Chess is Haraam, what a non-sense!

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it amazes me about this judgmental crap that has crept into some parts of the Muslim societies parroting the binary haram halal rhetoric. It’s equivalent to the right-wing rhetoric from Christian, Jews, and Hindus, facts, and reason don’t matter to them.

The below article is reproduced as is from the Author Chidu Rajghatta, a fellow Bangalorean!

Mike Ghouse
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So the toxic troll patrol has descended on another cricketer of Muslim faith to display to him — and the world — their idiocy. Mohammed Kaif has been attacked on social media for sharing a photograph of him playing chess with his young son. The incident comes on the heels of the same moral brigade hectoring Irfan Pathan and Mohammed Shami for posting pictures of their wives outside of a burkha or hijab.

Chess, according to dimwits steeped in the Saudi school of orthodoxy (or orthodox idiocy), is haram; it apparently encourages gambling, and is a sin worse than polygamy and old, decrepit men marrying minors. ”Kaif bhai ye khel haram hai,” advised ”Khan Imran” in response to Kaif’s post on Twitter, while ”Umar Sharieff” wanted him to teach his son ”deen aur quran.” Kaif’s classy response: ”Thekeedar ji se poochiye, is breathing haraam or not.”

Chess is life said Bobby Fischer. The thekedaars have done everything to snuff it out in the Islamic world, which has not produced a player of distinction outside the orbit of former Soviet republics, including in Iran, where the game flowered after it was devised in India (in Kashmir, according to some legends).

Indeed, for centuries, chess was central to the Muslim ethos, particularly in the sub-continent. This was best illustrated in Munshi Premchand’s classic 1924 story Shatranj ke Khiladi, brought to cinematic life by the great Satyajit Ray. Whether Premchand knew of the Mir Sultan Khan and his exploits (more soon about the greatest Indian chess player before Vishy Anand), which gained international recognition only in the 1929-1933 time frame, is not known. But noblemen of Awadh, where Premchand’s story is set, were evidently awash in the game even as the Company Bahadurs came marching in.

Although legend has it that the game was invented or devised in India, most chess historians agree that it was then taken to Persia, where it became a part of the princely or courtly education of Persian nobility. The Islamic conquest of Persia took the game further afield to Europe, even as it returned to India, becoming wildly popular among the Muslim elites.

Among them was a Muslim overlord in Sargodha (in present day Pakistan) named Colonel Nawab Sir Umar Hayat Khan, who recognized the early chess promise in his equerry (stable boy) named Mir Sultan Khan. Vigorously promoting the young, unlettered boy, the Nawab unleashed him on the European circuit in the late 1920, creating a sensation. Barely literate and only then getting familiar with western systems and notations, the young Khan stunned top players of his generation, winning three British Open crowns, the chess equivalent those days of Wimbledon.

An underreported accompaniment to Mir Sultan Khan’s story: Sir Hayat Khan’s female servant Fatima also won the British Open title for women in 1933. Digest that, you orthodox idiots. It wasn’t just Muslim men, Muslim women played chess too. Imagine an Indian Muslim woman creating a sensation in London some 85 years before the Indian women’s cricket team made headlines.

Khan’s exploits were widely reported in the media at that time, including in The Times of India in 1935, when he arrived in Bombay for a simultaneous chess display in a club in Tamarind Lane in Fort. Subsequently, he began to fade out from public view disappearing altogether by the mid-1950s when Sargodha, his home town, went to Pakistan., where both his body and his fame and reputation lies buried. But in his heydays, he was a subject of immense curiosity and awe among his contemporaries.

Among them was the American player Reuben Fine, who played him often. Fine noted that Khan was actually a serf on the estate of a maharajah when his chess genius was discovered. “He spoke English poorly, and kept score in Hindustani. It was said that he could not even read the European notations,” Fine records, recounting that after a tournament [the 1933 Folkestone Olympiad] the American team was invited to the home of Khan’s master in London.

”When we were ushered in we were greeted by the maharajah with the remark, ‘It is an honor for you to be here; ordinarily I converse only with my greyhounds.” Fine notes about the Maharaj’s fine social graces. ”Although he was a Mohammedan, the maharajah had been granted special permission to drink intoxicating beverages, and he made liberal use of this dispensation,” he writes. “In the meantime Sultan Khan, who was our real entrée to his presence, was treated as a servant by the maharajah (which in fact he was according to Indian law), and we found ourselves in the peculiar position of being waited on at table by a chess grand master.”

Whether all this left Sultan Khan upset or embittered is not known, Maybe he took it stoically like most people of the subcontinent do. But what is certain is that after he returned to India in the mid-1930s, he gradually gave up on chess. By the time of Partition he was a largely forgotten entity, having stopped playing competitive chess. His death in 1966 went almost unrecorded in Pakistan (which to this day hasn’t much of a clue about the Indian genius it accidentally inherited). When I sought to visit Sargodha in 1988 to pursue the Khan story, I was denied permission by Pakistan (then under Gen. Zia’s military rule) on grounds that it was a military base.

Remarkably, the Great Khan does not appear to have had any of the toxic religious pathology promoted by the Saudis, something Riyadh’s rentboy Pakistan subscribes to given the manner in which his fame lies buried in the country that has not produced a single worthwhile chess player. In a 1966 account in a chess journal, the British Master Harry Golombek writes about how Khan had no problem rooming with him, a Jew, after struggling to acclimatize to the cold weather and bland food in England. “Only recently arrived in England, he was in search of a type of cooking not too far away from his Indian variety and thus it happened that he and I were the only chessplayers at a Jewish boarding house where, I still remember it, the cooking was indeed infinitely better than anything offered by the smarter hotels of the resort,” he recounts.

Today, there are only a handful of top level Muslim chess player (mostly from the former Soviet Republics; three Azeri Grandmasters are ranked in the Top50). With the spread of the toxic puritanism and orthodoxy, chess has been eviscerated from countries such as Pakistan, a crumbling lapdog of Saudi ideology. Pakistan’s top ranked grandmaster has an ELO rating of 2343 and would rank 95th in India. The top ranked Saudi player, probably inviting execution now, is ranked 2195 and would not make even the Top500 in India.

It’s a scenario that would push Mirza Sajjad Ali and Mir Roshan Ali, the jagirdars of Awadh, to bury themselves even deeper into the board. Only this time it is not company bahadurs but religious fundamentalism that is marching in.

— Chidu Rajghatta

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