Allah board: Segway-riding pilgrim causes stir in Mecca

From Arab News

A short video showing a pilgrim, draped in the two pieces of seamless cloth called ihram, circumambulating the Kaaba in Makkah using a Segway board, has gone viral on social media.

The well-built man is seen swooshing past fellow pilgrims on the second level of the mobile platform set up in the Grand Mosque’s open mataf section specifically for wheel-chair-bound and elderly pilgrims.

Images from a video show a pilgrim gliding in comfort around the Kaaba on a Segway scooter.

Images from a video show a pilgrim gliding in comfort around the Kaaba on a Segway scooter.

The high-tech device, which is a self-balancing battery-operated machine with no handlebars, also known as the “uberboard,” was perhaps used for the first time by a pilgrim in this manner. The video was taken by a visitor to the mosque, with the pilgrim oblivious to the fact that he was being filmed.

The video was first posted on Monday evening by British Haj Travel Limited on their Twitter handle @BHTofficial. From there, the clip went viral. It was on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and every other platform.

The clip elicited thousands of responses with everyone wondering if it was right from an Islamic point of view to circumambulate perched on this innocuous self-propelled machine.

“This is not fair. If you can walk, then you must perform Tawaf by walking; this is disrespectful,” tweeted Ahsan via @AsnSaleem. “People in pain walk to get the reward and he is just abusing it,” wrote @ibeabdul.

“It is allowed,” ruled Riyadh-based Maulana Najeeb Qasmi Sambhali, who has done his postdoctoral thesis in Hadith from a reputable university in India. He is a graduate of the world famous religious seminary Darul Uloom Deoband. “As long as the pilgrim’s feet are not covered by the contraption, it is all right. There is no problem with that. It is like doing circumambulation in a wheelchair.”

On whether an able-bodied pilgrim should use the device, Maulana Qasmi said: “Different scholars will have different opinions on this particular aspect. As far as possible, where such things can be avoided, they should be avoided.”

He said if performing Tawaf on this contraption obstructs fellow pilgrims, then the ruling would be very clear. “It must not be used. If it harms fellow pilgrims, crashes into them, or creates fear, it must not be used at all.”

To a query posed on Twitter in response to the video clip on whether Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, performed Tawaf seated on the back of a camel, Maulana Qasmi said: “This is true. The Prophet performed Tawaf on a camel and had a stick in his hand which he pointed in the direction of the Black Stone (Hajr-e-Aswad) when starting each of the seven mandatory rounds around the Holy Kaaba.”

The Segway board, known by various names such as the “leviboard,” has been a viral sensation, being used by celebrities and video personalities to showcase a new and innovative method of personal mobility. The board consists of two plates attached to a large wheel on either side, thereby allowing the user to stand on the board without falling over.

Maneuvering the board is a simple process, involving the user to simply tilt in the direction needed. The board has a limited top speed of 4 mph, costs roughly $1,000 and is powered by a rechargeable battery that holds sufficient charge for six hours of continuous usage. The maximum weight the board can support is 110 kg.


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