Clarification on Chess

Q: I have read your answer on chess.Though I am not learned I have a different opinion about the matter. In The Lawful and the Prohibited by Al Qaradawi it suggests that chess chess is permitted under 3 conditions: no gambling, no delaying namaaz and no vulgarity. Other Muftis also seem to agree with this view.

A: The Fiqh Encyclopedia states the following under its heading CHESS:

There is unanimity among Ulema that playing chess is haraam when it is played for money or it entails neglect of a compulsory duty such as salaah, for example. The same law will apply if it entails falsehood, lies, or physical harm.

If the above factors do not apply then the  views of the Scholars differ as follows:

According to the Maliki and Hambali Jurists, even in the absence of the above factors, chess remains haraam. They quote this fatwa from the following Sahaaba and Tabi’een: Ali bin Abu Taalib; Abdullah bin Umar; Abdullah bin Abbas; Saeed bin Musayyab; Qaasim bin Muhammad, Urwah bin Zubair. (Radhiyallahu anhum)

Once Sayyiduna Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) came across a group of people playing chess. He addressed them as follows: “What are these statues over which you are meditating? It’s better for you to hold onto a burning coal until it cools down than touching the game of chess!”

According to the Hanafi and Shaafi Jurists, chess is Makrooh Tahreemi (i.e. also forbidden, but lesser in severity than haraam). Their proof for this is the hadith of Tirmizhi, Abu Dawood, and others that term as baatil (futile and false) all types of play except archery, horse-riding, swimming, and sword-fighting.

These are the views of the classical scholars and former jurists. As you can see, none of their fatwas conform to the views of Shaikh Qardawi, or contemporary Muftis and Scholars. Furthermore, chess is a game that absorbs the attention and concentration of the player, and seldom will such a person be able to offer salaah on time. There is absolutely no physical or even worldly benefit in chess, and the hadith quoted above condemns a game that brings no benefit. In fact, the social harm in chess appears to be dominant, because the player becomes so engrossed in the game that he is rendered incapable of any other task. I challenge those who allow chess to prove me wrong on this score.

And Allah knows best
Mufti Siraj Desai