The 2017 Hajj pilgrimage began August 30. The action of Hajj constitutes one pillar of the Five Pillars of Islam which any Muslim who is capable of must do at least once in their lifetime. Modern technology has greatly eased the process. About two million pilgrims did the Hajj in 2017. Only 100,000 did this per year during the 1950s.
Technology has affected how the faithful engages in the Hajj Pilgrimage. Even a few years ago, a devout Muslim would have prepared for the Hajj by going through a course crammed with lectures and texts. A few YouTube videos have taken their place. A new app, Mecca 3D, released a few days ago, allows its users to explore a true scale digital rendition of the Mecca Mosque. The app has been downloaded a massive 80,000 times on both iOS and Android combined. Its creator, Bilal Chbib, hopes to incorporate a number of interactive lessons. He also wants to integrate this program with the virtual reality simulator Oculus Rift.
The Saudi Government has also dipped into technology to facilitate Hajj. The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Culture and Information has started two digital platforms. They provide valuable insights and information to Makkah pilgrims, international media and worldwide audiences. The platform SaudiWelcomesTheWorld.org provides a message of inclusion and compassion to pilgrims from all over the world. It tells the stories of millions of pilgrims of diverse color, culture, ethnicity and race. This platform offers a window to people who wants to learn and also share Islam's true values. This website perfectly complements another media portal that offers information, updates and also news concerning Hajj. Journalists can use this portal to access and also download media materials like press releases, infographics and images.
Each year sees at least 1.5 million pilgrims entering Saudi Arabia for the purpose of Hajj. Any pilgrim who opts for the app technology-helped pilgrimage may feel that they are inside a flight simulator. However, Chbib said that virtual participation in Muslim religious activities can continue to provide participants a near authentic experience. Mecca itself had been digitally recreated in Second Life, a virtual reality program. Participants who opted to play the game experienced a certain piety when they entered the virtual holy spot. Gamers even took off their shoes while entering the mosque in the virtual world. This is as the person through the avatar is actually visiting a perfect replica of Islam's holiest site.