Even the Saudi Grand Mufti Can’t Stop These Chess Players

A fatwa against the game of chess isn't stopping Saudi players from holding tournaments.


On Friday, Saudi chess players will face off in a competitive tournament in the holy city of Mecca.

One person who probably won’t be in attendance? Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, who recently forbade Muslims from playing chess in response to a viewer’s question on his weekly television show, With His Eminence the Mufti.

He argued that chess — a relatively popular pastime in Saudi Arabia — is “a waste of time and an opportunity to squander money,” adding that it causes “enmity and hatred between people.”

Luckily for Friday’s competitors, the mufti’s fatwa from last month lacks legal standing under Saudi civil law and instead serves only as religious guidance.

Still, after a flurry on social media, the president of the law committee of the Saudi Chess Association, Musa Bin Thaily, clarified in a tweet Wednesday that the tournament Friday, which will qualify the winners for a national championship and possibly the world series of chess, will go ahead as planned.

In a similar case last year, a senior Saudi cleric ruined what many consider to be their favorite wintertime activity by issuing a fatwa against building snowmen, even though Saudi Arabia isn’t known for its snowfall.  

Below, FP selected a sampling of the many tweets written about the incident.



Henry Johnson is a fellow at Foreign Policy. He graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a degree in history and previously wrote for LobeLog. Twitter: @HenryJohnsoon

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