Top Saudi cleric calls for ban on chess

1/22/2016 – The game originated in India around the 6th century AD. "Chaturanga", or "Shah!" in Persian, was taken up by the Muslim world and subsequently spread to Southern Europe – for which we are thankful. Now (once again we may add) there is an effort to ban it for religious reasons. The fatwa by a one of Saudi Arabia's top clerics has led to hundreds of broadsheet articles and a Twitter storm, including some famous chess players.

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A brief historical note

It would probably not be very inaccurate to say that chess was invented in 570 A.D. somewhere in the north-eastern part of India. In manuscripts from the early 7th century a game called “Chaturanga” (which later changed to “Shatranj”) is suddenly mentioned, a precursor of chess as we know it today. Naturally we cannot be sure that there were no earlier forms, but the evidence seems to suggest that the game was invented from scratch by a single person in this area of the world at around this period of time.

Arab Chess – painting by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema [Source: Wikimedia]

Now to the news story that is electrifying the international press.

Read the full New York Times story here. It goes on to say:

... there was little sign that the fatwa would make the kingdom’s chess players recant, and it was unclear whether the government would enforce the grand mufti’s pronouncement. Fatwas are not considered law, rather they are legal opinions sometimes meant to apply to specific situations or intended as general religious guidance.

In another story the NYT reminds us that games such as backgammon and cards are popular among men in the Middle East. "Muslims, who introduced chess to Europe, have been playing the game since the 7th century in Persia."

The original televised ruling by Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh can be watched in Arabic:
مفتي السعودية يحرم الشطرنج, with an explanation available here.

Read the full story in The Guardian here

Full story in the Times of India here

Full report in the Hindustan Times here

Musa BinThaily, a member of the Saudi Chess Association, took to Twitter on Thursday to defend the game, saying that it had nothing to do with gambling and that the association had held 70 events in the kingdom. He posted photos of Saudi players at the group’s events, including one that showed members of the group posing with a prince from the United Arab Emirates.

Garry Kasparov started a lively discussion on his Twitter page

Nigel Short led a discussion of the subject in Facebook

Enough of this already? If, however, you want to read more here are over 100 articles in the news.

Topics: ban, fatwa
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Khaliluddin Khaliluddin 3/2/2016 06:53
Is chess a completely innocent game? Does anyone notice that Chess, which I love, is a representation of white humans (white always moves first) invading the territory of black (or brown, or red) humans in order to destroy their government and to occupy their lands? And, contrary to the accepted idea that the queen is the most powerful piece, she can A) only kill one piece at a time, just like a pawn, B) can't kill her own king and must lay down her life while he sits in his castle, and C) at the end of most games, she is dead, while (assuming he wins), the king and at least some pawns are always alive to enjoy the success of the war. Other than the queen, who, because of her status, is the only female represented, all the rest are male archetypes, according to the medieval patriarchal model which chess represents. Regular women aren't of enough social value to even exist.

Something to think about.
chaturanga79 chaturanga79 1/28/2016 09:40
To: The Kotal Kahn of Chess

I am not a fanatic, but who worships a human made game as his aim of life is a complete fanatic!

And, Church did not TRY to ban chess, they DID it several times. What makes difference if they did 500 or 1000 years ago or 1 day ago! Did not they ban in chess, in the name of "Christianity"? Yes!

If you say Christianity changed in time, and now Church sees no problem with playing chess instead of giving your time to God? OK I can accept this idea!
The Kotal Kahn of Chess The Kotal Kahn of Chess 1/28/2016 12:18

Chaturanga lol, I find it remarkable that you would compare the game of chess to killing people but not surprising at the same time as outlawing things for no reason is the mark of a a true religios fanatic.Yes the church tried to ban chess 1000 to 500 years ago, well I am glad to say we have come a long way since then unlike other religions.You seem to refuse to understand that what may be waste of time to some people is not to others and it all depends on individual circumstances which vary from one person to another so neither you nor anyone else can decide what a waste of time is and should be to others.As far as hate is concerned it is a human feeling which can be caused by many things such as people calling for chess to be banned.Should we try and ban the cause of that too namely yor cleric and his right to make such suggestions. You are free to believe you are sinner for playing chess even self-flagellate yourself if you feel the need to but please do not try to impose your beliefs on others as we in the west care little for practices and beliefs we abandoned 500 years ago.  
chaturanga79 chaturanga79 1/27/2016 08:53
And one last thing, I am not claiming banning chess. I just wanted to say that this idea of cleric has a logic because of time concept that religions care so much. Banning chess is not a clever idea and I am not supporting this sheikh to call a ban!

