April 21, 2024


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Software Developers Look to Offer Virtual Hajj as a Viable Alternative for Pilgrims

The annual hajj that brings a lot more than 2 million pilgrims to Saudi Arabia’s Mecca has been greatly scaled back this yr thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, but digital program builders are hoping to enable Muslims encounter what it is like to worship at the city’s holy internet sites from far absent.

Social-distancing actions by the Saudi authorities to battle the new coronavirus signify only a limited variety of pilgrims presently in the place can participate when this year’s hajj commences July 28. The conclusion is a blow for all those hoping to fulfill their at the time-in-a-life time obligation to conduct hajj in 2020.

Some see the information as a boon for digital hajj program, but some Muslims dilemma whether holy pilgrimages can be replicated just about.

“Unfortunately, tech acceptance in the Islamic planet has been a little bit slower than our ambitions, with the result that specific segments of the inhabitants are unable to see the future advantage that digital hajj can deliver,” said Mohammed Alsherebi, founder of Centillion Inc., a company that advises providers expanding in the Middle East. “By focusing only on the inconvenience of the present minute, several of us are unable to see the extraordinary prospect that lies in advance of us.”

An impression of digital schooling that Labbaik VR offers to pilgrims before they vacation to Mecca. The program runs on digital-fact headsets.


Labbaik VR

Even without having the pandemic, a extensive variety of Muslims just can’t journey to Mecca for fiscal or clinical good reasons. Virtual hajj engineering would enable them see within the town for the 1st time, Mr. Alsherebi said.

1 company, iUmrah.Globe, designed an application to enable Muslims just about make the Mecca pilgrimage of umrah, which can be carried out at any time of the yr, is shorter than the six-working day hajj motivation and is optional for Muslims. Saudi Arabia suspended umrah in February.

The iUmrah.Globe application allows users come across and pay for proxies in Saudi Arabia who less than Islamic law can finish umrah on their behalf, said founder and Main Government Ahmed Alhaddad. The proxies dwell stream their journeys and the tasks they finish in Mecca to iUmrah customers.

“It’s an Uber-like model,” said Mr. Alhaddad. “Traditionally, if you couldn’t vacation to Mecca, you would check with around your have contacts until you have another person who could go for you. We’re placing engineering driving that and allowing individuals actually see their pilgrimage becoming done.”

Mr. Alhaddad said following yr he hopes to launch a related item known as iHajj, which would use 5G engineering to dwell-stream during the hajj, an enhance from the 4G it employs now to stream a single to 3 hours of umrah on any specified working day.

The Muslim Council of Britain said it is typically approved that a digital hajj isn’t the same as undertaking hajj in person.

Ali Shihabi, an writer and commentator on Middle Japanese politics and economics, said pilgrims are meant to go through the pain of vacation and fulfill other Muslims in Mecca, neither of which is doable “if you’re sitting in your living area with your Apple computer system.”

The several guidelines joined to the ritual acts of hajj—such as putting on the prescribed garments and not trimming nails throughout the pilgrimage—are as crucial as the journey itself, said Jonathan A.J. Wilson, a professor of brand technique and lifestyle at Regent’s University in London who traveled to Mecca for umrah in 2009.

“It’s a little bit like a [digital-fact] swimming encounter: It could hardly ever match definitely swimming in the sea,” he said.

An impression from Muslim 3D, a game created to teach pilgrims in the nuances of hajj before they get to Mecca.



Virtual hajj engineering could continue to have a position, Mr. Wilson said. It could deliver a spiritual improve to Muslims who want to really feel nearer to God, and provide non-Muslims a search within a position they are not allowed to enter physically, he said.

The engineering also can put together individuals for the serious factor.

Muslim 3D, a videogame becoming designed in Germany by Bigitec GmbH, enables users to discover areas of Muslim worship in a 3-dimensional simulation and rehearse hajj as avatars even though studying about the historical past and goal of its rituals, among other demonstrations of religion.

“It can turn out to be extremely chaotic when you go to Mecca, and you really don’t want to do anything incorrect even though you’re there as your hajj could turn out to be invalid,” said Bigitec co-founder Bilal Chbib.

Labbaik VR Ltd. in the same way created a digital-fact-primarily based schooling instrument for Muslim pilgrims. With no a single exterior Saudi Arabia traveling to conduct hajj this yr, nevertheless, the company has shifted its focus to a new item, WUZU, which allows individuals discover a 3-D re-development of Mecca on their smartphones, said job director Adnan Maqbool.

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“We really don’t believe that there can be a substitute to an in-person hajj encounter,” said Mr. Maqbool. “However, if we can provide some evaluate of spiritual and psychological peace to Muslims planet-large throughout these rough situations, then we will have achieved our aims.”

Mr. Alhaddad, the iUmrah.Globe chief government, said he is self-assured that a digital hajj or umrah will a single working day be deemed as genuine as the serious factor. The company, which Mr. Alhaddad hopes to consider public in 2022, is also creating an iVatican item.

“Yes, it is much better to go yourself,” said Mr. Alhaddad. “But can you get the same encounter or achievement by looking at a pilgrimage becoming done? Indeed, I believe that you can.”

Generate to Katie Deighton at [email protected]

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