Post misleadingly uses training video as evidence of hajj ritual in Nigeria

Hajj is the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. To ensure perfect worship during hajj, government bodies around the world organise pre-departure classes for those attending. A post alleged a video of people circling a structure resembling the holy Kaaba stone  —  the most sacred site in Islam  —  was proof that followers in Nigeria were performing hajj against Islamic custom. But the claim is misleading: the video shows prospective pilgrims during a demonstration meant to prepare them before they leave for hajj. 

“People in Nigeria are participating in the Hajj ritual. Regardless of the intention, we should avoid promoting activities that may lead to Biddah in the future,” reads an X post published on May 28, 2024. 

Screenshot of the misleading X post, taken on June 4, 2024

In the video,  people wearing white garments walk counter-clockwise around a structure that looks like the Kaaba, a large black cubic structure towards which Muslims around the world pray. Their movement resembles the Tawaf ritual (circumambulation) during hajj. 

The claim suggests that the West African country has built an alternative Kaaba for its Muslim pilgrims, contrary to Islamic custom. 

Comments below the post are mixed: while some appeared to believe the video showed the actual Tawaf, others criticised the activity and termed it Bidia’ (spelled “Biddah” in the post), which referes to the introduction of new things to Islam  —  something that is seriously frowned upon. 

The post has been shared more than 450 times and was published by a Saudi-based account called “Life in Saudi Arabia” with  47,000 followers. 

2024 Hajj

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam which is mandatory for every Muslim at least once in their lifetime if they are physically and financially able. 

This year’s is expected to begin on June 14 and end on June 18. These dates are based on the Islamic lunar calendar and may vary slightly depending on the sighting of the moon (archived here). 

Hajj and its rituals are exclusive religious activities to be performed in designated Saudi Arabian holy sites.

Central to hajj is the Kaaba, a large cuboid-shaped building made of granite stones located at the centre of the Masjid al-Haram mosque in Mecca. It is the most sacred site in Islam and the prayer direction for Muslims worldwide.

Muslim worshippers praying around the Kaaba. PHOTO: ABDEL GHANI BASHIR / AFP (AFP / ABDEL GHANI BASHIR)

However, the claim suggesting pilgrims were performing hajj in Nigeria is misleading. 

Pre-departure demonstration

Using the InVID-WeVerify tool, we extracted keyframes from the video and conducted reverse image searches.

This led to the original clip on the Facebook page of the Pilgrim Welfare Board of Nigeria’s north-western Kano state (archived here). 

Labelled “2024 hajj demonstration”, the clip shows state government officials and crowds watching prospective pilgrims being taken through their preparations in an open field.

It was live-streamed on May 20, 2024.

In the foreground of the video is a replica of the Kaaba structure.

Screenshot showing the people wearing white garments walking counter-clockwise around a Kaaba-like structure, taken on June 5, 2024

The replica Kaaba has been part of pre-departure orientation and training exercises conducted in northern Nigeria states for decades — a practice known as Hajj Manasik in Indonesia (archived here).

A 2017 tweet by the Kano Hajj Commission also shows the same structure with the caption.

AFP Fact Check has contacted Kano hajj commission director Lamin Rabi'u for comment and will update this story accordingly.

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