It's up to people, if they want to play any kind of game sure they can and must have this freedom. Every person has freedom to believe any religion or not, and has freedom to sin or not.
chaturanga79 chaturanga79 1/27/2016 08:35
To: Chess Delirium Your reply is really funny. Because you earn your life with playing chess does not make chess a meaningfull thing and aim of life. So what about gangsters earning money for living by killing others so killing others is not a sin for you just because they earn money from it? This is funny, you are living in a virtual world and thinking a human made game is spiritual thing that gives you life! Go and worship your chessboard may be it can help you being a good man and christian!

And saying Christian scriptures did not include chess shows your ignorance, chess adventure of humankind started 600 years later Jesus! So I am not surprised, that Bible did not include chess, did you?

Also saying Christian clergy never mentioned it is another sign of ignorance! Where do you know? Did you read all Christian "clergy" writings? Let you prove they never mentioned it!

Read below:

- In 1061, Cardinal Damiani (1007-1072) of Ostin forbade the clergy to play chess. He even wrote to the Pope complaining that chess was being played by some clergy and lay people.

- In 1093, chess was condemned and forbiden by the Eastern Orthodox Church.

- In 1125, the Eastern Orthodox monk John Zonares issued a directive banning chess as a kind of debauchery.

- In 1128, St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) forbate the Knights Templars from playing chess.

- In 1195, rabbi Maimonides (1155-1204) included chess among the forbidden games.

- In 1208, the Bishop of Paris decreed that chess be banned from the clergy.

- In 1240, the Worcester Synod of England forbade chess to the clergy and the monastic orders.

- In 1254, King Louis IX issued an religious edict forbidding chess as a useless and boring game.

- In 1291, the Archbishop of Cantebury threatened to put the prior and canons on a diet of bread and water unless they desisted from playing chess.

- In 1328, some Jewish leaders allowed chess to be played, but not for money or gambling.

- In 1375, King Charles V of France, under the influence of the church, prohibited chess.

- In 1551, leading clerics of Russia compiled the Stoglav Collection which included the prohibition of chess.

- The Puritans greatly disliked chess and discouraged any chess play.

And for who want to read something about what is the Christian view about spending time can read below article, it's based on playing video games but applicable to all other games!
Chess Delirium Chess Delirium 1/26/2016 11:29
chaturanga79: Your reasoning is shallow, irrelevant and flat out wrong.

Here is why: Where in the following quote you have given is chess actually mentioned "Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness" ???

Who says chess is meaningless and pointless and who are you to say or decide that it objectively is,maybe it is to you or that guy who wants to ban it but that is not the same. Christian scriptures or clergy have never mentioned chess let alone issued a decree banning chess which is not the same as what your guy did. If you think that I as a Christian am committing a sin by playing chess you are wrong because to me chess is the highest and only truth and goal in my life and is by no means meaningless and a waste of time because I make a living of it, it is like me saying you should not practice you profession because I find it meaningless. Your statement that all other religions consider playing games is utter BS - show me a quote from every religion to say games are meaningless.

Bottom line:games are not meaningless (again they may be to you but objectively they are not for the reasons stated above) so playing games is not a sin even if religions did say it was a sin to do meaningless things. If you want to think you are sinner because you play chess be my guest but please try not to impose your twisted sense of guilt on others.

Don`t do meaningless things does not mean do not play games as we all assign a different degree of meaningfulness to everything we do.
chaturanga79 chaturanga79 1/26/2016 02:50
Why you are not trying to understand the logic behind this disussion and showing racist and anti Islamist reactions? Just calm down.

First of all, what is the religion and target of a religion? The main target of all religions is helping mankind to clear their souls, being a good servant to God, giving your time to God with good things, that God will like you.

