The pilgrimage was never merely about rites and rituals, for it has always involved science and progress, culture and intellection, and economics and humanities. Here we delve into Hajj as a civilizational ecosystem that speaks volumes on efforts, opportunities and prospects; past, present and future. Unveiling stories and tales of morals, values and meaning worthy of being heard by the world over in an attempt to raise awareness of this glorious timeless journey, the amazing people running it and those fortunate enough to embark on it .
On the 12th month of every Hijri calendar year, Muslims from all over the world joyfully chant the age-old timeless “Labaik Allahumma Labaik”, an eternal response to the initial call of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him). We always performed Hajj as a family during my childhood and teen years, it’s what was often referred to as the “Meccans’ pilgrimage” which basically involved spending the day at Arafat then straight to Muzdalefa and from there to the grand Akaba Jamarat throw then, of course, the last Tawaf around the Ka’ba. We would then authorize others to throw the rest of Jamarat on our behalf over the subsequent ensuing days. It had become a lovely annual family ritual for quite a long time, Where the prime purpose was to be of service and of help to the pilgrims. We would unload an entire truck worth of fruits, beverages and supplies to be distributed among pilgrims on the day of Arafa. It would take us the better part of the day to fully distribute the goods to the point where the only time left to supplicate on that most blessed of days would be an hour or so prior to sunset. Years unfurled and I went away on a scholarship abroad where I would eventually return from to recommence my service to the pilgrims but now as a pharmacist.
Any pharmacist's preparations for the Hajj season are akin to those of a person who wishes to camp outside the city, equipment and arrangements for the entire journey must be set aside and secured before departure. A pharmacist top priority in the pilgrimage is to provide medicines that suit the season’s common medical conditions.
This critical role as a member of the health team is heavily reliant on the pilgrims’ whereabouts in and around Makkah. It is therefore necessary to find more comprehensive and complete solutions for the treatment of pilgrims during the pilgrimage, and herein lies the role of technology.
Artificial intelligence is an important tool that will take the pharmacy profession in coming years on a new path and to unchartered territories, especially in light of the huge numbers of drugs being discovered/developed every day, with which the presence of artificial intelligence has become a necessity to provide scientific advice and services. The kingdom provides huge numbers of manpower to serve pilgrims during the Hajj season. Whether they be administrators, technicians, engineers, security forces plus many others, which large percentage of end up visiting hospitals because of the flu that affects many of them due to exposure to pilgrims and other service providers. Therefore, diagnosis of most of these cases may not require a visit to the doctor at all. Artificial intelligence can step-in with such cases to dispense medication through mobile devices at various service sites, this will greatly reduce the number of emergency visits, while improving speed of treatment and reducing unnecessary wandering between sites during the busiest of seasons.
Part of my thesis at this year's Smart Hajj Symposium proposed setting up refrigerators with screens (similar to vending machines) that ask the patient several scientific questions and based on collected data, the device either dispenses medications to the person, or advises him to visit the nearest hospital for a check-up. We should be the first to develop, activate and launch such highly advanced technology, especially during the pilgrimage season, which annually presents us with a golden opportunity to reap immense reward from God Almighty for charity in the service of His guests and also poses an opportunity for advancement in the fields of science and inventions that would elevate our kingdom’s profile in service of all mankind.
- Abdul Mohsen Margalani