Haram-ing Ludo

Ludo has held an important place in the Pakistani household for many, many years. As per a quick literature review, the Ludo game is a simplified form of Pachisi, an Indian game which was, as Kristy McGowan writes in her article in Calliope, a favourite of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. The Emperor was so fond of the game that he had an enormous ‘board’ made in his courtyard in Fatehpur, Sikri. Young girls dressed in the respective colours of the sides replaced the pieces, with each player having 4 girls per side. The derived version of Pachisi maintains most of the rules. However, some things changed. For example, the Ludo uses dices instead of cowrie shells (which gave the name to the original game: Pachisi, a variation of the word Pachis, the Hindi word for 25; the highest number that could be thrown using the cowrie shells). Moreover, the game has a different interface, a different board. These differences can be attributed to the British who meshed them into the original game and gave its colonies the adapted versions to play with.

The Ludo game has recently crossed into the virtual platform. Like many other board-games and their virtual counterparts, the virtual Ludo too maintains the same rules and almost gives a homely vibe. Taking advantage of the internet, it enables family members and friends who are divided by distance to rekindle the excitement of the game and play it on the same board while still being far away. Given the timeframes allotted to each player, the game offers a brief but much enjoyed respite to the busyness of life. Moreover, as Ludo has always been a strategic game, it also exercises the mind and gets the brain juices flowing. The wins are of course are pleasurable, as are any wins, and trigger the secretion of serotonin and dopamine in our circulatory system. Loses, on the other hand, do leave one despondent but the sadness is far from anything suicidal.

Before we move on, it is important to remember the importance of resting. A simple google search will reveal numerous psychologists and behaviourists claiming the advantages of taking breaks from work and life related responsibilities. Rest is so important that established western countries ensure that workers in all fields of work have ample rest and moments of indulgences. In Finland, for example, you are contractually bound to take days off and the employers are not allowed to pay the employee for ‘vacations not taken’. You are actually disallowed to come to office in the vacation days. Daimler, the German car and truck maker has a software that deletes the emails sent to employees on their vacations so that their rest is not disturbed. For these countries (and as backed by studies and sheer common knowledge), taking a break does not mean wasting time but is an important need of humans to ensure physical and mental healthiness.

Now, let’s come to our world. For some time, Ludo has been under fire. Many bearded men (always men) have come out against Ludo. They quote a hadith about dice-games and insist that playing Ludo is as bad as drowning one’s hands in swine blood. But, these madmen don’t just stop at quoting the hadith. On the contrary, they try to infuse logic in their claim. For them, the dice throw is all about chance and as no mental or physical effort or risk is involved, they insist it is just like interest in banking. They also complain about how it wastes times which could have instead been spent praying. They claim, with much anger, that Ludo could be the demise of our future generations and hence as good Muslims, we must stop playing it.

The arguments are laughable and can be easily broken down and annihilated without much effort. However, strangely many educated youths are sharing these videos and warning their friends against playing Ludo. This speaks a lot about the intellect level of our society and of what the future holds for us.

Anyways, back to the bearded lot. They claim a hadith to be the foundation of their arguments. As such people always do, they disregard the context and the logic behind these sayings. The dice games warned against are those that involve betting and usually lead to human mistakes that can cause familial and societal disarray. Moreover, if the hadith only speaks about ‘dice games’ would it be fine to play Pachsis with shells even though it follows the same rules as Ludo? Moreover, the emotional blackmailing of ‘spending time playing instead of praying’ is sadistic to say the least. Why are these people so against people enjoying themselves and having smiles to share? Why do they have to paint everything that makes one happy with the tones of sins? Lastly, as do all strategic games, Ludo too involves mental exercise. These men fail to remember that the game moves beyond the dice roll and it is ridiculous to remain fixated on the roll alone.

Such men are master manipulators. By spreading such ridiculous fatwas, they try to make themselves relevant. It is pertinent for our populace to see them for what they are and use rationale to question things they throw our way. Or else, soon, they might even claim that breathing is haram.

The writer is working as a health economist in a think-tank based in Islamabad.



The writer is a Dissertation Researcher based in Finland. He conducts research on political, regional and societal changes with special focus on religious minorities in Europe.

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