In Islam, wasting your time with meaningless things is criticized and good believers praised with the words "They avoid meaningless things". This is Islam, you like or not it's your choice dudes! And it has a logic itself!

So what about Christianity? Can any Christian claim opposite of what Islam says? "Spending your time with meaningless things" is acceptable for Christianity? Any of those commenters showing their hate to Islam can reply me please? What about below verse from Ephesians 5:11

"Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness"

For every religion, God gave people a limited time and he asked his servants spending this time with good acts that will help them to get closer to God. Who can claim that God will like playing chess instead of serving him with any kind of good act? Any Christian please? Can any of Christian friends claim such a stupid thing?

Think about playing any kind of game, not only chess, but also all kinds of games are waste of time.

If playing games was duty of the life, so there might be some prophets that are famous of playing any kind of game, right? Have you ever heared that any of prophets play chess or similar games? If playing chess or any other game is so much important and that you can not live without it so you can play it! All of us will be questioned abt our acts.

Last words, Islam and also all other religions will not like playing meaningless games and spending your time with them. But the choice is yours, it depends on your belief, you can choose avoiding all kind of games and give your time to God, or you can choose being a sinner and continue playing.

For me, I know playing chess is wasting my time, and makes me angry to opponents when I lost. But I am a sinner and playing it still.

The Muslim cleric do not say kill all people who are playing chess! He is just saying according to Islam it's not something acceptable to waste your time!
The_Tenant The_Tenant 1/26/2016 03:30
If people want to hate each other in sport, don't blame the game.. blame the immaturity of those specific humans who indulge/favor lowly emotions over enjoyment and good sportsmanship. 1/24/2016 08:20
I am still strongly astonished, why anyone can obey such foolish religiuos recommendations. Worldwide the religion produces preconditions for envy and finally war. It´s very sad that the imams talking about God and recommending how to live, create the envy. Envy against amusement, music, beauty, equality od women rights...other non-muslim believers, non-believers. The traditional islamic world in Middle East passes throug deep crisis. I hope for the imams become wiser and escape from deep Middle Ages.
luisnux luisnux 1/24/2016 04:21
Chess promotes hatred? I've never hated one of my opponents, and none of my coaches or chess books ever told me to hate my opponent. In fact, the more they defeated me the more they help me improve, and the more fun the challenge of winning against them became. Wait a minute, Gambling in chess? In what country do people gamble in chess???? I "bet" (pun intended) they could not find a single country where chess is known to cause gambling problems-I've, never heard of someone betting at chess.
KrushonIrina KrushonIrina 1/24/2016 03:45
Tell you what, why don't we first ban total nincompoops, then we won't have to worry about bans on chess.
KrushonIrina KrushonIrina 1/24/2016 03:43
Tell you what, why don't we first ban total nincompoops, then we won't have to worry about bans on chess.
libyantiger libyantiger 1/24/2016 12:06
I am Muslim.....and I really will go on and ask. Thi . Nifty what if I play against PC what. Hateres chess can bring....once I played an amazing queen saq and the man on which I did the combination just clapped and said....heck it is pure art.....up to those days whenever we met he tell me about that combination....there was no hate red depends on people who are playing whther hatred will result it not
Mindhunterr Mindhunterr 1/23/2016 04:41
But they'll probably all be male and over 40 :D
NJD NJD 1/23/2016 04:01
And the one place where you're guaranteed to find at least 72 virgins is at a chess tournament...
The Kotal Kahn of Chess The Kotal Kahn of Chess 1/23/2016 03:29
I hate people who try to ban chess and my hatred is a direct result of their actions to ban chess hence people who try to ban chess should be banned from even trying to ban chess.To the offended muslims: please note I am not an Islamophobe because a phobia is the irrational fear of something and my fear of islam is perfectly rational because of articles like this.
santie54321 santie54321 1/23/2016 01:25
Chess breeds hatred .... OH. THE. IRONY.
nmark nmark 1/23/2016 06:58
May be what he wanted is to rename the Bishop to Mufti , King as Sultan and the King's cross be remove. Then may be he will remove the ban.
KOTLD KOTLD 1/23/2016 04:16
Saudi Arabia performs public executions for crimes like "Witchcraft" and "Homosexuality", but they consider Chess a waste of time that causes enmity. Great logic, guys. Is that a socio-political version of a helpmate-in-2 ?
deasla deasla 1/23/2016 02:22
As a muslim the first thing that shock me is the amount of islamophobia in the comments.
It's as if it's ok to humiliate us since we're crazy anyway.
You don't even seem to be aware of how far you all go ^^
But anyway, It's not the subject.
I'm a chessplayer (and will continue to be one) and this doesn't surprise me at all. Every muslims knows that alcohol and gambles are forbidden and I personnaly think it's a good thing. I already searched for the status of chess and all I could find out were affirmations by some theologist ! So nothing linkeable to the Holy Quran or the Hadiths.
But like a christian who hear out priest even if he doesn't agree with him I tried to understand the reasons of this small group of theologists. And I don't know if you know anyone like that but sometimes chess can like gambles and alcohol really occupy a person mind. From the text I read they were particulary targetting those who play all day instead of working, who become obssessed with what should have been only a pleasure.
Apparently in ancient times some people were going to the parc everyday doing nothing but chess some men were using all their time to play a game instead of taking care of their family.
The first fatwas against chess arrived at this time : because to some people the inner complexity of chess would make them disconnect from reality like gambles and alcoholism does.
So I understand him on that part it's nothing new, he didn't invent anything.
But of course I'm not ok with it, I think chess can be managed, it became a sport with the time , it's clearly respectable.
NJD NJD 1/23/2016 01:59
Guess they don't have any decent players in SA anyway...
mellekvese mellekvese 1/23/2016 01:24
He got a direct line to Allah, so we better comply.
hpaul hpaul 1/23/2016 12:45
My theory is that the Grand Mufti doesn't want any competition for the "GM" title in the kingdom.
Laveloos Laveloos 1/23/2016 12:10
The poor guy declaring the ban, obviously lost his game...
tom_70 tom_70 1/22/2016 08:43
This is why the entire world views the middle east as a repugnant armpit of humanity. Beheading innocent civilians of a different religion is ok, Not allowing women to show their face, or drive or vote is ok. Sponsoring terror groups is ok................................ but playing chess!!....well, that is just too much. I wonder if they start stoning or beheading people when they are caught playing chess?
sxb103 sxb103 1/22/2016 08:05
Mindhunterr Mindhunterr 1/22/2016 07:59
Oppress! Oppress!
Oudjat Oudjat 1/22/2016 07:17
Forgive him. I think he wouldn't be able to find out a mate in one.
islaw islaw 1/22/2016 05:17
Maybe he saw some guys gambling and jumped to the conclusion that that's what chess is all about. He should go out more.

