News Piece of Interest: Chess Now Illegal in Saudi Arabia


1283 painting of Knights Templar playing a game of chess by Alphonse le Sage

According to The Guardian, the game of chess has been ruled forbidden by Islam by the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, as it has been deemed “a waste of time” and allegedly promotes gambling. Previously banned in Iran during the 1980s, chess has been a controversial game in certain parts of the Muslim world for many years. It is uncertain what this ruling will mean, whether playing chess will be tried as a crime or if it will be relegated to the realm of “minor vices”, such as music, which are frowned upon but not prosecuted. According to the article,

Moves to suppress chess are likely to have come as a surprise to the seventh-century Muslims who conquered Persia and adopted the game before exporting it to Europe. Muslim scholars tend to place chess, a skill-based game, in a different category from games of chance, such as dice, but frown upon it if it distracts a person from performing the five daily prayers. Placing bets under any circumstances is forbidden.

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