Articles: November 2013 Archives

Islam vs Chess (yes, really!)

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In Honour of the World Chess Championship Playoff beginning 9 November.

Allah's Messenger (saws) said: 'He who played chess is like one who dyed his hand with the flesh and blood of swine.' (Sahih Muslim Hadith 5612, Narrated by Buraydah ibn al-Hasib)

 Islam flag.png     VS     Playing chess.jpg

OK, I concede that this particular aspect of Islam may not appear to be the biggest issue facing western democracies. But it does provide an interesting and unusually amusing illustration of some of the different priorities inherent in Islamic thinking.

Some prominent political/cultural clashes have occurred over the chess board. Most famously during the cold war the contest in 1972 between Bobby Fischer (USA) and Boris Spassky (USSR) captivated attention. On 9 November 2013, the World Chess Championship playoff tournament begins between defending champion Viswanathan Anand (India) and challenger Magnus Carlsen (Norway). Anand defended his title in 2012 in a very tight contest against Gelfand, Israel's top player, but this year is the underdog.

Of course most chess is not played at the elite level. It is played at an amateur level in homes, clubs and is very popular in schools. It is said to benefit participants by teaching concentration, focus, planning, strategy and tactics. In older years there is evidence that the brain, like other bodily parts, also abides by the "use it or lose it" principle and medical studies have shown a reduced incidence of dementia amongst chess players.

So why on earth is Islam opposed to chess? What is it about chess which so offends Islam?

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This page is an archive of entries in the Articles category from November 2013.

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