Fm76 Fm76 1/22/2016 03:04
Those who want to practice chess practice chess. Those who don't want, don't practice our noble sport, game, art.
The world most be free. The religion has nothing to see in chess...
Wahsh Wahsh 1/22/2016 02:40
didn't Kasparov and Karpov hate each other back in the 80s , how about Kramnik and Topalov or even Capablanca and Alekine ??
Jarman Jarman 1/22/2016 02:23
@Jean Dalidis: there's no hate speech here. We are making fun of this allegedly "top cleric" who is harming the very religion he strives to defend.
Jean Dalidis Jean Dalidis 1/22/2016 01:53
The guy is right. Most of the chess players learned how to hate people. The comments posted on this article prove this.
BelowZero BelowZero 1/22/2016 01:42
If only the Muslims stayed in their own countries and left the rest of us alone, they could ban chess, Mickey Mouse, the Internet, sanitation, laughter, whatever suits them. I wouldn't care.
asoni asoni 1/22/2016 01:36
@ SriramGirish, @Jarman how about banning you
fightingchess fightingchess 1/22/2016 01:35
his face scare the hell out of me.
Jarman Jarman 1/22/2016 12:53
@SriramGirish: I would not ban Islam, but idiots from practicing it.
SriramGirish SriramGirish 1/22/2016 12:23
How about banning Islam?
elasp elasp 1/22/2016 12:07

"I would prefer an intelligent hell to a stupid paradise" (B. Pascal).