After a month of discussion, Turkiye’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Dinayet) finally concluded on Tuesday that although the metaverse visit to the Kaaba is possible, it will never be considered a real worship and a real Hajj.
In an interview with Hurriyet Daily News on February 1, Remzi Bircan, Director of the Department of Hajj and Umrah Services at Dinayet, explained that Hajj on the Metaverse cannot happen as people’s feet should touch the ground. Bircan added that Hajj should and will be practiced by going to the Holy City in real life.
The metaverse version of Kaaba became controversial among Muslims across the globe after Saudi Arabia launched its “Virtual Black Stone Initiative” event in December 2021.
The country brought Islam’s holiest spot into the metaverse through this initiative, allowing Muslims to virtually view a religiously revered rock called Hajr Aswad, or Black Stone placed in one corner of the Ka’ba, located in the Grand Mosque of Makkah from their homes.
While announcing the initiative, Saudi officials said that the initiative allows Muslims to experience the Hajr Aswad virtually prior to the pilgrimage to Mecca.
The project, which is the result of a collaboration between Saudi Arabia’s Exhibition and Museum Affairs Agency and Umm al Qura University, quickly gained attention and sparked debate among some Muslims around the world questioning on social media whether “Hajj performed in the metaverse could be considered a real worship.”
Bircan compared the initiative to a virtual reality (VR) display from the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. According to him, just like touring the museum with VR glasses, Saudi officials started this virtual travel program solely for the purpose of promoting the Ka’ba.
Abdullah Tirabzon, an academic from the Faculty of Theology of the Istanbul University, agreed with Dinayet. He says that virtual and reality can never be equal, and virtual visits to Kaaba will not make people real pilgrims.
He added that the metaverse itself can bring danger and risks in religious terms as if the idea of Hajj on the metaverse appears today, then it is not impossible that tomorrow there will be new ideas of prayer on the metaverse.