As-Salaamu `alaykum wa RaHmatullaahi wa Baarakaatuh!
1. Is it true that Imaam MuHammad ibni Idriis ash-Shafi`i played chess often and said that it is good for the intellect, or is this just another WaHaabi myth used to discredit this great imaam???
2. Is chess actually haraam? I saw a Hadiith in SaHiiH Muslim that says in English that those who play chess are cursed. I want to know if it is a mistranslation, insha'Allaah, and should actually be about a different game which the translators possibly thought chess is the closest known game to it in the West. And what is the meaning of this Hadiith???
It seems a little strange to me that chess existed in Makkah and surrounding areas in that time, and seems unlikely that the Prophet, `alayhi Salaatu was-Salaam, would have said such a thing about chess, Allaahu allim, so I feel intrigued to ask you about this!
If chess is haraam then I guess the answer to the above question about Imaam Ash-Shafi`i is probably that it is highly likely an attempt at majorly discreditting him invented by the so-called Salafis!
Al-jawab billahi at-taufeeq (the answer with Allah's guidance)
Many of the great Muslim scholars including Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik and Imam Ahmad (ra) have clearly stated the prohibition and non-permissibility of chess. Imam Malik (RA) said that it is worse than the game of nard (backgammon, which is also haram) and more destructive than gambling.
According to the Mazhab (school of thoughts) of Imam Shafi’ee (RA) the playing of chess is permissible but it must be stated that this was the first view of the great imam but even then he fixed certain conditions for its permissibility, e.g. involvement in the game must not be to the extent that the performance of Salaat is delayed from its fixed time; the game must not be played abundantly; absorption in it must not be so much that the answer to someone’s salaam is not given, etc. These conditions are not to be found these days when this game is being played. It is also a fact that Imam Shafiee later withdrew of chess being permissible.
The evidences for its prohibition:
Allah Ta'ala says, "And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks (i.e.music, singing, etc.) to mislead (men) from the Path of Allâh without knowledge, and takes it (the Path of Allâh, the Verses of the Qur'ân) by way of mockery. For such there will be a humiliating torment (in the Hell-fire)." (Surah Number: 31, Ayah Number: 6)
The above Ayat mentions idle talk (Lahwal Hadith) means, any things which make a human being negligent and careless from performing any obligations like, salah etc. This meaning is according to majority of the Sahabas, Tabieen (successors) and general Mufassireen (commentators). Therefore, this Lahwal Hadith is Haraam. Hence, Chess comes in this category.
The prophet (sallallahu alahi wa sallam) said: "He who plays Backgammon has disobeyed Allah Ta’ala and His (Rasool) .” (Abu Dawud Vol. 2 Pg. 319)
Prophet (sallallah alihi wa sallam) said: "Whoever plays backgammon it is as if he had coloured his hands with the flesh and blood of a pig." (Abu Dawud Vol.2 Pg. 319)
Hadhrat Ali (ra) also said: “Chess is gambling of the Ajam people (non Arabs)”
In a Hadith similar to the Muslim Hadith, Prophet (sallallahu alahi wa sallam) has said, "A person who plays chess is cursed and those who watch is like the consumer of pig meat." (Kanzul Ummal Hadith no. 636)
In another Hadith, Prophet (sallallahu alahi wa sallam) said, "Allah Ta'ala reveals mercy to His slaves everyday for 360 days but the one who plays chess will not partake any mercy." (Kanzul Ummal Hadith No. 656)
Absorption in this game (chess) is so much, that we seek the protection of Allah Ta’ala and to guide us straight. Ameen.