Question to Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen:

Health care in the US where I live is very expensive, and if I do not have health insurance they will not treat me. If I want to pay for my own health care, I will go bankrupt and may even end up in prison. Is this considered to be a valid excuse for taking out health insurance, which is a form of gambling, given that there is no Islamically-acceptable form of insurance and I cannot afford to pay for health care for myself, my children and my wife in the way that is usual in some other countries?

The shaykh, may Allaah preserve him, answered as follows:

“So long as the man knows that this is a form of gambling, this is not permissible because it is of the works of the Shaytaan. He should rely on Allaah and put his trust in Him, because whoever puts his trust in Allaah, Allaah will suffice him, and whoever fears Allaah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (of every difficulty). So it is not permissible for him to get involved in insurance.”

We have already explained that the reason why health insurance is like a form of gambling is that a person pays a sum of money which becomes the property of the insurance company; if he falls sick or has an accident he will benefit, otherwise his money is gone. Moreover, the benefits he gains may be equal to what he has paid, or they may be more, or less. This involves jahaalah (buying something sight unseen) and undue risk, or consuming wealth unlawfully. It also means that one of the two parties will suffer a loss. I wish that some of the Muslims or wise people would set up cooperative insurance institutions that are in accordance with Islamic sharee’ah, the basic idea of which would be for people to cooperate in making payments to a specific account (that is not owned by any third party), so that if any one of them falls sick or has an accident, he will be compensated, with the consent of his partners. There would be nothing wrong with paying a salary to those who take care of this account, or with investing the money in another company according to a certain level of profit. And Allaah is the source of strength.

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