The history of chess is a long and distinguished one that has been traced back as far as India in the Sixth Century AD. Other historians believe that the origins of chess might be more accurately attributed to developments in China. Either way, there is no doubt that chess experienced a significant spread after it came to the Islamic world. The game of chess arrived in Persia not long before the region became predominantly Muslim in faith. Persia’s Arab conquerors helped to spread the game of chess across the rest of the Islamic world and they also were key in helping to bring the game to Europe. There is no doubt that the Islamic world played a huge role in spreading chess and making the game popular. This is why it is so surprising when you often hear people say that haram (forbidden) in Islam. It is something that pops up a lot if you search for the topic and makes one ask the following question. Is chess considered to be haram?
It is commonly stated that chess is haram on many sources across the internet. Other sources contradict this statement. What seems to be clear regarding this question is the fact that various spiritual leaders in the Islamic world have differing opinions about this topic. There are notable spiritual leaders on both sides of this debate. Some say that it is haram while others say it is not. Beyond this, there is no doubt countless Muslims around the world love and enjoy the game of chess and play it regularly.
A Question That Lacks a Clear Cut Answer
One of the first things that one will notice when trying to find out if chess is haram is the fact that it is hard to find a definitive answer. Some notable Islamic scholars have stated that playing the game of chess is a waste of time that leads Muslims away from attending to their religious duties. This includes concern that the game can potentially cause an individual to miss prayer times. There is also concern amongst many of these Islamic scholars that playing chess can lead to gambling. Yet another reason why some Islamic scholars call chess haram is the fact that the chess pieces are cast in the images of life. This is considered to be haram but it has been compensated for by Muslim chess players who have created alternative versions of the iconic chess pieces used to play the game.
Though this idea that chess is haram is commonly held by many Islamic scholars, it is not universally accepted by any means. There are many notable scholars and spiritual leaders who believe that chess is fine as long as one limits themselves to a reasonable amount of playing time that will not take away from spiritual duties. They also commonly advocate for chess pieces that are designed within the scope of Islamic law. These scholars believe that games like chess can fulfill the important need that people have for recreation. They simply state that it should be played at times that do not conflict with prayers and it should not involve any gambling. Scholars such as these advocate for balance when it comes to the game of chess. As long as this is observed, they see no problem with playing that game and believe that it offers many benefits such as intellectual engagement.
These opposing viewpoints demonstrate why it is difficult to give a definitive answer regarding whether or not chess is haram. It all depends on the individual scholar but there is indeed no universal mandate in Islam that bans the game of chess. Some regions of the Islamic world might have stronger views on the thought that chess is haram than others do.
Is Chess Forbidden in Islam?
We have once again returned to the same question. Is chess forbidden in Islam? The most straightforward answer to this question is that it is not forbidden in any official or universal sense. At the same time, plenty of influential leaders within the Islamic world have individually declared it haram. One of the most influential Islamic spiritual leaders to take this stance on chess is Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh. He is the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia and one of the world’s most notable scholars of Islamic law.
The Grand Mufti believes that chess falls within the scope of gambling. This is something that is definitively considered to be haram by Muslims. Islamic scholar Assim al Hakeem is on the other side of the argument regarding whether chess is forbidden in Islam. Though he takes the position that it is an acceptable game to play, he does take the stance that it is forbidden for Muslims to become consumed with chess in any way that draws them away from their religious duties. He also emphasizes that there should be no gambling involved in playing chess.
Are There A Lot of Muslims Who Enjoy Playing Chess?
The reality is that Chess enjoys popularity with Muslims around the globe although the debate continues to rage regarding its status. The Islamic world has made some of the most significant contributions to the growth of chess over its long and storied history. When the Arabs first started playing chess, they called the game Shatranj. They even created new versions of the iconic chess pieces so that they would not contradict Islamic law.
These days, faithful Muslims around the world continue to enjoy the game of chess and the enjoyment that it can bring. Though there are leading Islamic scholars who claim that the game should not be played by Muslims, there are many others who emphasize that it is an acceptable practice so long as it does not detract from one’s devotion to the faith. It might be difficult to get a definitive answer to this question that would be agreed on by all Islamic spiritual leaders, but it is clear that playing chess is not officially banned across the entirety of the Muslim world.