Saudi Mufti Bans Chess

CAIRO – A video for the Saudi Arabia Grand Mufti has raised controversy in the Kingdom after he declared that chess was haram, claiming it wastes time and encourages “enmity and hatred.”

“The game of chess is a waste of time and an opportunity to squander money. It causes enmity and hatred between people,” Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah al-Sheikh, the Grand Mufti, said, according to a translation cited by The Independent on Thursday, January 21.

The comments were given during his weekly television show, though the exact date was not specified.

His fatwa does not constitute a ban in Saudi Arabia as it does not carry the force of law, yet it provoked debate in the country and on social media.

Musa Bin Thaily, who presides over the Saudi Chess Association’s law committee, said the planned chess tournament in Mecca would be going ahead on Friday.

Pointing out that the Grand Mufti’s proclamation is old, with a YouTube video showing it put online last month, he confirmed that the fatwa banned chess used for profit, gambling or interrupting prayers and other religious duties.

“Many things are said to be illegal and religiously banned in #Saudi,” Mr Thaily wrote on Twitter, sharing photos of United Arab Emirates dignitaries at Saudi Chess Association events.

“The Saudi Chess Association has put great efforts in chess popularity and will continue holding events everywhere unless forced otherwise.”

He noted that many religious bans are not enforced in Saudi Arabia, adding that “religious society banned public music festivals but they’re everywhere”.

In Islam, it is allowed to play chess as long as it does not include gambling and does not cause him to neglect Prayers or any other religious duty.

Chess is a very popular game, and the opinion of jurists concerning it varies. Some scholars consider it halal (permissible), others consider it makruh (reprehensible), and still others consider it haram (unlawful).