The Hajj 2014: Selfie Edition

The rise and development in technology has created a world where everything one does can be publicized in an instant. With popular worldwide social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, one has the ability to post any information at any point in time to a broad audience. While this may be beneficial in some aspects, it has raised the question of what is appropriate to share on the Internet.

Over the past few years a certain trend has gone viral- selfies. The ‘selfie’, a picture of oneself taken by oneself, has become a popular activity among many individuals. While this act seems harmless, it has caused upheaval in several societies. As the popularity of the selfie grows, one must be aware of the faux pas associated with it. For example, where and when is it ok to take a ‘selfie’?

While the ‘selfie’ may be taken with an innocent intention, it may be seen as an act of disrespect. In 2013 U.S. President Barack Obama, Danish Prime Minister Helle-Thorning Schmidt, and British Prime Minister David Cameron pose for a ‘selfie” at the Nelson Mandela memorial service. This memorial was intended to commemorate the life of a man who spent 27 years imprisoned for standing up against a government that was committing human rights abuses against black South Africans. A man who became South Africa’s first democratically elected president.

 Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Time has shown that there are dos and don’ts when taking ‘selfies’. This ‘selfie’ epidemic has caused great controversy with the start of this year’s Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. Until recently camera phones were prohibited from Mecca’s holy mosques, but officials have relaxed the rules so pilgrims can be in contact in case of crisis. With the lifting of this rule, the use of cellphones on this pilgrimage has become astronomical.

Numerous images and videos can be seen of pilgrims walking around the Kaaba, kissing the black stone, and posing near the green dome of the Prophet’s mosque. While one may believe these individuals are celebrating their journey, according to Arab News others such as scholars and Islamic clerics condemn these actions as ‘touristy behavior.’

The concern is that these pictures contradict the spirit of modesty of the worship. Many feel as though this type of behavior can be a deterrent to the actual goal of this pilgrimage- humility and tranquility.

Jeddah-based scholar Sheikh Assim Al Hakeem claimed, “The prophet when he went for Haj, said: O Allah, I ask of you a pilgrimage that contains no boasting or showing of. Taking such selfies and videos defy the wish of our Prophet.”

There are multiple interpretations of ‘selfies’ taken in this type of situation. One may think these pictures commemorate a personal experience while others think they take away from the act of what one is trying to accomplish.

Although miles apart, both the U.S. and Middle East struggle with the use of social media. Do you think the use of social media is beneficial or destructive to society? Do you think the use of technology takes away from certain life experiences such as funerals and religious activities?


3 thoughts on “The Hajj 2014: Selfie Edition

  1. I believe that when used properly, social media is one of the best resources out there. But as your article points out, it’s very possible that its usage for “selfies” during a time of spiritual or personal journey can be seen as rude and downright disrespectful. I know that if someone is on their phone during a conversation or shared meal with that I get pretty upset because it shows that they may might not care enough to give their attention. This is on a much grander scale here, but its the same basic principle. Unless there are photos for spiritual and/or documentation purposes, it may be best to keep social media out of the experience.

  2. I also agree that social media is a very beneficial resource to society for the most part when used accordingly. I can also see where several people have deemed it disrespectful at times, especially on a religious journey that is a very important aspect of a certain religion. Sometimes people get so caught up in the times and norms that they disregard the overall message they are sending. We are constantly on our phones throughout our everyday lives and when the situation changes to an environment where it is less normal for people to have phones it is hard to adjust too and is often disregarded. I too find myself using my phone extremely too often and how it comes off as rude even in very simple situations. I also think people get caught up in the moment where they think they need a photo, or a Facebook status to capture the memory rather than investing all their attention at once to what they are doing.

  3. Mobile phones can destroy the inner quiet space where a human being is alone with God. When you carry your phone, you are carrying the world with you…anyone call you and you can call anyone. So, you stay “connected” to the external world…which makes it hard for the soul to turn inward.

    A main purpose of the hajj is to get detached from the world, which is why pilgrims are not allowed to look into the mirror [look at their own form], walk in the shade, wear sewn clothes…and many other things. Hajj is a Muslim what monasticism is to a Christian or Buddhist.

    So, I tend to agree that taking mobile phones to a spiritual journey [and taking photos] is not a good idea.

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