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December 2005
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Trends

High-Tech Hajj
By A Staff Writer


Modern technology has changed the way Muslims experience Hajj. Pilgrims even use the mobile phone to relay the sermon of the Imam of the Nimrah mosque, to their relatives back home.


One-fifth of mankind shares a single aspiration: to undertake, at least once in a lifetime, the spiritual journey to Makkah in Saudi Arabia and perform Hajj.


Every year, hundreds of thousands of Muslims from all over the world arrive in Saudi Arabia. The journey now is much shorter and in some ways less arduous than it used to be in the past. Hajj’s first rite is the intention, and then putting on of the ihram.


Technology has changed the experience for some and for many, it’s a once-in-a-life time experience.


The ‘National Geographic’ in its November 1978 issue, carried an article by Dr. Muhammad Abdul Rauf, Director, Islamic Centre, Washington, where he remarks on this unusual emotional drive in Muslims: “what is it that impels the Muslims to make this journey involving great sacrifice, hardship and cost, and yet doing so ardently and lovingly?” He then goes on to answer himself and quite aptly: “we each carry within our hearts a divine element. Torn from the womb of existence and ushered, crying into this world, we spend all our energies in the pursuit of a state of happiness. This restless, incessant drive is no more than that divine element within us seeking its origin.”


When he was in Makkah, Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz or Malcolm X wrote a letter to his loyal assistants in Harlem... “Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practised by people of all colours and races here in this ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets (Peace be upon them) of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colours.”


He writes further, “America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered a different race. But the racist attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practised by all colours together, irrespective of their country.”


“It was the happiest moment of my life,” describes Safi Abdi, writer and journalist. “ I was in a daze. Though I talk to Allah everyday in my prayers and in my heart, visiting His house and practically answering His call is a totally different experience. As the impact of this sublime opportunity dawned on me, I set about making my preparations. I was about to visit a most beloved Friend and I needed to be prepared, body and soul. Hajj is not about just going on any trip. It’s about total obedience, hope and ultimate submission. It’s a test of one’s sincerity,” he adds.


Modern technology has changed the way Muslims experience Hajj. It has made the pilgrimage smooth and safer than in the past. Now with a mobile phone in hand, a pilgrim has much less chance of getting lost in the sea of humanity. He keeps in touch with other people of his group.


Fareed Hamdani prayed during the Standing on Arafat as Hajj climaxed last year. With a prayer booklet in one hand and a mobile phone in the other, he chanted religious verses and prayers in unison with other pilgrims. He was using his mobile to relay the sermon of the imam of the Nimrah mosque to his wife back home in Mumbai. Fareed was thrilled to have had the technology to share his pilgrimage with his wife, who stayed at home. “I was so happy, it felt like both I and my wife were facing Allah together,” he said.


Several others were also carrying mobile phones and some of them, camera-equipped phones and immortalising some unforgettable moments of Hajj on it to show them to their family members back home. Outside the Grand Mosque, pilgrims were clicking digital photos to later e-mail them home.


A Mumbai-based, product manager of a multi-national company, Sajid Rahim was intermittently receiving calls on his handset. In fact, he was in touch with his office in Mumbai. “That was my first Hajj last year. Since I am a senior executive in an American software giant, I cannot leave things there in the office at the mercy of others. I am in touch with my office on mobile. It has helped me a lot. I have mixed work with worship,” he says. This kind of advancement in communication has changed the whole perspective of the pilgrimage.