Prepared by the research committee of IslamToday.net
Backgammon is a game consists of a box, chips and dice where players will move in the bays of the box according to the number they get when rolling the dice.
Its old name is Nardashâr, some people call it the Tawilah game or al-Zahir.
At the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), backgammon was commonly played for money.
Scholars agree that backgammon is unlawful if played for money. They differ wheter it is unlawful when not played for money as a form of gambling.
Buraydah narrates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever plays Nardashâr, it is as if he immersed his hand in swine’s flesh and blood” [Related by Muslim]
Abû Mûsâ al-Ash`arî related: “I heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) say: “Whoever plays Nardashâr has disobeyed Allah and his Prophet.” [Related by Mâlik, Ahmad, Abu Dâwûd and Ibn Mâjah]
Scholars differ whether this prohibition should be understood to refer to playing backgammon for money – since that was the overwhelming situation at the Prophet's time – or should be understood as a general prohibition.
There were a number of scholars who saw nothing wrong with playing backgammon in and of itself. They also acknowledged the above-mentioned hadîth. However, they understood the Prophet (peace be upon him) to be referring to playing backgammon for money. It was the prevalent practice during the Prophet's time to gamble with backgammon. It was almost never played merely for amusement.
These scholars are applying the principle of specifying the general wording of a text in accordance to the dictates of the general circumstances in order to get at the intended meaning. This view of backgammon was held by many eminent Successors, including Sa`îd b. al-Musayyib, al-Hasan al-Basrî, `Abd Allah b. al-Mughfal, al-Sha`bî, and `Ikrimah. [al-Istidhkâr (8/461]
And Allah knows best.
Source: Islam Today