Hajjnet - a personalised spiritual journey through apps

In a bid to cater a safer and personalized experience for millions of pilgrims during Hajj.

Hajjnet - a personalised spiritual journey through apps

 


Mariam Nihal

Saudi Gazette

 


 


In a bid to cater a safer and personalized experience for millions of pilgrims during Hajj, a Dubai based company called Hajjnet, launched the region’s first smartphone app.  UmrahSalam was listed in the top 10 Apple App Travel categories in 40 countries in 2014, including Saudi Arabia.  You can download UmrahSalam and HajjSalam that helps gain knowledge through Umrah and Hajj. Saudi Gazette spoke to CEO and Founder Ali Dabaja in an exclusive interview.



“I simply conceptualized what I would need in order to fulfil my Islamic faith obligations.  Today we see pilgrims simultaneously carrying books, maps and their mobile phones.  We just want to take it to the next level,” he said.



Hajjnet also gives access to Duas that can help you focus on the intention and importance of actions during Hajj.



“The idea for Hajjnet came about from hearing and contemplating the many stories of Pilgrims challenges and experiences and then projecting myself into that situation.  I tried to use the fact that I knew very little about Hajj and Umrah and do not have a technology background to our advantage. We are employing technology to address some of the issues that we ourselves have.  We essentially make products that we need and would like to use,” Dabaja told Saudi Gazette.



The app helps pilgrims focus on the spirituality of Hajj and Umrah by delivering real-time location and process based support so that they can focus on the spiritual aspects of Hajj, avoid some of the possible pitfalls and make their experience more safe and personal. “One example is by providing a view of where the user is in the process; it helps give comfort to understand where you are in the process, that you have just completed something correctly and what you will do next.  Likewise, our maps allow the pilgrim to see where he/she is in relation to key landmarks pertinent to the experience. So knowing where you are geographically as well as where you are in the process at any given time is important.”



Technology is an important part of every element of our lives today and certainly plays a key role in the Kingdom’s ability to effectively facilitate Hajj and Umrah for millions of people.  He said: “We are delivering another type of support, which is directly to the user, and our goal is to make your Hajj and Umrah safer, more informed and accessible.”



Today, a majority of pilgrims carry mobile phones and a very large percentage of them have smartphones.  “Our region has one of the highest penetration rates in the world for both smartphone and Facebook usage.  We are convinced that if we can deliver the right features and content our technology can be used by a huge percentage of pilgrims.”



Today Muslims are ¼ of the world’s population. “We use Twitter, Facebook, Smartphones, and Internet and so on.  Islam is a comprehensive way of life, we believe we deserve to have technology and tools to support our daily lives that is as good as other web and mobile tools.  If we succeed it means that any Muslim with a smartphone would be able to properly fulfil an Islamic requirement and pillar of his religion with confidence.  We think that is a very empowering proposition and has carryon effects into the confidence we can have in our daily lives.”



Some believe use of technology can perhaps interrupt a spiritual journey, which is why many leave applications and consumerism behind.



“It is easy for some to take this view but you can do a range of things with your Smartphone, from shopping to reading and listening to the Quran while waiting for the bus on a break.  To me the latter is not consumerism; it all depends on what you are seeking from technology.  We are clearly working to build products that are beautiful, engaging and inshAllah honouring our religion.  We seek to enhance the experience and not to interfere.”  



The app uses English, Arabic and Turkish.  Dabaja said additional localization for Indonesian, Malaysian, French and other languages will continue throughout the year. 



So how easy is it to use? “Our apps have a similar flow to Facebook or Twitter in that you flow through a timeline.  In our case, each box in the timeline is information, a feature or content.  When you tap a box it opens for you to use it.  Each stage of the pilgrimage has the appropriate boxes with the appropriate instructions, content, imagery and videos.  At the end of each stage you simply tick the section complete and move on.  Our apps are great learning tools and most of our users spend a lot of time exploring them before and after their pilgrimages.”



According to Dabaja, downloads, feedback, ratings and media response have exceeded expectations.  “We are working very hard to enhance our technology, make it accessible on other platforms and roll out new products.  Our web products will start to be introduced later in the year we’re really excited to understand how they are used and to continue to improve.”