Is Virtual Hajj Same as Performing Hajj In Person?

23 July, 2020
Q In light of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Saudi authorities limited hajj this year to 1000 residents. Reacting to this, some software developers are looking to offer virtual hajj as a viable experience for pilgrims who could not make it this year. My question is: Is a virtual hajj the same as performing hajj in person?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.


In this fatwa:

1- The changing landscape of social interaction due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the availability of efficient electronic means of communication should NOT have an impact on the Islamic rituals of all kinds.

2- The “virtual Hajj” is a good idea only for educational purposes only. It cannot be a substitute to an in-person hajj experience.


Answering your question, Dr. Jasser Auda, Professor and Al-Shatibi Chair of Maqasid Studies at the International Peace College South Africa, states:

Virtual Hajj

The “virtual Hajj” is a good idea only for educational purposes. Virtual hajj cannot be a substitute to an in-person hajj experience.

The idea is not new anyways. Many Islamic schools around the world use virtual and non-virtual means to teach students about Hajj, Umrah, as well as prayers and fasting.

However, the changing landscape of social interaction due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the availability of efficient electronic means of communication should NOT have an impact on the Islamic rituals of all kinds.

Live Islam in a physical and social way

Is Virtual Hajj Same as Performing Hajj In Person? - About Islam

I can learn about prayers virtually. But to pray in Islam, I have to do the exact physical – not virtual – moves. I have to go to a mosque – not a virtual “space” – in order to pray. I have to live Islam in a physical and social way.

The directed and pre-planned interaction of social media restricts the spiritual and social purposes of the Islamic collective acts of worship.

It is an integral part of Islam to be where the prophets were physically. We have to remember their legacy collectively and say: “Allah! Here we come!” (Labbayk-Allah!). The Ummah should feel it’s unity and diversity through the random and casual interaction of the pilgrims.

You should interact with the poor and the needy and offer them your physical – not virtual – smile. You should say a good word that suits the casual conversation as you give them your charity; not just give them a click on your credit card account on your screen while you’re sitting on your coach at home!

You should learn from mixing with fellow Muslims, scholars, activists and Quran reciters when you go to a mosque or an Islamic organizations.

As a Muslim, you should observe and learn from their behavior and good conduct; not just see their picture on the screen of your phone without observing who they are and what they do.

It is an objective in Islam in its own right that a husband and wife interact physically and exchange love and mercy physically, something which obviously cannot happen via phone screens!

📚 Read Also: 7 Tips on How to Celebrate a Virtual Eid

In other words, we have to insist to live Islam in reality – not virtually. We can use electronic means in times of pandemics or exceptional cases of travel, in order to get some necessary business done. However, we should reject the “virtualization” and “commercialization” of Islam and Muslim life, and especially when it comes to Islam’s most fundamental acts of worship.

Almighty Allah knows best.

About Dr. Jasser Auda
Jasser Auda is a Professor and Al-Shatibi Chair of Maqasid Studies at the International Peace College South Africa, the Executive Director of the Maqasid Institute, a global think tank based in London, and a Visiting Professor of Islamic Law at Carleton University in Canada. He is a Founding and Board Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, Member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, Fellow of the Islamic Fiqh Academy of India, and General Secretary of Yaqazat Feker, a popular youth organization in Egypt. He has a PhD in the philosophy of Islamic law from University of Wales in the UK, and a PhD in systems analysis from University of Waterloo in Canada. Early in his life, he memorized the Quran and studied Fiqh, Usul and Hadith in the halaqas of Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo. He previously worked as: Founding Director of the Maqasid Center in the Philosophy of Islamic Law in London; Founding Deputy Director of the Center for Islamic Ethics in Doha; professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada, Alexandria University in Egypt, Islamic University of Novi Pazar in Sanjaq, Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, and the American University of Sharjah. He lectured and trained on Islam, its law, spirituality and ethics in dozens of other universities and organizations around the world. He wrote 25 books in Arabic and English, some of which were translated to 25 languages.