I would like to know if there is anything wrong with playing chess and if there is I would like to know why.
As Salaamu Alaikum,
According to the majority of Scholars, playing chess is haram and unlawful. Regarding chess, Ali (RA) is reported to have said, ‘Chess is a type of gambling’. On one occasion Ali (RA) saw a group of people playing chess and said to them, ‘What are these idols that you are busily engaged with and are devoted to’ (Al Fiqhul Islami wa Adilatihi –Dr Wahab Az Zuhaily vol. 4 pg. 2663 Maktaba Rashidiya Queta Parkistan).
Other scholars who have not stated that it is haram, have mentioned that it is ‘Makroohun Tahreema’, which is heavily detestable and reprehensible, and have discouraged playing this game. In this regard, the great jurist, Allama Shami writes, ‘Certainly it is severely detestable because whoever engages in it is relieved from his worldly distress, but is now faced with the distress of the hereafter. Hence, it is haram and a major sin according to us (that is, in the Mazhab of Imam Abu Hanifa)’ (Raddul Muhtaar vol.6 pg. 394 – H.M Saeed Company Karachi Pakistan)
While explaining its ‘severely detestable’ nature, the author of Ad- Durrul Mukhtaar, the great 11th century jurist, Allama Al Haskafi writes, ‘The ruling that is ‘Makrooh Tahreemi (severely detestable) is connected to the situation when one does not play chess for gambling purposes, or he is not regularly playing, or he is not missing an essential duty of Islam by playing it. If any or all of these are present (in playing it) then it is unanimously considered as being haram (unlawful) . (Raddul Muhtaar Ala Ad Durrul Mukhtaar vol. 6 pg.394).
The above explaination shows that to simply play chess is severely detestable and must not be done. If it is played for any of the above reasons, then it becomes totally haram.
Imam Ash Shafie has also stated that it is detestable. While writing about this, it is mentioned from his Mazhab, ‘Playing Chess is detestable because it is a game in which there is no benefit for a person in the matter of his religion, and there is no such need that calls him towards playing it’. (Al Fiqhul Islami wa Adilatihi vol. 4 pg. 2663).
From the statements of the scholars, it is evident that playing chess is not permissible in Islam.
And Allah knows best,
Mufti Waseem Khan