Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Just Declared Chess Unholy — But These 6 Things Are Still A-OK


The top Muslim cleric of Saudi Arabia, Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah, declared the game of chess to be "haram" — the Islamic equivalent of non-Kosher — during his weekly television appearance. 

"The game of chess is a waste of time and an opportunity to squander money," the grand mufti said, according to the Middle East Eye. "It causes enmity and hatred between people."

Justifying his declaration, Abdullah referenced a section of the Quran that prohibits "intoxicants, gambling, idolatry and divination," the Guardian reported. 

This is not the first time chess has been seemingly incompatible with Islam. After the 1979 revolution in Iran, playing chess in public was outlawed for similar reasons.

While chess remains too controversial and scandalous for ordinary Saudi Arabians, here are six things that still get the thumbs-up. 

1. Polygamy

Under Sharia, a strict interpretation of Islam which governs Saudi Arabia, men are permitted to have more than one wife. Some even argue polygamy remedies certain social ills.

Hani Mohammed/AP

"In Saudi Arabia we have centers for sheltering children born out of wedlock, and this was never the case before," Ibrahim al-Anzi, a sociology professor, told the al-Sharq newspaper, Al Arabiya reported. "This is basically because of outside marriage relationships due to objection to polygamy."

2. Stoning

Saudi citizens and migrants working within the country can be sentenced to death by stoning for a number of offenses. A Sri Lankan maid was convicted of adultery with an accompanied stoning sentence. After the Sri Lankan government persistently campaigned on behalf of the maid, it was overturned on Dec. 23 in exchange for a jail sentence. 

3. Public flogging

Hans Punz/AP

Raif Badawi, an activist and defender of free speech, was sentenced to 1,000 lashes for his blogging, which so far has been administered 50 lashes at a time. 

4. Marital rape

In Saudi Arabia forced or nonconsensual sexual penetration between a man and wife is not illegal and therefore not punishable. It is one among a number of countries across the world in which marital rape is legitimized. 

5. Punishing women for driving

Fayez Nureldine/Getty Images

In 2011 a woman in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to 10 whip-lashings for defying the ban on driving. While the violation is usually resolved by mandating a signed pledge not to repeat the offense, mounting resistance resulted the issuance of more severe punishments.

6. Eye-gouging

Puthan Veettil Abdul-Latif Noushad, an Indian migrant worker, was sentenced to an eye-gouging in 2003 after he was found to have participated in a brawl that injured a Saudi native.

There is reason to hope that the kingdom will one day soften on the more brutal parts of its law. In 2015, women were given suffrage — and ran for public office — for the first time ever. But whether this is the first step in a series of progressive changes remains to be seen.