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Playing Backgammon

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Daruliftaa.com

Please clarify why the Backgammon is such a bad game? Did it used to be played during the time of our prophet (sallalahu Alahi Wasalim)? What is the Hikmah and reason for forbidding it?

What if the backgammon is played with one’s spouse and the intension is to alert and improve the mind functionality for the service of Islamic work?


In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) clearly forbade the playing of backgammon.

Sayyiduna Burayda (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Whosoever plays with backgammon is as though he dipped his hands in the flesh and blood of a swine.” (Sahih Muslim, No. 2260)

Imam al-Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) explains this Hadith in his monumental commentary of Sahih Muslim:

“This Hadith is used as evidence by Imam Shafi’i and the majority of the scholars (jumhur) for the prohibition of playing backgammon. Abu Ishaq al-Marwazi from our (shafi’i) scholars stated that, it is disliked (makruh) and not unlawful (haram). As far as chess is concerned, our (shafi’i) school is of the opinion that it is disliked (makruh) and not Haram. This is also reported from a group of Tabi’un. Imam Malik and Imam Ahmad (Allah have mercy on them) are of the opinion that to play chess is also unlawful, for Malik says: “It is worse than playing backgammon and more distracting from good”, thus they considered it similar to playing backgammon…The meaning of “dipping hands in the flesh and blood of swine” is that, this refers to consuming it, thus the Hadith is resembling the prohibition of playing backgammon to the prohibition of consuming swine flesh and blood.” (al-Minhaj sharh Sahih Muslim ibn al-Hujjaj, P. 1677)

Sayyiduna Abu Musa al-Ash’ari (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Whosoever plays backgammon has indeed disobeyed Allah and His Messenger.” (Sunan Abu Dawud & Musnad Ahmad)

The great Hanafi jurist, Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states: “It is prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman) to play chess and backgammon.”

Allama Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) explains:

“The reason why chess and backgammon is prohibitively disliked is that, the one who becomes busy with playing these games is relieved from the stress and hardships of this world (m, meaning it is useless and endless entertainment that only waists time and relieves one from the pressing issues of life) and the pains and difficulties of the hereafter come to him. Therefore, it is unlawful and a grave sin, according to us, to play backgammon and chess. And in permitting it, is assisting Shaytan in his ploys against Islam and Muslims.” (Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar, 6/394)

Therefore, one should avoid playing chess or backgammon. The reason is that, playing these two normally waists a lot of time and prevents and distracts one from the religious and other worldly obligations. The legal principle (qa’ida fiqhiyya) is that, “The inevitable is considered actual,” in terms of establishing rulings (al-ghalib ka’l mutahaqqaq).

Islam severely disapproves of useless and baseless entertainment, thus the message in the Hadith is quite clear in that the one who plays backgammon is though he is consuming the flesh and blood of a swine.

And Allah Knows

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Darul Iftaa
Leicester , UK

This answer was collected from Daruliftaa.com, which is headed by Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam Al-Kawthari. He’s based in the United Kingdom.

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