This is a guest post by my friend Taha Raja. Part one in a series.
How has technology affected the Hajj?
For many hard core believers, Hajj represents a pilgrimage that needs to be preserved for what it was envisioned by Rasullulah SA. Hence the introduction of modern technology somehow diminishes the Hajj experience and value.
A key example is modernization of Zam Zam. Today the Zam Zam well is no longer visible. Instead the Saudi government has modernized the facility where there are non-corrosive stainless steel automatic taps that everyone can visit and drink the water from. When I wenot to Hajj in 2006 I heard many people lament the absence of visiting the well and that the water was now “purified” and “ozonated” which somehow reduces its religious significance. The water is also chilled – that was definitely a big “no no” for many.
I see it differently. There is nothing in the Hajj rituals that says that the Zam Zam water needs to be coming from an archaic well and that everyone should drink contaminated water somehow. In fact I see the introduction of technology as a helping hand in facilitating a lot more people being able to drink Zam Zam at the same time, safely.
There are many examples here that add value to technology and modernization:
1. Wider highways
2. Modern airports and facilities to accommodate a greater number of people
3. Zabihat facilities that are cleaner and safer
4. Tents in Mina with excellent sewerage and food facilities
So where am I opposed to these modernizations?
Well, the prime example comes in “changing and modernizing” masjids and buildings and historically significant landmarks. In the name of modernization, the government has destroyed numerous landmarks and places in Saudi Arabia in the name of modernization. Janat-Ul-Baki – The Cemetary where Fatema SA (Daughter of Rasullah SA) is buried along with many of the Ahlebait has been minimized to merely a modern cemetery desecrating the graves. The Wahabi tradition and belief has been imposed on all other sects believing otherwise. The Masjid and Kabbah have been expanded and changed without regard to the historical significance of preserving the heritage. I believe in restoring and modernizing while preserving the heritage and historical significance – something the Saudi government refuses to acknowledge.
The Saudi government is missing an opportunity to acknowledge the beautiful diversity and depth of Islam by allowing the wide array of beliefs in Islam and helping preserve the Islamic heritage and using technology to expand access using technology and modernization and not destroy the historical significance in the name of expansion.
Taha Raja is an entrepreneur in Houston.
Related: previous post on (un)-making Mecca.