For centuries, Muslims making the pilgrimage to Mecca have walked around the Kaaba, the black cube-like building that is the holiest site in Islam, as part of the ritual known as "tawaf." But one worshipper drew attention recently for defying convention and, instead of walking, gliding around the Kaaba on a hoverboard, a device often described as a hands-free Segway.
Video footage showed the man, who was not identified, dressed in white robes and sweeping past other men and women circling the Kaaba on foot on the mataf section of Mecca's Grand Mosque, a level reserved for elderly and disabled patients, such as those in wheelchairs, the site Arab News reported. His hands were clasped over his stomach as a bluish-purple lighted glowed beneath his feet. Watch the video here:
The man was performing Umrah, Middle East Eye reported. Umrah is a optional pilgrimage that differs from the Hajj, which must be carried out during the month of Hajj, in that it can be made at any time during the year.
The video went viral on social media and sparked controversy over whether using a battery-powered scooter violated principles of tawaf. Some said it was allowed and compared using a scooter to sitting in a wheelchair. Others complained on social media that it was "distasteful." Mufti Shah Sadruddin, a teacher at an Islamic secondary school in the U.K., argued in a Facebook post that it was "compulsory... to walk during tawaf" if one is capable but that "if one is genuinely incapable of walking or has genuine pain whilst walking, it would be permissible to seek assist [sic] and perform tawaf."
For some, the event added another item to the list of woes of 21st-century Islamic pilgrimages. Selfies, for instance, have become commonplace at the holy site, to the chagrin of Islamic scholars and to the annoyance of other worshippers.
The hoverboard or hands-free Segway reaches Mecca http://t.co/CsITTzPWgq
— Qatar Today (@QatarToday) September 2, 2015
The hoverboard, also called the LeviBoard, is described as a "hands-free personal transporter system" that can achieve speeds of up to 9 miles per hour. Models listed on the LeviBoard website ranged in price from $599 to $999.