Is chess Haram in the Hanafi Madhab?

ⓘ Supported by Al Medina 313.



Islamic Text

Chess is prohibited in the Hanafi Madhab. Some of the scholars referred to it as Makruh Tahriman and others said Haram. However, there is little difference between Makruh Tahriman and Haram, both are prohibited and sinful.

وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ وَلَلدَّارُ الْآخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ

The life of this lower world (Dunya) is but play and distraction. The afterlife is greater for those who have Taqwaa (piety), will you not understand? (Surah al-Anaam, 32).

Games and activities that benefit one’s mind or body are permitted if engaged in moderation. Such play does not come under the rebuke in the Ayah above. However, when the nature of the game is such that it leads to over engrossment or excessive preoccupation then it is likely to cause one to fail in obligations.

Some people say that even when I spend hours playing chess, I still perform all of my prayers. It is important for such people to realise that Salah (prayer) is not their only obligation. Rather, spending time with one’s family, studying Islam and taking care of yourself (sleep, exercise etc) are all obligatory demands one one’s time.

This is why the Hanafi scholars were opposed to chess. It becomes almost inevitable that one will fail in his obligations. This being the legal cause for the prohibition is significant. Since it will be applied to other games that lead to a similar level of preoccupation and neglect of ones duties.

كُرِهَ تَحْرِيمًا (اللَّعِبُ بِالنَّرْدِ وَ) كَذَا (الشِّطْرَنْجِ)
(قَوْلُهُ وَالشِّطْرَنْجُ) مُعَرَّبُ شِدْرَنْجَ، وَإِنَّمَا كُرِهَ لِأَنَّ مَنْ اشْتَغَلَ بِهِ ذَهَبَ عَنَاؤُهُ الدُّنْيَوِيُّ، وَجَاءَهُ الْعَنَاءُ الْأُخْرَوِيُّ فَهُوَ حَرَامٌ وَكَبِيرَةٌ عِنْدَنَا، وَفِي إبَاحَتِهِ إعَانَةُ الشَّيْطَانِ عَلَى الْإِسْلَامِ وَالْمُسْلِمِينَ كَمَا فِي الْكَافِي. (رد المحتار على الدر المختار)

Imam al-Haskafi: It is Makruh Tahriman to play backgammon and likewise chess.

Imam Ibn Abideen: His saying, chess, it is Arabized from Sidranj. Indeed, it is Makruh. Although the one who plays it will have relief from the hardships of this life (al-Dunya), but he will incur the hardships of the afterlife (Akhirah). Therefore, it is Haram and a Major sin with us. Considering it permitted assists the devil (Shaytaan) in opposition to Islam and the Muslims. This has been mentioned in al-Kaafi. (Radd al-Muhtaar).

وَأَمَّا الشِّطْرَنْجُ فَاللَّعِبُ بِهِ حَرَامٌ عِنْدَنَا وَاَلَّذِي يَلْعَبُ بِالشِّطْرَنْجِ هَلْ تَسْقُطُ عَدَالَتُهُ وَهَلْ تُقْبَلُ شَهَادَتُهُ فَإِنْ قَامَرَ بِهِ سَقَطَتْ عَدَالَتُهُ وَلَمْ تُقْبَلُ شَهَادَتُهُ وَإِنْ لَمْ يُقَامِرْ لَمْ تَسْقُطْ عَدَالَتُهُ. (الفتاوى الهندية)

As for chess, playing it is Haram according to us. If someone plays chess, does it nullify his uprightness? And is his testimony valid? If he is gambling alongside it, then his uprightness is nullified, and his testimony is not valid. However, if he is not gambling then his uprightness is not nullified. (al-Fataawa al-Hindiyah).

وَلَا يسلم على من يلْعَب بالشطرنج إلاَّ إِذا كَانَ قَصده التشويش عَلَيْهِم. (عمدة القاري شرح صحيح البخاري)

One should not extend Salam to someone playing chess, unless he intends to distract them. (Imam Badr al-Deen al-Ayni, Umdatu al-Qari).

It is important to note that this is the ruling in the Hanafi Madhab. Other Madhabs may well differ and that must be respected.

And Allah Most High Knows Best

-Answered by Shaykh Noorud-deen Rashid (14.01.2023)

See also:
Is Music Haram in the Hanafi Madhab?

Are all dice games haram?

See also video: