The Daily Dirt Chess Blog: Chess Takes It Up the Sistani: "Chess Takes It Up the Sistani
Whether or not chess is permissable under Islam has gone around many times, including in the mainstream press. The Taliban said no, but then they said no to everything. Iran used to say no, but lately have said yes, even hosting the FIDE world championship final in 2000. Now that the Bush administration looks set to succeed where Bin Laden failed in turning Iraq into a Sharia state, this is again a hot topic, or at least a hot symbol of repression.
But I hadn't seen the Q&A section of Grand Ayatollah Sistani of Iraq's website myself until now. The items on chess are quite categorical. It is 'absolutely forbidden,' coming in worse than anal sex on the sin chart and at the same level as abortion. Chess even gets this charming exposition:
It is not permissible, because it is a means for Lahv (debauchery) and gambling. Many traditions have been reported from the Holy Prophet and the Imams (a.s.) that prohibit playing chess. Moreover, when we do not know the reason behind the forbiddenness of an act, we are bound to obey in absolute obedience. There is a reason for it, but we do not know it and when we do not know it, it does not mean that we should not abide by it.
Well that settles that. Obviously this is all debatable, at least if you are far enough away not to be stoned to death for debating it. The Shiites in Iran and most other Muslims don't seem to agree. Some old-tyme Christian and Puritan sects also banne"