Muslim Influence on Chess
The Abbasid and Umayyad Empires were ruled by Muslim dynasties and populated by a diverse range of people of different religions, regions, languages, and cultures. They traded with Europe, Russia, India, the Far East, and Africa, and stretched from the Middle East and former Persian Empire across North Africa and most of Spain. It was this worldwide influence of the empires that enabled chess to spread so far and to so many people. With the initial conquest of Persia, however, it was feared that the Muslims would ban chess due to a law in the Qua'ran forbidding gambling. However — after a century of debate — theologians ruled chess officially acceptable and the game regained its old popularity.
Not only was chess legalized, a detailed literature of standards, rules, and chess etiquette was created as the game gained in popularity. One change brought about by the influence of Islam was that the design of the pieces became more abstract, due to the Commandments "Thou shalt not make unto thyself a graven image" and "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," which forbid creation and worship of images and idols. All Muslim art of that time period is similarly abstract, and people are rarely depicted. However, a different form of art found expression through chess: a poem in the Rubiyat of Omar Khayyam, a Muslim mathematician, philosopher, and poet, uses chess as a metaphor for life and death. The famous quatrain reads, "Tis all a chequer-board of nights and days, / Where Fate with men for pieces plays: / Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays, / And one by one back in the closet lays."