Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh likened the game to gambling.
Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh declared chess is forbidden in Islam when he was asked about the game on a television show.
The top religious official said chess was “included under gambling” and was “a waste of time and money and a cause for hatred and enmity between players.” the Guardian reports. A verse in the Qur’an bans “intoxicants, gambling, idolatry and divination.”
Al Sheikh did not deliver his response to the question as a formal decree, though British chess grandmaster Nigel Short told the BBC the pronouncement means members of the Saudi Chess Associations could be imperiled for playing the game. “I don’t consider chess to be a threat to society. It’s not something that is so depraved as to corrupt morals,” Short said.
Chess had previously been forbidden in Iran, though Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini lifted the ban about a decade later.