Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah al-Sheikh, the Grand Mufti or the highest religious cleric of Saudi Arabia has today declared the game of chess as haram for Muslims. He said the game shows enmity and hatred. The proclamation was made while he was attending a weekly television show.
“The game of chess is a waste of time and an opportunity to squander money. It causes enmity and hatred between people,” he said, according to a translation by Middle East Eye. He has also compared it to the ‘masir’ an Arabian pre-Islamic game which was forbidden by the Koran.

However the fatwa does not constitute a ban in Saudi Arabia as it does not carry the force of law, but it was provoking debate in the country today. According to Musa Bin Thaily, who presides over the Saudi Chess Association’s law committee, said the planned chess tournament in Mecca would be going ahead on Friday.
“The Saudi Chess Association has put great efforts in chess popularity and will continue holding events everywhere unless forced otherwise,” Mr. Thaily added.

Earlier Iraq’s supreme Shia religious authority, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a fatwa saying chess is forbidden “in all circumstances”, even if a computer rather than real pieces are used and no bets are placed.