A Muslim pilgrim has been captured on video using a hands-free Segway device, sometimes referred to as a ‘hoverboard,’ to perform a religious ritual at Islam’s holiest site.
The video shows a man circumambulating around the Ka’bah—a shrine in Mecca considered sacred by Muslims and a site of pilgrimage for millions each year—using the device, which has a faint blue light emitting from it. The video was posted to YouTube on Monday and was tweeted by British Haj Travel, a company which organises pilgrimages for Muslims, although it cannot be verified.
News site Middle East Eye reported that the man was completing the ritual of tawaf, whereby pilgrims walk round the Ka’bah seven times in a counter-clockwise fashion. He is believed to have been undertaking the umrah, an optional pilgrimage to Mecca carried out by Muslims at any time of the year. The umrah is different to hajj, which is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca undertaken during the last month of the Islamic calendar. Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and compulsory for all Muslims to undertake at least once in their lifetime, if they are physically and financially capable of doing so.
The clip elicited a range of response on social media, with some accusing the man of being disrespectful by using the device rather than walking. Wheelchairs are permitted for pilgrims who are disabled and several wheelchair users can be seen in the clip.
Zachary V. Wright, associate professor of religious studies at Northwestern University in Qatar, told the news site Al Arabiyah that the man should not be judged for his actions, as he could have a legitimate ailment. “Muslim scholars should not judge this man on the Segway, but in no way could Islamic jurisprudence be used to justify this as normative practice. Indeed it is very difficult to imagine a case where a person is able to mount and balance on a Segway but cannot walk,” said Wright.