Chess is more than a board game and that can be confirmed by anyone who has had the opportunity to move some pawns on the board. Chess is currently a sport with millions of followers around the world, and this fascinating game represents an intellectual challenge for its players, and for that reason, it is considered the strategy game par excellence. Today, we will tell you about the history of chess and how it has been related to the world of Islam throughout time, and we will also answer the most important question: Is chess forbidden in Islam, is it considered Haram?
To go into these questions we must know at least in a basic way two concepts that will be essential throughout the text: Haram and Halal. The first one refers to those rules established by Islamic law as forbidden, frowned upon and that should not be performed either for moral, ethical, or religious reasons, the second one is the opposite, they are all those activities that are allowed within the Muslim belief, and that is considered ideal to maintain both the personal health and the collective good of the believers of Islam.
The Origin of Chess & It’s Relation With Islamic Countries
The origin of chess is still uncertain, there is no exact reference about its origin beyond popular legends, however, there is the main theory about the creation of this ancestral game. This theory places the origin of chess in India, specifically in the Indus Valley province in the 3rd century BC. At that time known as “Chamaturga” was a board game that sought to represent the battle between two rival armies, and brought the excitement of that dispute in the area of strategy, thus confronting two commanders in chief, who are the two opponents who are facing each other.
If there is something that there is no doubt is that modern chess is not the invention of a single person, but it is an evolution that was given over the years and it is known that there are boards that over time were evolving, from some located in India where four players can play to boards whose chips refer to units of the ancient Islamic army.
This game became so popular that it began to be played in different latitudes, and although its origin is Asian, it quickly moved to the African and European continents, and it is precisely the Arab peoples who disseminated the game of chess in other continents. This happened firstly in the south of Spain, and then it reached Italy and from there to the rest of the continent.
Chess is par excellence a game of strategy, where each piece has specific moves, and together they form an army whose primary purpose is to defeat the enemy king. Chess (or at least the chess we play today) has gone through a long evolution, but it is believed that this version dates back some 600 years, and with the migration of peoples it expanded globally, becoming today one of the most played sports by people of all ages.
Board Games & Islamic Law
As all games of chance are strictly forbidden by Islamic law, the Muslim community has decided to take board games as an alternative for fun and healthy entertainment, however, not all board games are allowed, as Islamic law applies to everything, and permission to play applies even for certain board games, this will also depend on the branch of Islam that interprets it as well as the location where the game is played.
One of the first recorded prohibitions of chess dates back to the year 655, when the caliph Ali Ben Abu Talib, who was Mohammed’s son-in-law, showed his clear disapproval of the practice of the board game even though this game had been practiced normally before the appearance of Mohammed and his Islamic doctrine in the Arabian territory.
But the prohibitions are not only things of ancient times, in more recent times we can also witness this phenomenon. For example, the most radical Islamic factions are characterized by having much stricter rules, an example of this is the Taliban who occupied Afghanistan since 1996, among their new rules they established the prohibition of chess and other board games, the same happened in the territories occupied by the Daesh and Isis who eradicated these games to the fullest.Other Islamic religious leaders such as the scholar Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh think that chess is haram since they consider that it is a game in which time is wasted and that it is only based on generating conflict between people. After these statements, Al-Sheikh was harshly criticized by the international community, and by many Muslims as well, since as we mentioned before the acceptance of Chess varies according to the region where it is practiced and this has caused an internal debate among the Islamic community in general, with varied and divided opinions.
Are Chess Tournaments Haram?
If in some countries or regions the practice of chess is not well seen, much less will be allowed the competitions of this discipline, and is that the prohibition made by radical Islamists is such that the practice is prohibited in its entirety, without midpoints, it is not allowed even a game at home, much less an organized competition.
A victim of this way of thinking was the well-known Indian-origin Cricket player Mohammed Kaif, who posted on his social networks a photo of himself playing chess with his son, and this photo was harshly criticized by radical Muslims immediately, labeling the player as an immoral haram committer. On the other hand, there is a large part of the Islamic population that practices chess normally, and they are those who do not practice Islam qualified as “radical” in fact in some educational institutions chess is taught frequently, even holding tournaments because they consider that chess stimulates knowledge and strategy.
Is It Haram To Play Games in Islam?
Islamic laws are quite specific concerning gambling, especially gambling, as these are undoubtedly haram. Games, where gambling takes place, are considered dishonest, as the effort of work is not valued, and those who take the most advantage of the situation win. This detracts from the value of the property but it is also considered that gambling games are conducive to greed as they create the thought in people that wealth can be acquired immediately, which detracts from the resources that Allah has allocated to society. And the risk is quite simple with gambling: property and money are put at stake and this is frowned upon in Islam because the Prophet Mohammed has made it clear that it is something strictly forbidden.
Is It Haram To Play Monopoly?
Monopoly is a rather interesting game to analyze whether it is allowed or not by Islam since it has some peculiar characteristics that could be judged by this religion. First of all, monopoly is based on having the dominion of all the available properties (hence the name, monopoly) to obtain the dominion of these properties the game establishes commercial exchanges and transactions in play money that are carried out between the players.Because of these characteristics, monopoly is considered a game based on supply and demand, and this summarizes in a very direct way the dynamics of capitalism. Islamic culture allows monopoly to be played as long as there is no gambling, and the monopoly game in question does not have any representation that is considered blasphemous in the eyes of the Islamic religion. This way of thinking applies to other forms of entertainment as well, so we ask ourselves, is listening to music Haram in Islam?
Chess is an ancient game, whose origin is not yet fully determined but according to some research is believed to originate from the Indian game “Chamaturga” originating in the third century BC. Chess is a board game that is practiced all over the world and is known for being a game that demands a lot of intelligence and strategy, a game that in ancient times was tremendously popular in the Arabian regions, and that with the arrival of Islam was banned. Nowadays, in many countries and regions, it is considered Haram (forbidden according to Islamic law) the practice of chess, however, in many other latitudes it is practiced with normality, this shows that Islamic laws vary in interpretation depending on the place and the Islamic branch, and in the case of chess this means a debate about if it is a healthy sport that stimulates the thought or it is a practice forbidden for religious reasons.