Performing a religious ritual during Haj and using a smartphone is no contrast. Pilgrims are connected to the world via Facebook and Twitter while on the pilgrimage, they said.
Capitalizing on this technological advancement, for the first time this year the annual pilgrimage is being streamed live on video-sharing website YouTube, the Ministry of Religious Affairs said.
The stream can be seen at youtube.com/hajjlive.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs sends 3.25 million text messages each day to the mobile phones of pilgrims to inform them of the correct procedures for the Haj rites to “prevent that which is harmful,” ministry official Sheikh Talal Al-Uqail said.
A pilgrim from Qatar said that though he has come alone for Haj, his near and dear ones are always with him in the pilgrimage as he is connected to them digitally.
“My smartphone helps me share my impressions and experience from the pilgrimage with them in real time,” said Mumtaz Ahmad.
Some of them use their smartphones to look up Haj rituals. “The Saudi authorities are also making use of new media to offer services and guidance to pilgrims. Even hotels and local guides have their own Facebook pages targeting pilgrims. The pilgrimage — the largest annual religious gathering in the world — has entered the digital 21st century,” Ahmad said.
Arab News witnessed some pilgrims using GPS to locate their camps in Mina on their way back after performing the stoning of the devil ritual.
“On the first day of Haj when I arrived in the tent city, I inputted my camp location in the GPS system and now it guides me whenever I go out and want to come back. I save both my time and energy,” said Indian American Firoz Ahmad, who is performing Haj with his wife Seema.
Another pilgrim used Twitter to perform a religious duty. Via the site he asked his friends for forgiveness for any sin he might have committed against any of them. Mehr Afroz, a young British girl, said that she in her tweet to friends and relatives sought their forgiveness.
“We ask Allah for forgiveness for all of our wrong deeds committed against oneself or others. But we need others to forgive us first. Twitter provides handy access to anybody who pilgrims couldn't contact before their departure,” Mehr said.
Social networks do not just play a role when pilgrims prepare for Haj, but also when they perform the rituals. Some of the pilgrims said that they share all their Haj experiences online.
Ikram Najeeb, an Indian, showed his post to Arab News. “Peace be with all of you. I'm in the Holy Mosque. I've just come from Mina...in front of Kaaba…lost for words.”
Twitter is also used by scholars who give advice to pilgrims.
Pilgrims also upload videos on YouTube with funny encounters or interesting people they come across during pilgrimage, Najeeb said.
One of my friends forwarded me a link of a video on YouTube. The video, called “The smallest pilgrim in the world in Makkah,” shows a pilgrim who is barely one meter tall.
One techno-savvy pilgrim, Ahmad Najah, has uploaded pictures and texts on Facebook from his smartphone. “This way I keep my friends updated about my Haj. I frequently update my status wherever I go from my camp,” Najah said.