The Game of Chess and Backgammon

Posted: January 16, 2011 in Contemporary, Sourced
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Imaam Abu Hanifah narrated from Abdul Kareem that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:

“He who plays chess is as if he washes his hands with the flesh (blood) of a pig.”(Kitaabul Aathaar)

In Vol. 1, page 483 of Al-Jaamius Sagheer, it is mentioned: “It is unanimously Makrooh (i.e. Makrooh Tahrimi) to play backgammon because Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: “Whoever plays nard (backgammon) is as if he has dyed his hands in the flesh and blood of a pig.”

According to the Ahnaaf (Hanafis), playing with chess is also Makrooh Tahrimi (sinful and prohibited). Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu anhu) narrated that once when Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) passed by a group of people playing shatranj (chess), he commented: “Allah curses one who plays with this (i.e. chess).”

In Badaaius Sanaa’i it is mentioned: “It is narrated from our Sayyid, Ali (radhiyallahu anhu) that he said: ‘Shatranj (chess) is the gambling of the Ajamis (non-Arabs). It is narrated that Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: ‘Everything which diverts you from the thikr of Allah is gambling.”

The following appears in Sharh Fathul Qadeer: “According to us (i.e. Ahnaaf) chess is not permissible., and so is it according to Imaam Ahmad (Bin Hambal). Verily it has been said that (the game of) nardasheer is in fact shatranj (chess).”

In Tabyeenul Haqaaiq it appears as follows: “Playing with chess, backgammon and every sport is not permissible because Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: ‘Every sport of man is haraam except three: a man’s play with his wife, his training his horse and practising with his bow.” Once Ibn Umar passed by a group playing chess. He did not make Salaam to them, and he commented: ‘What are these idols to which you are so devoted?’ “(It is prohibited also) because it generally prevents one from Jamaa’t Salaat and from the thikr of Allah Azza Wa Jal, hence it is haraam just like nardsheer (backgammon). And about nard, Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: ‘He who plays with nardsheer is as if he has dyed his hand in the flesh (blood) of a pig.’ Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Daawood and Abu Musa narrated it. Maalik, Ahmad and others besides them narrated: ‘Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: ‘He who plays with backgammon , verily he has sinned against Allah and His Rasool.’

Rejecting the conditional permissibility on the basis of benefit, which some Fuqaha have contended, it is mentioned in Tabyeenul Haqaaiq: “With regard to its benefit which has been mentioned (by some), it is overshadowed. Consideration is for the dominant element in the matter of haraam. What, are you not aware of Allah’s statement (in the Qur’aan): ‘Their (i.e. liquor and gambing’s) sin is greater than their benefit. Thus, consideration has been accorded to the dominant element with regard to it being haraam……..Permitting it (chess) is in fact aiding shaitaan over Islam and the Muslimeen……..It has been narrated that once Hadhrat Ali passed by a group playing chess. He did not make salaam. When he was asked for the reason, he said: ‘How can I make salaam to people who are devoted to idols?’ It has also been narrated that Hadhrat Ali (radhiyallahu anhu) struck them on their heads.”

In Al-Bahrur Raa-iq it appears as follows: “Playing chess, backgammon and every sport are not permissible by virtue of the statement of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam): ‘Every sport of the son of Aadam is haraam except three – a man’s play with his wife; training his horse and practising with his bow.’ Imaam Shaafi has said that chess is permissible without gambling, and if it does not interfere with any incumbent obligation……However, the proofs against him are the numerous mash-hoor Ahaadith. We have omitted narration of these Ahaadith here because they are so well-known. In Al-Muheet is mentioned that it is Makrooh (i.e. Makrooh Tahrimi) to play with chess and backgammon….”

In Majmaul Anhaar it is mentioned: “It is haraam to play with backgammon or chess.” In Ad-Durrul Mukhtaar it is mentioned: “It is Makrooh Tahrimi to play backgammon. Similarly (it is Makrooh Tahrimi) to play chess.”


Imaam Nawawi (rahmatullah alayh) who is among the most prominent authorities of the Shaafi’ Math-hab states in his Sharhul Muslim (Commentary of Muslim Shareef): “Our Math-hab regarding chess is that it is Makrooh.” Makrooh here means Makrooh Tahrimi which refers to a forbidden and sinful act. In practice it is just as haraam. However, there is a technical difference between Makrooh and Haraam as far as belief is concerned. But for all practical purposes they are the same.

Imaam Nawawi further says: “Imaam Maalik and Imaam Ahmad said that chess is Haraam. And, Imaam Maalik said that it is worse than nard (backgammon).

