ART & CULTURE

The enduring tradition of chess in the Muslim world

Saladin al-Ayoubi and Caliph Harun al-Rashid were among those fond of chess. (Supplied)

The International speed chess tournaments will be held in Saudi Arabia later this month. However, over the years, chess has been a significant part of history throughout the Muslim era.

According to history and literature books, chess was very famous among the elites of several Arab and Muslim societies. Princes, caliphs, authors, linguists, poets and doctors mastered that game.

Those who were fond of it included founder of the Ayyubid dynasty, Saladin al-Ayoubi, caliphs Harun al-Rashid, al-Mu’tadid and al-Mu’tazz and poet Moti Ibn Iyas.

This is in addition to Arib al-Ma’muniyya, a very beautiful woman who was famous for her excellent chess skills. Some historians say she was the daughter of Jaafar al-Barmaki and that she was kidnapped when she was young and Caliph Al-Ma’mun bought her.

The International speed chess tournaments will be held in Saudi Arabia later this month. (Shutterstock)

According to biographer Yaqut al-Hamawi, Abu Bakr bin Yahya al-Suli, a companion of the Abbasid caliphs, was one of those who mastered the game at the time.

Historical accounts about chess vary as many claim that Arabs taught it to westerners through Andalusia and during the Crusades. However, it remains unclear where the game originated from as many trace its roots to India while others trace them to China.

Chess is a game of the mind, considering the multiple possibilities associated with every move. It’s taught to children in schools in many countries, such as in Russia, as it helps teach them logic and the principle of causality.

This article is also available in Arabic.

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Last Update: Monday, 25 December 2017 KSA 15:11 - GMT 12:11
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