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Saudi grand mufti claims playing Chess forbidden in Islam

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London: Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti Sheikh Abdullah al-Sheikh has said that playing chess is forbidden in Islam, a British newspaper reported on Thursday.

Responding to a question on a television show in which he issues fatwas (religious decrees) after listening to viewers’ questions, Sheikh said playing the board game is “haram” (forbidden) as it encourages gambling and is a waste of time, The Guardian reported.

He claimed that the game was “included under gambling” and was “a waste of time and money and a cause for hatred and enmity between players”.

Al-Sheikh justified the ruling by referring to a verse in the Quran banning “intoxicants, gambling, idolatry and divination”.

Iraq’s Supreme Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani too had issued a decree terming the game “haram mutlaqan” (forbidden absolutely or under any circumstances), with or without betting.

The game of chess, a board game, can be traced back to an ancient version called Chatrang, popular in Persia during 600 BC.

The name “chess” is a variant of the Persian “shah” (king) that replaced the original “shatranj” and “ajedrez” and came to be modified through dialect across Europe as ‘check’ and later “chess”. (IANS)

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Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women drivers; 7 more bans yet to be addressed for Saudi women

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A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia, Oct. 22, 2013. VOA

Oct 2, 2017: The Sharia-ruled monarchy of the Middle-East, Saudi Arabia decided to lift the ban on women drivers on September 26, much to the elation of Women’s Rights Activists throughout the world. King Salman issued a royal decree on Tuesday granting Saudi women the right to drive thereby ending the kingdom’s notorious reputation of being the only country that prohibits women from driving. The law will come into effect on June 24, 2018.

While the pronouncement signifies a “positive step” towards women-empowerment, the conclusion of whether such laws can be turned into practice in a patriarchal society like Saudi Arabia can be drawn only with the unfolding of time.

Apart from relaxing the ban on women drivers, the Gulf Kingdom also terminated a series of interdicts forced upon the women. A handful of loosened bans included that women will no longer require approval from their guardian to work.

Another significant statute blessed upon women the freedom to enter the sports stadiums albeit exclusively for the Saudi National Day besides the compulsory edict of being seated only in a family section far away from single men.

The Government has also passed laws allowing girls in public schools to play sports and have access to physical education.

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UN Women political cartoon. Wikimedia

While everyone is busy celebrating women drivers in Saudi Arabia, there is still a myriad of bans inflicted on women. These are:

1. Following the divorce, Saudi women are permitted to keep their children with them only till they reach the age limit of 7years (for girls) and 9years (for boys).

2. Saudi women cannot marry and divorce without the due consent of their male guardian. The male head dominates everything in a Saudi family.

3. The women of Saudi Arabia do not have the permission to get a passport without the prior assent of their male guardian.

Also Read: A step forward: Saudi Women take up active roles in an All female Emergency Call Centre 

4. The approval of the male guardian is also required during any medical emergency. Women cannot take a voluntary decision regarding issues that concern the question of their life and death!

5. Women do not possess the right to socialize with men except for immediate family members. Consequently, all the restaurants and places of public entertainment in Saudi Arabia maintain two sections, one for the men where women cannot enter and the other for families.

6. Under Sharia laws, daughters can inherit property but only half of what is received by their male counterparts.

7. Saudi women cannot even start a work unless two male members testify about her character in a law court before she can be granted a loan or a license.

Prepared by Mohima Haque of Newsgram. Twitter @mohimahaque26

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