In a move that stunned the world of tournament board games, the Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah of Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa last month stating that chess is a waste of time, causes hatred and enmity among people and promotes gambling. The news of the declaration comes hours before a major event in the world chess is to commence in Mecca.
As it happens, fatwas can be issued by Islamic clerics, but they are not legally binding.
Musa Bin Thaily, president of the law committee at the Saudi Chess Association, …said on Twitter: ‘Many things are said to be illegal and religiously banned in #Saudi.
‘For example, the religious society view, bans the public musical festivals, but they’re everywhere, the view isn’t enforced by the law.’
Despite the fatwa, the tournament will go on this weekend. The younger set in Saudi Arabia explain that the grand mufti is an old man, and he does not understand that the game of chess does not HAVE to promote gambling, which is forbidden in Islam. (That being said, there are online avenues for making book on who is going to win the world chess championship.)
This is not the first time muslim clerics have tried to outlaw chess based on the idea that souls would be in mortal danger from the temptation of gambling. Iran, ironically since the earliest evidence of the modern game was found in Persia dating to before Muhammad, did outlaw chess in the 1979 revolution, but that ruling was overturned by the Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini in 1988 with no gambling being a condition of the game’s reinstatement.
One of Britain’s greatest ever chess players, Nigel Short, said banning chess in Saudi Arabia would be a ‘great tragedy.’
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘I don’t consider chess to be a threat to society.
It’s not something that is so depraved as to corrupt morals.’
If anything, chess teaches thinking, strategy, patience, maneuvering, and other life skills needed to survive in the world.