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Chess and the Divine Decree

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    Posted: 09 March 2007 at 2:22am
Chess and the Divine Decree

By Emir Abdal-Qadir al-Jaza’iri

Translated by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

It would be honor enough for the people of India had they bequeathed us nothing but chess, a game that, like the sun itself, has traversed the entire globe. Indeed, people everywhere hold high in esteem and deem intelligent anyone who masters it or even plays it well. Such being the case, in how much greater esteem should we hold the brilliance of its ingenious inventor?

His name was Sissah b. Dahir, and he invented chess for Shah Ram around 500 CE, the king of India, after the Persian Ardashir b. Babak (d. 393 BH/241 CE) invented checkers for the first of the latter kings of Persia. The Persians and their king took great pride in checkers, which soon became their national pastime. However, when Sissah b. Dahir, the Indian philosopher, introduced the game of chess to the world, all the sages of his time immediately recognized its superiority over checkers.

After demonstrating the game to Shah Ram, Sissah completely beguiled the king and overjoyed him with its ingenious qualities. Shah Ram informed Sissah that he could “ask whatever reward desired, and it shall be granted.” Sissah replied, “I ask only that you take one grain of wheat and place it upon the first square of my board and then continue to double it with each additional square until the last square is reached, and bestow upon me all the grain that has accumulated.”

The bemused king could only laugh at such a paltry request and informed Sissah that he could not comply with such an insignificant request for such a momentous invention; moreover, the king had already resolved to grant him a much greater prize. Sissah informed him that his original request was all he wanted.

They continued to debate the point until the king realized how resolute Sissah was in his desire. Finally, the king commanded his factor to fulfill the inventor’s request, but when the ministers began to calculate just how much wheat would be needed, they realized the impossibility of the request. They explained that they did not have enough wheat in the royal storehouses to fulfill the request. The king scoffed and demanded an explanation.

The ministers sat down with the king and illustrated their calculations, and he soon comprehended the reality of their conclusion. The king then turned to Sissah and said, “In your request, you have revealed to us something even more wondrous than your invention!”

Whoever ponders the game of chess, and reflects deeply upon the nature of its pieces and the fixity of its patterns will realize that a profound secret concerning the nature of destiny has been disclosed to him by the simplest of methods. This could only result from its originator being a realized sage who revealed his profound wisdom in the arrangement and organization of his game ...

Dowload and/or read the whole article from Seasons Journal [PDF]
"I am a slave. I eat as a slave eats and I sit as a slave sits.", Beloved, sallallahu alyhi wa-sallam.
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