Wi-Fi Has Come to Hajj
ARAFAT, 19 December 2007 - For the first time, the Haj is Wi-Fi compatible; about 70 access points have been established in and around the holy sites. The service is free, being provided by both of the Kingdom's telecom providers.
This couldn't have come a moment too soon for pilgrims, such as Ajmal Jami Mishal, a senior photographer with NDTV news channel. He has come for the second time not only to cover Haj, but also to be a part of it. He says he didn't have time to consult a local mufti about the rites of the Haj before coming. Instead, should he have any questions, he's brought along his laptop and can log on to a website from a free Wi-Fi hotspot within sight of the Grand Mosque and consult one of many "Haj FAQs" floating around in cyberspace.
Availability of online guidance has made performance of Haj easier for many pilgrims. People now log on to a galaxy of Islamic sites to seek guidance and to know fatwa about major Haj-related issues, say pilgrims
"Instead of running after one mufti to other for Haj counseling, I preferred to log on to www.IslamiCity.com, which provided answers to all my queries, said Adnan Jaber,"" a Jordanian pilgrim.
"In the 21st century we have no time to go to an Islamic scholar to know about the nitty-gritty of the Haj,"" said Jami Mishal. "I have come from Delhi and, before embarking on this holy journey, I got myself acquainted with Haj rituals virtually without going to any Islamic scholar."
Many others were also seen connected with their muftis online through laptop or cell phones.
However, there are still of course plenty of neo-Luddites at the Haj who prefer the good old-fashioned face-to-face chat with a flesh-and-blood mufti.
"Haj is a serious religious obligation and I prefer to know as much about it through muftis," said Khaled Mishal, a Saudi pilgrim. "I never consult web services at this time because I believe Haj is a worship season."
Abrar Ahmad, a Pakistani pilgrim, says he thinks online reference is just another tool for learning and exploring one's faith. "We need immediate and authentic replies to our question, which we often can only get on websites," he said.
Syed Faisal Ali is a contributing writer to the Arab News Source