The Hajj ‘Selfie Fever’
Pilgrims taking ‘selfie’ in Kaaba
Going by the rate at which pilgrims took ‘selfie’ especially during Hajj rituals, one may be tempted to ask whether taking ‘selfie’ is part of Hajj exercise. Like every invention, the evolutions of the mobile phone has its positive and negative consequences. It is estimated that mobile phone make up 72% of internet traffic and 70 million photos and videos are uploaded to Instagram every single day and the figures keep rising. Significantly, it is not yet known when the use and abuse of selfie made its incursion into Hajj exercise. Similarly, there are a variety of reasons why people interrupt their Hajj rituals and inconvenience others to take photographs of themselves performing Hajj. This will require a detailed study but as it is now, the selfie is becoming a nuisance in the performance of Hajj. Curiously, the craze cuts across age, gender and even race and nationality. Both old and young, blacks and Caucasians, men and women take part in taking selfies during Hajj. To some people, ‘hajj without selfie’ is unacceptable.
Taking pictures when one supposed to be praying to Allah is like attracting unnecessary attention or ‘showing off’, which can be referred to Riya in Islam. Loosely translated, Riya refers to doing things that are pleasing to Allah intending to seek admiration from others. The intention in such cases, therefore, is usually to show off one’s good deeds to win praise and admiration of others and not in the service of Allah. It amounts to practising virtue out of vanity, to achieve popularity among people. Riya makes us focus on earning appreciation from people rather than seeking Allah’s favour and acceptance. It makes us focus on people’s appreciation of our virtuous acts, which means we give importance to them, and not to Allah the Most Benevolent.
However, it is also a fact that a mobile phone has a positive impact on Hajj. Some android applications like Careem and Tablet, which are used for taxi and food have assisted pilgrims tremendously. HajjSalam is a hajj mobile application that allows pilgrims to keep count on the number of times they circle the Kaaba, especially during the mandatory tawaf. It also has mapping features that allow users to tag their tents in Mina for ease identifications. The SmartHajj mobile application is another positive usage of the mobile phone. Developed by Saudi Arabia King Abdulaziz School for Science and Technology, it has tools to connect directly with hajj authorities, where pilgrims can send a medics request and it can guide them.
Despite the above advantages, there is a need to examine in details whether taking ‘selfie’ especially when one is supposed to be supplicating to the Almighty Allah is ideal. Last year, I saw a family raising their hands as if they were supplicating to Almighty Allah – alas they were taking pictures right inside the Kaaba. It is reported that “When the Prophet reached the Miqāt, he would say: “O Allāh, make this Ḥajj without Riya (showing off) and without trying to be heard of.”. And after making this supplication, it is followed by action and striving against the soul.
But now at the Miqāt, many people are busy taking pictures instead of following the prophet’s (SAW’s) prayer to undertake the Hajj ‘’without trying to be heard of.’’ For many people, the only purpose of this holy trip is to take pictures and it is not worship, the result of which they desire to see on the Day of Judgement as a great reward with Allāh. Often, some of these people raise their hands in the appearance of humility, fear, and tranquillity but after the picture is snapped, they drop their hands. Were these hands raised for Allāh? No, by Allāh; these hands were raised only for the picture, and the picture was only taken to show off to the people. And when some of them return home, they also make photo albums.
Individual country Hajj mission must educate their pilgrims against excessive use of the camera during the pilgrimage. They should be made to avoid distracting themselves or others from the main purpose of acceptable Hajj – which is hajj mabroor.
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