Dubai: Saudi Arabia's grand mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh has ruled that the game of chess is 'forbidden' in Islam as it 'wastes time and leads to rivalry and enmity among people'.
A video clip of Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh was shared on YouTube in December, gaining traction in recent days on social media. In the clip, kingdom's chief cleric said that chess was included under gambling and was a waste of time and money and a cause for hatred and enmity between players.
In the 44-second clip, Al Sheikh says 'the game of chess is forbidden', backing up his statement by referring to a verse in the Quran that bans gambling, intoxicants and idolatry.
Answering a question posed to him by a viewer on the Saudi religious Almajd network, the mufti says chess 'wastes time and money and causes rivalry and enmity' because it makes rich people poor and poor people rich.
After his view on Chess went viral, Twitteratis were quick to react to it. While some mocked him on the micro-blogging site saying chess is an intelligent game and that is why conservative clerics decry it, others defended Sheikh's religious advice, saying that many other Islamic scholars have also warned that the game can be addictive and cause people to lose focus from their daily prayers and remembrance of God.
Saudi Arabia's influential religious establishment adheres to a strict Sunni Islamic ideology known widely as Wahhabism.
In late 70s chess was forbidden in Iran by senior clerics, however, Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini lifted the ban on it stating it is permissible to play chess as long as it isn't used for gambling.
Despite some top religious scholars frowning upon chess, the Saudi sheikh's opinion is not seen as a formal edict that could lead to a ban on the game in the kingdom. Games such as backgammon and cards are popular among men in the Middle East.
Muslims, who introduced chess to Europe, have been playing the game since the 7th century in Persia.