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Backgammon is a game similar to chess whose jurisprudential ruling is discussed in fiqh or Islamic jurisprudence. Backgammon involves a board and a number of pieces. It is mainly based on luck. The game is usually mentioned in hadiths along with chess and is prohibited. According to hadiths, backgammon is a vain action and counts as an instance of gambling.
Jurists have discussed backgammon in the part concerning forbidden transactions or businesses under gambling instruments. They take it to be forbidden as a gambling instrument. Al-Shaykh al-Ansari believes that backgammon is forbidden even if it does not count as a gambling instrument.
What is Backgammon
Backgammon is one of the oldest entertainments that was originally created in ancient Persia and was common in meeting and parties of statesmen and wealthy people. Just like chess, a backgammon consists of a board and a number of pieces. It involves 30 pieces and two dices. And unlike the chess which is a strategic mind game, it is based on luck.
Backgammon is mentioned in hadiths along with the chess, and they both are prohibited. Imam al-Sadiq (a) said: chess and backgammon are instances of gambling. According to al-Kafi, the Prophet (s) forbade playing chess and backgammon. According to other hadiths, backgammon is a vain, useless action.
Since backgammon was practice as gambling in order to earn money, it is discussed in jurisprudential books under forbidden transactions or business. Backgammon and chess are discussed in forbidden transactions as gambling instruments.
Jurists take backgammon to be an instrument that is particularly used for gambling. They said that hadiths have prohibited playing with them without any qualifications. Thus, it is forbidden to play with them, whether or not one actually gambles with them. Al-Shaykh al-Ansari wrote: it is forbidden to play backgammon even if it is not used as a gambling instrument, because it is prohibited in certain hadiths only as a vain useless act, and not merely as a gambling instrument.
On the contrary, some contemporary jurists, such as Imam Khomeini and Sayyid Ahmad Khwansari, maintain that games such as chess and backgammon were forbidden only because they were instruments for gambling. Thus, if they are no longer commonly known as gambling instruments, it is not forbidden to play them when no gambling is involved.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from تخته نرد in Farsi WikiShia.