Saudi Arabia’s top religious cleric has ruled that chess is forbidden for Muslims because it is a ‘waste of time’ and promotes gambling.
Grand mufti Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah issued the fatwa ahead of a major chess tournament in Mecca tomorrow.
He said the game was ‘an opportunity to squander money’ and fell under the category of gambling which is banned in the Qu’ran.
He added: ‘The game of chess is a waste of time… it causes enmity and hatred between people.’
Abdullah made the declaration while answering questions from viewers on his weekly show With His Eminence The Mufti, it was reported by The Middle East Eye.
Muslims often follow personal religious guidance given by senior clerics, but their declarations are not legally binding.
Musa Bin Thaily, president of the law committee at the Saudi Chess Association, said a tournament would go ahead as planned tomorrow despite the fatwa, which he said was issued last month.
He said on Twitter: ‘Many things are said to be illegal and religiously banned in #Saudi.
‘For example, the religious society view, bans the public musical festivals, but they’re everywhere, the view isn’t enforced by the law.’
He added that the Grand Mufti ‘being an old man in his 80s’ was unaware that players do not usually bet on the outcome of games.
One of Britain’s greatest ever chess players, Nigel Short, said banning chess in Saudi Arabia would be a ‘great tragedy.’
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘I don’t consider chess to be a threat to society.
It’s not something that is so depraved as to corrupt morals.’
Iran banned chess after the 1979 Islamic revolution because of it’s association with gambling.
But it was repealed by then supreme leader, Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, in 1988 on the condition it was not used as a conduit by gamblers.