Salam Dear Sister,
Thank you for your question.
Dr. Shabir Ally, from Let the Quran Speak, addresses this question in the video below:
“In The Islamic Monthly, Author Imran Saeed asks: ‘Can my robot perform Hajj for me?’…
Now, Dr. Shabir Ally, this is an interesting question, because robots are becoming more and more prevalent in our time.
The author mentions that he attended two meetings in the same day in two different cities across the world by using a robot, and I thought that was interesting.
When he asked, well, “Can we do the same thing in terms of worship?” Let’s say if we can’t go to Makkah or Madinah, can we go by using a robot to perform the worship there?”
He was in Boston and he was controlling a robot that represented himself in Bangalore, and that’s halfway across the world.
The robot he used was a 5 foot-5 inches tall robot on two wheels, called the Double, and rightly so because, in a way, it represents the controller.
The face of the robot is actually an iPad interface.
And Saeed was able, from Boston, to project his facial image into this robot, and also to control the movements of the robot, so that when he is speaking to some people the robot turns to them and when he speaks to others it turns to the others.
And people got a sense that this person is really present through this robot. […]
Some people, for example, may not be physically capable of making the journey to Mecca. And in the past they would have sponsored someone else—paid the financial requirements to get this person to go on their behalf.
Well, can they send a robot on their behalf?
Well, this is a question for scholars to answer, and initially the answer will be “no” and for a long time the answer will be “no”.
And I don’t want to suggest that the answer should be “yes”, but in terms of a voluntary act… well with voluntary acts, we’re basically free.
Required acts, you have certain stipulations, so you have to go yourself or you have to send—as traditionally would have been required—send someone else, a real human being.
And the rationale being that the other human being would perform a kind of juhd or effort on your behalf; whereas, for the robot it’s effortless.
So how important is it that there would be a sort of bodily impact on the ritual?
Dr. Shabir Ally:
Well, here is the suggestion: that if we’re to talk about an entirely voluntary act here, like a voluntary pilgrimage or a voluntary Umrah, a visit to the house, would one get the sense of actually being there through this robotic control, through an avatar of some sort, if that can be taken to another extent?
These are questions, and it seems that yes, where rather than being totally cut off from the experience of being there at all, a person who’s not physically capable of making that journey—either because they’re cut off by war situations or by their own physical incapacitation—then at least they experience some of it.
To me, it’s like talking to your family over Skype: it’s not a substitute for actually being there in person, but at least seeing the face and being able to talk to the other person over Skype is some improvement.
And this is an improvement over the time when we could only talk by voice and we could not see the other person. Now with video calling, we are able to see the other person [and] it becomes even more real.
So, society is advancing with all of these technologies and we should welcome these and accommodate them as much as we can within our ritual settings in mosques and other settings, to the extent that we can, without violating anything that is core substantial to our traditional observations of our acts of worship.”
I hope this helps answer your question. You can also check out more from Let the Quran Speak at the link here.
Please keep in touch.
This is from AboutIslam’s archive and was originally published in August 2016.
(Photo credit: applegadgets.com)
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