In the Maaliki kitaab, Al-Istithkaar, the prohibition is stated as follows:

“Hasan said that nard (backgammon) is the gambling of the Ajamis. With regard to shatranj (chess), the Ulama have unanimously proclaimed that playing with it is qimaar (gambling), hence not permissible To accept wealth and to consume it is (in fact) gambling with it. It is not halaal. Imaam Maalik and his Ashaab (the Maaliki Fuqaha) have unanimously said that playing with backgammon is not permissible and also with chess. The shahaadat (testimony) of a habitual player of chess is not permissible. Imaam Abu Hanifah and his Ashaab said that playing with chess and backgammon is Makrooh (i.e. Makrooh Tahrimi). Imaam Shaafi’ said: ‘I regard as Makrooh playing backgammon because of the Hadith. Regarding playing chess, although we abhor it (i.e. regard it Makrooh), its condition is lighter than playing with backgammon. …..Ishaaq Bin Raahwiyah said: ‘When one plays with backgammon or chess without qimaar (i.e. gambling with money) and with the intention of sharpening the wits, then (too) it is Makrooh. However, in this situation his testimony will not be refuted. But, Laith Bin Sa’d said that chess is more evil than backgammon. There is no goodness whatsoever in it. One who plays with chess, his shahaadat (testimony) is not permissible.’

Although Ibn Shuhaab disagrees with Laith Bin Sa’d on the inadmissibility of testimony issue, Imaam Maalik’s (rahmatullah alayhi) ruling is absolute on prohibition and the evil of chess. In Al-Istikhaar this prohibition is mentioned as follows: “Yahya said: ‘I heard Imaam Maalik saying: ‘There is no goodness whatsoever in chess and in other games besides it. I have heard him (Imaam Maalik) stating that playing with chess is Makrooh, and he enumerated it among the things which are baatil. (In support) he recited the Qur’aanic verse: “Besides Haqq what is there other than Baatil?”

It should now be abundantly clear that despite the technical differences of the Fuqaha all Four Math-habs unanimously abhor chess and brand it unlawful.


BY Hadrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi

“Some claim that chess is permissible according to Imaam Shaafi’ (rahmatullah alayh), hence those who indulge in chess will be following the ruling of Imaam Shaafi’. Know that it is not permissible to abandon the Math-hab of your Imaam, which is based on the Qur’aan and Hadith, and to act in terms of the Math-hab of another Imaam. To follow the Math-hab of another Imaam without dire need is to follow the desire of one’s nafs. This is not permissible. If there had to be such permission (i.e. to flit from Math-hab to Math-hab on the basis of whim and fancy), the Deen will become a great sporting event.

Regarding the claim that Imaam Shaafi’ (rahmatullah alayh) permitted chess, this was his first view. Even for its permissibility he had stipulated several conditions, e.g. indulgence in the game should not interfere with any duty or with Salaat; it should not become a habitual occupation; there should be no abuse, taking oaths, etc. Today these conditions are not observed.

Besides this, is the fact of Imaam Shaafi’s retraction of his view of conditional permissibility. It is mentioned in Nisaabul Ihtisaab that Imaam Shaafi’ (rahmatullah alayh) had retracted his earlier view. It is therefore not permissible for anyone to perpetuate his first view of permissibility and utilize it as a shield for indulgence in chess. In his Sharah Muslim, Imaam Nawawi (rahmatullah alayh) says that according to Imaam Shaafi’ (rahmatullah alayh) playing chess is Makrooh (i.e. Makrooh Tahrimi).

In his Sharhul Muslim Imaam Nawawi states: “Imaam Maalik and Imaam Ahmad say that chess is haraam. In fact, Imaam Maalik said that it is worse than the game of nard (backgammon) and more destructive than gambling. Whoever plays chess and backgammon has immersed his hands in the blood of swine.”

Imaam Ahmad said: “The similitude of a person who performs Salaat after having played backgammon is like a man who makes wudhu with pus and the blood of swine, then performs Salaat.”

Hadhrat Abu Musa Ash’ari (radhiyallahu anhu) said: ‘Only a sinner plays chess.” “Chess is falsehood, and Allah does not love falsehood.” (Baihqi in Shu’bul Imaan)

Playing chess is haraam. If it is accompanied by gambling, it is unanimously haraam according to all Math-habs. If unaccompanied by gambling, the prohibition is with some difference of opinion. However, according to the Ahnaaf it is haraam even without gambling. According to others it is Makrooh. Makrooh here means Makrooh Tahrimi which is a prohibited practice.

Everyone is aware of the degree of absorption in these games. Indulgence in these games leads to neglect in worldly duties and Salaat. Disputes, abuse and even fighting are consequences of these games. There is no doubt that these games are haraam.

  • Chess is Makrooh (prohibited and sinful) – Hanafi Math-hab
  • Chess is Haraam – Hambali Math-hab
  • Chess is Haraam – Maaliki Math-hab
  • Chess is Makrooh – Shaafi’ Math-hab

“Chess even without gambling is idle sport (futility), and this is haraam on the basis of Allah’s statement (in the Qur’aan): ‘What, do you think that We have created you in idle sport?” (It is also haraam) because Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: “Every sport of the Mu’min is baatil.” (Nisaabul Ihtisaab)

“Playing chess is haraam by virtue of the narrations of the Sahaabah and on the basis of correct qiyaas.” (Nisaabul Ihtisaab)

“He who plays backgammon is as if he has dyed his hand with the blood of swine.”(Hadith)

“Chess is worse than backgammon.” (Imaam Maalik)

“Chess is Makrooh (prohibited) according to Imaam Shaafi.” (Imaam Ghazaali)

“Legalizing chess is to aid Shaitaan over Islam and the Muslimeen.”(Tabyeenul Haqaaiq)

Sourced: Mujlisul Ulama of South Africa

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