The question Is chess haram? delves into a nuanced discussion rooted in Islamic jurisprudence, reflecting a spectrum of scholarly opinions. Historically, chess, or shatranj as it was known in ancient Persia, has oscillated between acceptance and prohibition within Islamic societies. This debate encapsulates not just the legality of playing chess but also examines its impact on social and religious duties.

Given the nuanced and sensitive nature of religious interpretations and the varying perspectives within different communities and schools of thought, discussing whether chess is considered haram (forbidden) in Islam requires a thoughtful and respectful approach. It’s important to recognize that interpretations of Islamic law (Sharia) can vary widely among scholars, regions, and sects. This article aims to explore the historical context and contemporary views on the topic, drawing on a range of opinions to provide a comprehensive overview.

Historical Context

The game of chess, known as “shatranj” in Arabic, was introduced to the Islamic world after the early Muslim conquests in Persia. Initially, some Islamic scholars were wary of chess, considering it a form of gambling (which is clearly prohibited in Islam) or a distraction from religious and social obligations.

However, as chess became more integrated into Islamic culture, many scholars began to see it as a permissible activity, provided it did not involve betting and was not played to the extent that it distracted from religious duties. The renowned 11th-century Persian poet Omar Khayyam, for example, mentioned chess in his works, indicating its acceptance and popularity.

Contemporary Views

Views Considering Chess Haram

Some contemporary Islamic scholars and juristic councils still maintain that chess is haram, echoing early concerns that it can lead to gambling and distract from religious obligations. For instance, in 2001, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti issued a fatwa (a legal opinion) stating that chess is forbidden in Islam because it encourages gambling and is a waste of time that could be used for religious activities.

Views Allowing Chess

Conversely, many modern scholars and Islamic authorities argue that chess, when played without gambling and without neglecting one’s duties, is permissible. They point out that chess can improve strategic thinking and mental agility, qualities that are valued in Islam. This perspective is shared by numerous Islamic scholars who argue that activities enhancing mental skills are not only permissible but encouraged, provided they do not lead to prohibited actions such as gambling.

Chess in Islamic Cultural Heritage

It’s worth noting that chess holds a significant place in Islamic history and culture. The game was highly regarded during the Golden Age of Islam, with many caliphs and scholars being keen players. Chess was considered an art and a science, and it was used as a tool for strategic thinking and military training.


The question of whether chess is haram in Islam does not have a one-size-fits-all answer. It largely depends on the context in which the game is played and the intentions behind it. While some scholars view chess as potentially leading to gambling and distraction from religious duties, others see it as a permissible and intellectually stimulating game that can be enjoyed without contradiction to Islamic principles.

As with many aspects of religious interpretation, individuals are encouraged to seek guidance from knowledgeable and trusted religious leaders within their community who can provide advice tailored to their specific circumstances and beliefs.

It’s a testament to the diversity and richness of Islamic jurisprudence and the ability of the faith to encompass a wide range of perspectives and opinions on matters of daily life, including games like chess.

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