Bandar Seri Begawan - This is an Islamic state but that does not mean there are no vices being committed here, including gambling that hinder people from remembering Allah and performing their salat. Allah Most High says in the Holy al-Quran, "Satan‘s plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will ye not then abstain?" (Al-Maidah: 90-91)
The Brunei Times spoke to a number of people who admitted to have gambled and who said their friends and colleagues have done the same abomination.
Haji Hamdan (not his real name) is 49 and a military officer who once took part in an SMS lottery which costed him "only" $9. A friend then told him to never do it again. Haji Hamdan said this friend had actually at one time spent $2,000 on the same SMS lottery. This person only stopped spending money after winning the prize of a mere handphone. Kalam, another close friend of Hamdan, once spent $400 in the same game and stopped after winning a Game Boy.
Amongst the most popular forms of gambling here is tangkap ekor (literally "catching the tail") or guessing the winning combination of numbers. This form of gambling is known in neighbouring countries of Malaysia and Singapore as Toto, 4D (4 digits), Magnum etc.
Some Bruneians are acting as the middlemen, writing down the numbers that their clients have picked and delivered them to the "agents" who can be either Bruneian or Malaysian. There are days designated for announcing the winning combination. Most of the clients are foreign workers, who used to buy the numbers from their own (local) employers. Now that the game can be done through SMS, they need only to text their numbers to the agents. One hotel employee mentioned how his own boss spends up to $3,000 every week. In fact, the boss also "helps" the employee purchase the numbers directly from Miri.
Why do people gamble? According to a civil servant, Sofwan (also not his real name), 35, some colleagues take part in gambling activities out of curiosity or simply because they want to know if they will be lucky. One person won thousands of dollars, and used the money to buy a car. "As long as I do not use that money to buy food (for my family, it‘s OK)," Sofwan quoted the colleague as saying.
Sofwan himself was not interested in SMS Quiz but he said he knew there were gambling activities taking place in some parts of Brunei Darussalam, including the cockfight in Tutong.
Both Sofwan and Hamdan said there have been raids conducted on such gambling activities. "Police will act if there is a fight due to gambling activities or if some members of the public lodge in complaints about the games," Hamdan said. He said some gambling takes place even during wedding festivities.
The Brunei Times also spoke to Rusman, 29, who spends much of his time in the Internet Cafe for the purpose of checking whether he has won anything because some agents announce the results through the Internet. Toto and Singapore pools, for instance, announce their results on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 4D on Saturday and Sunday. Gamblers may buy tickets from $1 onward and are promised the winning of up to $3,000 for 4D and $1.5 million for 7 digits. Hamdan realised he has done something wrong, and suggested that may be the Friday khutbah should come down stronger on the vice. Ustadzah Rogayah of the Islamic Da‘wah Centre gave four tips against the lure of gambling: to never ask for anything but from Allah, to learn about Islam and the halal and haram of things, to turn against temptations of get-rich-quick, and to follow the call to the true path from the Quran, ‘ulama and religious teachers.
Source: www.bruneitimes.com (2 Juli 2007)