Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
Is it permissible to play chess in the Hanafi school?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate
The Hanafi school has taken a strict position with regards to playing chess due to external factors that historically had a strong correlation with the game. Such factors are as follows:
2) Missing prayers because of it
3) Constantly swearing by Allah
4) Playing the game in people’s walking path
5) Mentioning sinful things during it
6) Constantly playing it
[Al-Mawsu’a al-Fiqhiyya al-Kuwaitiyya]
If any of these are found, the scholars mention that one’s uprightness and testimony in court are lost. [Ibid.]
The Opinion of Imam Abu Yusuf
Imam Abu Yusuf (Allah be pleased with him) declared chess permissible with the following conditions:
1) No gambling
2) It is not played habitually
3) It doesn’t cause one to neglect any religious or worldly obligations (such as prayer)
[Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Ala’iyya]
One could also add that falling into sins like those mentioned above would be neglect of religious obligations as well.
Suppose none of the above prohibiting factors are found and one plays it only in moderation without fearing it distracting them from their religious or worldly obligations. In that case, it is permissible according to Imam Abu Yusuf.
If one is going to play chess they should be cautious as the nature of the game is addictive and can easily distract one. One should make good intentions: strengthening their mind, relaxing their heart, etc…
Hope this helps
Allah knows best
Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.