Rulings for Playing Chess in Islam
The game of chess has long been known by the muslims, from the time of the Prophet’s companions, -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him-.
The scholars have agreed that any game of chess that was followed with bets in which the loser should pay the winner whether in the form of material or immaterial stuff, is forbidden in shari’a and it is included in al qimar ( gambling).
They’ve also agreed that the chess that causes men to neglect their obligation to Allah and to other men, is also forbidden.
And they’ve also agreed that the chess of which the winner gets prize from the committee that holds the game is also forbidden, because it is not included in the three kind of games the Prophet -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- allowed and it doesn’t contain any element of agility of jihad (See: ‘Al Qimar haqiqatuhu wa Akhkamuhu, by Dr. Sulaiman Al-Mulhim, page 254).
As for the chess without bet, negligence of obligation, and without prize from any parties, it’s ruling is argued by the scholars.
The first opinion: The scholars from madzhab Maliki and Hanbali forbid the game of chess.
The foundation of their opinion is:
1. Ali Ibn Abi Thalib -may Allah be pleased with him- said, when he walked passed some people who were playing chess,
مَا هَذِهِ التَّمَاثِيْلُ الَّتِي أَنْتُمْ لَهَا عَاكِفُونَ
“What are these statues that you are keen on being silent before them?” (Narrated by Ibn Abi Syaiba. Imam Ahmad stated that this narration is valid).
Response: This narration is not a strong indication of the forbidden state of the chess, because Ali-peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- forbade them to play chess because the pions were the miniature of horses, or he forbade them because they had played it for too long, since Ali said, “you are keen on being silent before them.”
Thus, the prohibition was not caused by the game itself. If the pions didn’t contain any trace of cross and weren’t resembling the statue of men, or animal, then playing the chess is alright. (See: “Al-Musabaqat wa Ahkamuha fisy Syariah Al Islamiyah”, by Dr. Sa’ad Asy-Syatsri, page 228).
2. An indication that forbid the playing of chess because it is a similar game to the game of dice, that could drag the players to neglect their obligation of prayer. (See: Al-Mausu’ah Al-Fiqhiyyah Al-Kuwaitiyyah, volume XXXV, page 270].
Response: It is also not a strong indication, since there is a difference between the game of chess and dice. The dice is based on the luck, whereas the chess is based on intellective and strategic element to win the game. (See the book by Dr. Sa’ad Asy-Syatsri as mentioned earlier, page 228)
The second opinion: The scholars from madzhab Hanafi and Shafi’i do not forbid the chess.
These scholars argue that there are no indications that prevent people from playing chess, thus it is alright to play it because it is useful in training people’s mind in formulating the strategy of war as taught in the chess. Therefore, from this aspect, the chess might be analogized to any game that train people’s skills in jihad.
And Allah knows best, the opinion that allows people to play the chess is stronger as long as they can avoid the prohibition related to the chess above.
Author: Ustadz Dr. Erwandi Tarmizi, M.A.
Copied from the book “Harta Haram Muamalat Kontemporer” by Dr. Erwandi Tarmizi, page 269-270. Published by P.T. Berkat Insan Mulia. Second edition, April 2012.
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