• Chess forbidden in Islam, rules Saudi mufti, but issue not black and wh

    From emf@21:1/5 to All on Thu Jan 21 23:59:53 2016
    The Guardian

    Chess forbidden in Islam, rules Saudi mufti, but issue not black and white


    Game likely to take on status of minor vices such as music after Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh says it encourages gambling

    [Muslim scholars usually put chess, a skill-based game, in a different
    category from games of chance. Photograph: John Robertson for the Guardian]

    Kareem Shaheen in Beirut

    Thursday 21 January 2016 07.31 EST
    Last modified on Thursday 21 January 2016 17.01 EST

    Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti has ruled that chess is forbidden in Islam,
    saying it encourages gambling and is a waste of time.

    Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh was answering a question on a television show
    in which he issues fatwas in response to viewers’ queries on everyday religious matters.

    He said chess was “included under gambling” and was “a waste of time and money and a cause for hatred and enmity between players”.

    Sheikh justified the ruling by referring to the verse in the Qur’an
    banning “intoxicants, gambling, idolatry and divination”. It is not
    clear when the fatwa was delivered.

    Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s supreme Shia religious authority,
    has previously issued rulings forbidding chess.

    After the 1979 Islamic revolution, playing chess was banned in public in
    Iran and declared haram, or forbidden, by senior clerics because it was associated with gambling. But in 1988, Iran’s then supreme leader,
    Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, lifted the ban and said it was permissible
    as long as it was not a means of gambling. Iran now has an active
    confederation for playing chess and sends players to international games.

    Moves to suppress chess are likely to have come as a surprise to the seventh-century Muslims who conquered Persia and adopted the game before exporting it to Europe.

    Muslim scholars tend to place chess, a skill-based game, in a different category from games of chance, such as dice, but frown upon it if it
    distracts a person from performing the five daily prayers. Placing bets
    under any circumstances is forbidden.

    Nigel Short, the British chess grandmaster, told the BBC that forbidding
    chess in Saudi Arabia would be a “great tragedy”. “I don’t consider chess to be a threat to society. It is not something that is so depraved
    as to corrupt morals,” he said. “Even Ayatollah Khomeini came to the conclusion that he’d gone too far and repealed his own ban.”

    The region’s clerical establishment figures are no strangers to
    seemingly strange fatwas, or edicts. In the early 2000s, Saudi and other clerics issued a fatwa against the popular Pokémon franchise, and during football’s 2010 World Cup in South Africa, religious scholars in the
    United Arab Emirates said that using the widely reviled vuvuzela
    instrument was forbidden if the sound produced was above 100 decibels.

    It is unlikely that Sheikh’s ruling will be enforced, and more plausible
    that chess will be relegated to the status of other minor vices, such as
    music, which many in the clerical establishment frown upon. Moreover,
    since the ruling was in response to a specific question, it was probably
    meant as an advisory opinion rather than a formal edict.

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