London: Saudi Arabia's grand mufti Sheikh Abdullah al-Sheikh has said that playing chess is forbidden in Islam, a British newspaper reported on Thursday.
Responding to a question on a television show in which he issues fatwas (religious decrees) after listening to viewers' questions, Sheikh said playing the board game is "haram" (forbidden) as it encourages gambling and is a waste of time, The Guardian reported.
He claimed that the game was "included under gambling" and was "a waste of time and money and a cause for hatred and enmity between players".
Al-Sheikh justified the ruling by referring to a verse in the Quran banning "intoxicants, gambling, idolatry and divination".
Iraq's Supreme Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani too had issued a decree terming the game "haram mutlaqan" (forbidden absolutely or under any circumstances), with or without betting.
The game of chess, a board game, can be traced back to an ancient version called Chatrang, popular in Persia during 600 BC.
The name "chess" is a variant of the Persian "shah" (king) that replaced the original "shatranj" and "ajedrez" and came to be modified through dialect across Europe as 'check' and later "chess".