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['Aalim Network QR] Chess

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|       In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the All-Merciful       |\
|  Greeting of Allah be upon Muhammad and the pure members of his House |\

The question below was kindly answered by Sayyed Mohammad Soleiman-Panah.


Abbas Jaffer
Acting Moderator - ABDG-A.



What is the ruling about chess? I specially am curious about reasons to
prohibit it, if any. 



Besmehi Ta'ala

As to the question regarding chess I believe there was enough discussion 
but since it is posed again I will try to say a few words about it to the best 
of my ability. 

In posing questions such as this it is helpful to mention whose ruling we
are interested in. If the interest is in the general treatment of the issue
in Shi'a Fiqh, the generality usually in the area of Fiqh and Naqhl
(narration) brings ambiguity. 

Having said this I believe ruling regarding chess is different depending on
whose ruling we are talking about. As it has already been mentioned
according to Imam Khomeini playing chess as a sport or hobby is not Haram.
Since the questioner is more 
interested in knowing the reasons for prohibition, I think a correspondence
between Imam Khomeini and one of his student, Ayt.Ghadiry might be of some
help but a more elaborated discussion of the reasons must be sought in more
specialized sources and from scholars who are more qualified in the field of

We may want to know that someone wrote to Imam Khomeini and said that chess
was considered a sport and it was a mental exercise and he wanted to know if
playing chess was Jayz according to Imam. Imam Khomeini wrote that it was Jayz 
and the reply was widely broadcasted in Iranian Mass Media then. Ayt. Ghadiry in 
a letter to Imam Khomeini wrote that he thought Imam was wrong in permitting
chess because chess is widely played for gambling purposes and had no
significant sport function. This letter was also publicized widely by those
who found the ruling wrong. In yet another publicized 
letter Imam Khomeini wrote a very short answer to Ayt. Ghadiry that he was
surprised to read his letter and that expected more competency in Fiqh from
him. He told Ayt. Ghadiry that by then he should have known that ruling in
Figh are context bound and answers are only meaningful in the context of the
questions being asked. And if the original  assumptions of the question were
different the ruling would be different (please note that this a free
translation from my memory.) 

As we see the basis for this ruling was whether chess is a means of Haram
(gambling) or not. There is a Mabna (theoretical foundation) in Fiqh which
some scholars accept and some do not it says that any means of a Haram
activity is Haram itself, those who do not believe in this theorem do not
consider playing chess Haram if the purpose of playing is not gambling, In
his letter to Ayt. Ghadiry Imam Khomeini mentioned to him 
that Ayt. Khonsari, who was one the most mottaghi (righteous) person he has
seen, did not consider playing chess Haram. Apparently Ayt. Araki did not
believe in the above theorem since as I remember he did not consider playing
cards Haram given that gambling was not involved in the play, while we know
cards are widely played for gambling purposes. 

However it is clear from Imam Khomeini's  correspondence with Ayt. Ghadiry
that had chess been predominantly a gambling instrument he would have
considered it as Haram even if in individual cases it was not used for
gambling purposes.

With Regards,


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