Are Playing Cards and Chess forbidden in Islam?


Sir! I hope you will be fine. I want to ask you that, Is playing Cards and Chess, prohibited in Islam, when we do not make any sort bets on these games and just play them as a time pass?

Please give a detailed answer with references.

Thanks in anticipation

Fahad, Rawalpindi, Pakistan

Dear Brother

Assalam o alaikum wa Rahmatullah e wa Barakatuhu

How are you? I’ll appreciate if you can introduce yourself in detail.

A basic principle of Islam is that it does not interfere mundane affairs of life except if it finds some ethical and moral issues in them. The matter of indoor like cards, chess etc. is not an exception. If there is some moral issue like gambling, negligence of prayers due to over-involvement in the game etc, then such games are forbidden, otherwise allowed.

I’ve searched the Hadith database about chess and another Persian indoor game “Nardsher” and found that various companions of the Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم condemned such games. When I searched into the reasons of such disapproval, I found that there were certain moral problems associated with these games, due to which the companions رضی اللہ عنہم condemned such games.

1. Some sort of idols were used in them. As mentioned in the following Hadith:

حَدَّثَنَا وَكِيعٌ ، قَالَ : حدَّثَنَا فُضَيْلُ بْنُ مَرْزُوقٍ ، عَن مَيْسَرَةَ النَّهْدِيِّ ، قَالَ : مَرَّ عَلِيٌّ عَلَى قَوْمٍ يَلْعَبُونَ بِالشِّطْرَنْجِ , فَقَالَ : {مَا هَذِهِ التَّمَاثِيلُ الَّتِي أَنْتُمْ لَهَا عَاكِفُونَ}. (مصنف ابن أبي شيبة، 26682)

Caliph A’li رضی اللہ عنہ passed through a group of people playing chess, he said: “What are these idols on which you are sitting?”

2. People used to bet on the game, so the companions and their students disapproved them.

Ibn A’bdul Birr, a famous commentator of Hadith, has given a detailed account on opinions of scholars about chess and similar other games in his famous book Al-Tamheed, the commentary of Mauta Imam Malik. The summary of his discussion is that such games are unlawful if they contain some moral issues like gambling or negligence for prayers. However, in absence of such moral issues, majority of scholars consider them lawful, although a minority of them dislike them and consider them “Makrooh”. His statement is as follows:

وأما الشطرنج فاختلاف أهل العلم في اللعب بها على غير اختلافهم في اللعب بالنرد لأن كثيرا منهم أجاز اللعب بالشطرنج ما لم يكن قمارا سعيد بن المسيب وسعيد بن جبير ومحمد بن سيرين ومحمد بن المنكدر وعروة بن الزبير وابنه هشام وسليمان بن يسار وأبو وائل والشعبي والحسن البصري وعلي بن الحسن بن علي وجعفر بن محمد وابن شهاب وربيعة وعطاء كل هؤلاء يجيز اللعب بها على غير قمار

“As far as chess is concerned, scholars have disagreed on premising it. There is no disagreement on prohibition of  “Nard”. Most of them allowed playing chess if it is without gambling. They include (scholars like) Sa’eed Ibn Al-Musayyab, Sa’eed Ibn Jubair, Muhammad Ibn Sereen, Muhammad Ibn Al-Munkadir, U’rwah Ibn Zubair and his son Hisham, Sulaiman Ibn Yassar, Abu Wael, Sha’bi, Hasan Al-Basari, Ali Ibn Al-Hasan Ibn A’li, Ja’far (Al-Sadiq), Ibn Shahab, Rabi’ah, A’ta etc. All of them allow playing it without gambling.

Please note that all of them were the greatest scholars who learnt directly from the companions of the Prophet. From above discussion, it is clear that playing a game with gambling is forbidden and if it is without them, it is allowed provided that the player does not ignore performing prayer and other religious and moral obligations.

You have mentioned that you play them just as a time pass. I humbly request you to consider the fact that the time is the most precious thing in this life; each second of time is like a particle of gold which could be converted into great benefits of this world and the hereafter. It is not something that should be just passed or squandered. If you allow me, I’ll advise you the following:

1. Spend your idle time is some more meaningful activity like reading books, enhancing your knowledge, maintaining your fitness etc. I always keep a book in my car so that whenever I’ve to wait in a queue at any place like a hospital etc., I utilize that time in reading that book.

2. The time you’ve budgeted for playing games, it is better to utilize it in some outdoor / indoor game of your choice that rejuvenate the energies of your body and mind e.g. hockey, football, badminton, squash etc. I also regularly play squash for that purpose.

3. If you still have some extra time that you like to spend on mental games like chess, do it with the purpose of making your mind active and energetic rather than just passing the time.

4. Playing is something not a purpose itself. It is just a way to achieve some other objectives like physical and mental health. So more important tasks of life should never be ignored.

Feel free to discuss should you have any other question.

Remember in your prayers,


Muhammad Mubashir Nazir

Thankyou very much sir!

As far as my detailed introduction is concerned, I have told you my name. I study in Universtiy of Engineering and Technology, Taxila. I am in final year of Electrical Engineering.

I may take your time in future, regarding some other problems………

Again thank you……….

Jazak Allah….


Don’t hesitate to share your questions and comments. They will be highly appreciated. I’ll reply as soon as possible if I know the answer. Send at

Are Playing Cards and Chess forbidden in Islam?
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