In the long line of bizarre fatwas issued by the clergy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, comes another one by the grand mufti, who has said that  the game of chess is un-Islamic as it ‘encourages gambling and is a waste of time’.

Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, known for issuing controversial statements, issued the fatwa while answering a question on a television program mean to advise people on religious matters. He said that chess was, “a waste of time and money and a cause for hatred and enmity between players”.

b’Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh’

For some reason thought the Sheikh thought that chess was meant for gambling, and he justified it by a verse in Quran which forbids “intoxicants, gambling, idolatory and divination”. But this isn’t the first time that the game has faced opposition from conservative clerics as the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani of Iraq, also called for a ban on chess, as reported by The Guardian.

Apart from this Iran banned the game after the Islamic revolution of 1979, but in 1988 their leader Ayatolla Khomeini lifted the ban, provided that it wasn’t used for gambling. The opposition to chess comes as an Irony, since it was seventh century Muslims who adopted the game after arriving in Persia, before exporting it to Europe, after which it became widely popular.

British grandmaster Nigel Short told BBC that a ban on chess would be a “great tragedy” and mentioned that, “Even Ayatollah Khomeini came to the conclusion that he’d gone too far and repealed his own ban.” 

But there is still doubt regarding the implementation of a fatwa, as a similar ruling 40 years back did not stop chess from thriving in the kingdom, Independent reported.

The statement comes on a chess championship in Mecca, which is the holiest place for Muslims, as the president of Saudi’s chess association Musa Bin Thaily said, “chess activities in Saudi have prospered in recent years because the ban wasn’t strictly enforced.”

All images sourced from Reuters