Did Nigeria build an alternative Kaaba ahead of Hajj?

Nigerian-based outlets quickly debunked allegations that the West African country had constructed an “alternative Kaaba” for its Muslim pilgrims [Getty]

A viral video featuring a model of the Kaaba in Nigeria, with people performing tawaf (circumambulation) around it, has recently sparked interest and controversy just days ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

While the video was not independently verified by The New Arab, Nigerian-based outlets quickly debunked allegations that the West African country had constructed an “alternative Kaaba” for its Muslim pilgrims, giving a clear explanation of what was exactly happening in the footage.

Local Nigeria media reported a model of the Kaaba was being used in Kano State for “educational purposes” in preparation for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, such as the one shown in the video shared.

The model is part of pre-departure orientation and training exercises conducted at Hajj camps, which have reportedly been in place for decades.

The purpose of the model is to familiarise intending pilgrims with the rituals and sites they will encounter during the actual Hajj journey in Mecca, not to serve as a replacement for the Kaaba.

Using models of the Kaaba for educational and training purposes, as done in Hajj camps, is generally considered permissible in Islam.

However, idolatry (known as shirk) is strictly prohibited, and many online users were outraged by the possibility of a “Kano Kabaa” taking precedence over the real pilgrimage over time.

“If care is not taken, people will start trooping to that place as a sacred land to perform lesser hajj during Ramadan or even hajj [itself],” one user said in comments under the video on Instagram.

The spokesperson of the Kano State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Sulaiman A. Dederi, told local media that Hajj-related structures at preparation camps have been around for 20 years.

In comments to the PRNigeria news site, Dederi said that the purpose of the setup was to familiarise the pilgrims with the rituals of Hajj, not to replace the actual Kaaba in Mecca.

Hajj, one of the most important practices in Islam, is one of the five pillars of the religion and it is obligatory for anyone who has the means to perform at least once in their lifetime.

Every year around this period, millions of Muslims from all over the world gather in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the holiest site in Islam, to perform the pilgrimage.

This year, it falls between 14 June to 19 June 2024 according to the Gregorian Calendar.

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