
See also the answers to questions no. 147826 and 22305
2. If he is going to sell them to an outsider who has nothing to do with the producer or owner of the game, then there is nothing wrong with that, because that comes under the heading of seeking compensation for a permissible benefit in the form of real money, and it does not involve any betting or competing against another for financial compensation.
In order to spend money on this game, it is stipulated that it should be free of haraam elements such as pictures of women, crosses, witchcraft, perversity or gambling, and it should be free of haraam things that may happen as a result of playing it, such as being distracted from the remembrance of Allah and prayer, or harm to the nervous system, sight, hearing and so on.
If it is free of all of these things, then there is nothing wrong with paying money to buy the game or to rent equipment or programs for the game; that includes filling up accounts to start the game or continue it.
However we should point out the following:
1. The benefit should be clear-cut and well-known.
2. It should not involve any extravagance.
3. It should not involve any waste of money.
4. It should not involve tempting a player to spend his money through the stages of the game, motivated by the pleasure of playing, then regretting it after it ends, because this comes under the heading of consuming people’s wealth unlawfully.
We should also beware of getting caught up in such games that are a waste of people’s time and distract them from more important matters and duties, especially since these types of activities may lead to trouble because of the players or the games themselves.
These kinds of games kill real productivity and make people addicted to a virtual world, so he will be used to producing illusions and selling illusions and even the game is an illusion that does not benefit him physically.
It was narrated that Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “There are two blessings that many people do not make the most of: good health and free time.”
Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 6049
Imam Badr ad-Deen al-‘Ayni (may Allah have mercy on him) said: It is as if he said: these are two things which, if a person does not make use of them as he should, then he has lost out, i.e., he is using his time in a manner that will not lead to good consequences.
If a person does not strive to do acts of worship and obedience at the time when he is healthy, then he is even less likely to do so at the time when he is sick; the same also applies to free time, so he will remain without good deeds to his credit, and he will be a loser.
End quote from ‘Umdat al-Qaari, 23/31
And Allah knows best.