Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies are unlawful in Islam, according to Egypt's top cleric.
Grand Mufti Shawki Allam issued an official fatwa against it, saying "virtual currency" is not permitted and is not "acceptable interface of exchange," according to Ahram Online.
Justifying the fatwa, the grand mufti compared crypto-currencies to gambling. He said the comparison is merited "due to [digital currencies] direct responsibility in financial ruin for individuals."
He also said the currency could undermine Egypt's stability "impinges on the state's authority in preserving currency exchange, as well as its necessary supervising measures on domestic and foreign financial activities."
Why are crypto-currencies causing concern?
Digital currencies – such as bitcoin – are decentralized and not backed by a government, gold or silver. Because of such currencies' decentralization, they are difficult to track and have been linked to money laundering, as well as the sale of illegal drugs and weapons.
As a result, they operate outside of the traditional control of regulators. Many such currencies have been created in the past few years, with bitcoin surging to the head of the pack as the most valuable and widest known.
At the start of 2017, one bitcoin was valued at less than $1,000. However, just before the end of last year, the digital currency soared to close to $20,000. Since then, it dropped drastically and then slowly started to rise again.
Currently, at the time of writing, one bitcoin is worth just over $14,500.
Other Muslim leaders have condemned digital currencies
With the crypto-currencies' surging popularity, other Muslim leaders have taken a similar stance against them.
In December, Assim Al-Hakeem, a popular Saudi cleric, said that bitcoin and other digital currencies are banned under Islamic law, saying they are "ambiguous."
“We know that bitcoin remains anonymous when you deal with it… which means that it's an open gate for money laundering, drug money, and haram [forbidden] money,” Hakeem said, in a YouTube video.
Turkey's top religious authority – the Directorate of Religious Affairs or the Diyanet – also said in November that crypto-currencies are at odds with Islam, citing their use by criminals and the lack of regulation, according to RT.