Playing Chess

Playing Chess

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

Question: Assalam alaykum,

My son is very strong in playing chess. Can we let him play chess in tournaments? What about tournaments where there is prize money for a winner?
Can we use this money? What about making it a career?

Answer: Wa alaykum salam

Thank you for your question.

All the schools of law agree that if playing chess leads to one of the following, it is haram or impermissible to play it:

1. gambling
2. any indecency
3. neglecting prayer by delaying it beyond its allotted time
4. a state of heedlessness of Allah.

Even if these evils are absent, scholars still differ about the permissibility or impermissibility of chess. The Shafi’i school is possibly the most lenient in this regard. Imam Nawawi mentions two positions in his various works, namely the official view that it is makruh or reprehensible to play chess and another view that it is permissible (Rawdah al-Talibin). Please note that, in a broad sense, ‘makruh’ is regarded as a lesser form of permissibility than ‘permissible’.

In his Tuhfah, ibn Hajar al-Haytami says regarding the narrations that prohibit the playing of chess and the like,

“However, Hafiz ibn Hajar al-Asqalani said, “not a single tradition has been transmitted through an authentic or sound transmission. In addition, a number of the senior companions and many successors (tabi’in) played it. From among those who played it was (the great scholar) Sa’id ibn Jubayr, may Allah be pleased with him.”

In conclusion, if your son is able to maintain a balance such that the game does not consume him and he does not become negligent of his Creator, Allah, glory be to Him, then the playing of chess will be permissible – makruh according to the official view and simply permissible according to the non-official view.

And Allah knows best

[Shaykh] Abdurragmaan Khan

Shaykh Abdurragmaan
received ijazah ’ammah from various luminaries, including but not restricted to: Habib Umar ibn Hafiz—a personality who affected him greatly and who has changed his relationship with Allah, Maulana Yusuf Karaan—the former Mufti of Cape Town; Habib ‘Ali al-Mashhur—the current Mufti of Tarim; Habib ‘Umar al-Jaylani—the Shafi‘i Mufti of Makkah; Sayyid Ahmad bin Abi Bakr al-Hibshi; Habib Kadhim as-Saqqaf; Shaykh Mahmud Sa’id Mamduh; Maulana Abdul Hafiz al-Makki; Shaykh Ala ad-Din al-Afghani; Maulana Fazlur Rahman al-Azami and Shaykh Yahya al-Gawthani amongst others.