Playing Chess: Permissible?
Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Dear sister in Islam, thanks a lot for your question which reflects your care to have a clear view of the teachings of Islam. Allah commands Muslims to refer to people of knowledge to get themselves well-acquainted with the teachings of Islam.
In his well-known book, The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam, the prominent Muslim scholar, Sheik Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, states:
“Chess is a very popular game, and the opinion of jurists concerning it varies. Some scholars consider it halal (permissible), others consider it makruh (reprehensible), and still others consider it haram (unlawful).
Those who consider it haram cite some hadiths in support of their view, but researchers have proved that chess did not appear until after the death of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Thus all such hadiths must have been fabricated.
The Companions of the Prophet (may Allah be pleased with them all) themselves held different views about playing chess. Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said that it is worse than backgammon and `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) regarded it as gambling (perhaps meaning when it is played for money), while some others merely expressed disapproval of it.
However, some Companions and some of the second generation of scholars allowed it. Among those were Ibn `Abbas, Abu Hurayrah, Ibn Sirin, Hisham bin `Umrah, and Sa`id Ibn Al-Musayyib. We agree with those great jurists, since the original principle is the permissibility of acts and no text is to be found prohibiting it.
Moreover, in addition to being a game and a recreation, chess is also a mental exercise which requires thought and planning. In this respect, it is the opposite of backgammon, for while backgammon is a game of chance and therefore comparable to divining with arrows, chess is a game of skill and strategy, which may be compared to archery.
However, playing chess is permissible only if the following conditions are met:
1- One should not get so absorbed in it that he delays his prayer; chess is well-known to be a stealer of time.
2- There should be no gambling involved.
3- The players should not utter obscenities or vulgarities.
If any of these conditions are not met it should be considered as haram.”
You can also read:
Islam and Recreation
May Allah guide you to the straight path, and direct you to that which pleases Him, Amen.
Allah Almighty knows best.
History of chess
The history of chess can be traced back nearly 1500 years, although the earliest origins are uncertain. The earliest predecessor of the game probably originated in India, before the 6th century AD; a minority of historians believe the game originated in China. From India, the game spread to Persia. When the Arabs conquered Persia, chess was taken up by the Muslim world and subsequently spread to Southern Europe. In Europe, chess evolved into roughly its current form in the 15th century.
"Romantic Chess" was the predominant chess playing style from the late 15th century to the 1880s. Chess games of this period emphasised more on quick, tactical maneuvers rather than long-term strategic planning. The Romantic era of play was followed by the Scientific, Hypermodern, and New Dynamism eras. In the second half of the 19th century, modern chess tournament play began, and the first World Chess Championship was held in 1886. The 20th century saw great leaps forward in chess theory and the establishment of the World Chess Federation (FIDE). Developments in the 21st century include use of computers for analysis, which originated in the 1970s with the first programmed chess games on the market. Online gaming appeared in the mid-1990s.
Chess remains a highly popular pastime among the general populace to this day. A 2012 survey found that "chess players now make up one of the largest communities in the world: 605 million adults play chess regularly". Chess is played at least once a year by 12% of British people, 15% of Americans, 23% of Germans, 43% of Russians, and 70% of Indian people.
Chess passed from Persia to the Arab world, where its name changed to Arabic shatranj. From there it passed to Western Europe, probably via Spain.
Over the centuries, features of European chess (e.g. the modern moves of queen and bishop, and castling) found their way via trade into Islamic areas. Murray's sources found the old moves of queen and bishop still current in Ethiopia. The game became so popular it was used in writing at that time, played by nobility and regular people. The poet al-Katib once said, "The skilled player places his pieces in such a way as to discover consequences that the ignorant man never sees... thus, he serves the Sultan’s interests, by showing how to foresee disaster."