Recently I had a bit of discussion with a fellow North Carolinian. He brought up The Immortal Game, a wonderful book written by David Shenk which recounts the history of Chess. He also mused why some Muslim countries might have banned the game.
Then why did Iran ban Chess for nearly a decade? Since Iran is an Islamic country, the answer must be in the Qur'an, or more accurately, how it might be interpreted.
From the many sites I visited in which Islamic mentors gave their explanations for the original ban, several reasons I found most commonly presented were :
Back to The Immortal Game, Mr. Shenk wrote:
I'm not sure how common the consensus really is since many conservative elements still seems to consider chess haram or forbidden, but the more liberal factions understand that chess, as a rule, doesn't involve gambling. Public chess doesn't seem to be an issue for the Iranian men or women players who take part in tournaments. Displays of anger or improper language seem no more, and possibly less, common in a chess environment than is most other recreations. Apparently Staunton pieces don't run counter to laws on handling representative pieces, since those are the sets used in tournament play.
Though the Qur'an seems to prohibit certain games, it obviously does not prohibit chess specifically since chess didn't even exist in its present form when the Qur'an was written. The issue is one of extrapolation and different elements extrapolate differently.
Iranian chess is flourishing today. Hopefully chess and Islam can come to permanent terms and the 64 squares become a means of transcending differences rather than being a field of contention.