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The Grand Mufti declares a fatwa against chess

22 Jan 2016 | By Anupa
Grand Mufti of Saudi forbids chess

Saudi's Grand Mufti had sent out a fatwa against chess on the eve of the Chess Tournament in Mecca.

The fatwa has created an uproar among the international grandmasters led by British chess player Nigel Short in support of the Saudia Arabia's Chess Association.

The Association's secretary supported the tournament, stating that the ban was by a 'religious fatwa' and had no legal implementation.

In context: Grand Mufti of Saudi forbids chess

Introduction What is the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia?

The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia is the senior and influential panel of Muslim religious and legal authority in the Middle-East.

The Grand Mufti heads the Permanent Committee of Islamic Research and Issuing Fatwas and gives an opinion on legal and social matters.

As the most senior legal authority, the Grand Mufti's fatwas were highly influential in the decision-making of the Saudi court laws.

Who is the head of the Grand Mufti?

The head of the Grand Mufti is appointed by the ruling monarch. Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh is the current head of the Grand Mufti and was appointed by King Fahd in 1999.
Some previous orders of the Grand Mufti

Past Some previous orders of the Grand Mufti

2007- The Grand Mufti ordered the destruction of the Green Dome of Prophet Muhammad and flattened his tomb.

March 2012- The Islamic authority banned construction of churches within the Arabian peninsula.

April 2012- Mufti passed a fatwa, insisting that girls should be married off by the age of 10-12.

2015- The Mufti dodged responsibilities of the Hajj stampede, blaming it on the pilgrim's destiny.

21 Jan 2016Grand Mufti rules out chess calling it 'evil'

Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh ruled that chess should be forbidden in Islam, as it encourages gambling and leads to enmity and hatred among players.

He justified himself by making references from Quran which forbid 'gambling' and also, the 1979 chess ban.

This fatwa was passed as an answer to a question on a TV show and so, the Sheikh's views didn't carry much force legally.

The 1979 ban on chess

After the 1979 Islamic revolution, playing chess was banned in public in Iran and declared forbidden by clerics because it was associated with gambling. But in 1988, Khomeini, the supreme Irani leader, allowed chess as long as it was not a means of gambling.

21 Jan 2016Saudi players gear up for chess tournament

The Saudi chess players have a chess tournament scheduled in Mecca on 22 January.

The tournament attracted debate as it was scheduled after the Sheikh's negative judgement on chess.

An official from the Saudi Chess Association diffused the confusion on Twitter, clarifying that this tournament would take place as planned because the winners from the tournament would further qualify for the National Series.

Similar sports bans by Islamic clerics

A senior Saudi cleric issued a fatwa against building snowmen in 2015 ruining their favorite wintertime activity. This fatwa was issued despite the fact that Saudi Arabia isn’t known for its snowfall.

22 Jan 2016The Grand Mufti declares a fatwa against chess