Fatwa No : 85615
Chess in Islam
Fatwa Date : Thul-Hijjah 17, 1423 / 19-2-2003
I've read a question about playing chess and it was forbidden by the scholars and sahaba. I find it very confusing because nowadays the chess pieces aren't statues (I know there are some pieces with statues but they are hard to find) and in your answer I found that chess hasn't any profit. But nowadays science accept that someone who practise chess is more likely to think ahead. Why, nowadays is chess ascociated with Islam?
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds; and may His blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his Family and Companions.
Playing chess is of three kinds:
1- Playing for material benefit, which is strictly forbidden according to the agreement of Muslim scholars. Imam Ibn Abdul Bar said: 'The consensus of Muslim scholars is that playing for any material benefit is a form of gambling, so it is forbidden.'
2- If playing chess involves neglecting any obligation or committing any Haram act such as leaving prayers, neglecting rights of parents, lying, swearing falsely, etc., it becomes forbidden according to the agreement of Muslim scholars as Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said.
3- If the playing does not contain both above-mentioned prohibitions then the Muslim scholars have different opinions concerning it.
Al-Ahnaf and al-Hanabilah believe that it is forbidden. It is proved from Ali that he was passing by some people who were playing chess and he said, rebuking them: 'what are these statues to which you are devoted?'
Al-Shafiya believed that it is dislikeable. Al-Bulqini , a scholar of Shafiya opposed them and said that if the chess game does not contain or lead to a prohibited act it is allowed. It is also reported from some Tabi'een such as Saeed bin Jubair, Saeed bin al-Musayyib and others that they sometimes played chess.
Al-Malikiyah are of the opinion that playing chess is dislikeable and if one becomes addicted to it then his testimony is not accepted.
Finally, know that playing chess is of three kinds as we mentioned above. Two of them are strictly forbidden while the third situation, according to the majority of Muslim scholars, the scholars of four schools of thought among them, is either forbidden or strongly dislikeable. Thus, the above details are sufficient for a Muslim to avoid playing it.
The benefits that are indicated by the questioner do not offer an excuse to play chess since the harms are much more than benefits. Furthermore, know that using statues is not the only reason to avoid it. If it contains statues then the situation becomes worse.
Allah knows best.