As-salamu `alaykum. Dear scholars, the Islamic monthly features an interesting article about robots in which an author asks: can my robot perform Hajj for me? As robots become more integrated in everyday life, he wonders whether they can be used for worships. How would our Muslim scholars navigate this question? What technologies can be used to enhance our ability to worship? Please, enlighten us on that issue.
Wa `alaykum as-salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh. In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Dear brother, thank you for your question and for your concern about such important issues.
In fact, all acts are based on niyyah (intention). So, since a robot has no heart or mind, it cannot perform such acts of worship either on behalf of sick or healthy people.
In his response to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states,
Pilgrimage, like all other acts of worship in Islam, requires intention and presence of mind/heart as a precondition for its validity. Since a robot has no mind or heart, it is inconceivable of it to perform acts of worship on behalf of humans. Acts of worship are valid only if done by humans who are conscious of their actions.
That is why neither a child nor a person who is not in full of senses can be expected to perform Hajj on behalf of another; since taklif (legal responsibility) is lifted from them.
This in no way means to suggest that humans cannot use robots for performing mechanical services that require no mental deliberation or conscious will; they can be used in for essential chores or services as we use other devices or instruments.
Shedding more light on the same issue, Sheikh Kifah Mustapha, the Imam and Associate Director at the Mosque Foundation, one of the largest Islamic Centers in Chicago, adds,
For sure it is not allowed; a robot cannot perform any ritual on behalf of any other person ill or healthy.
All rituals depend on intentions as mentioned in the Prophet’s authentic Hadith in which he says, “Deeds are nothing but based on intentions.” For that a robot cannot engage in such acts of worship.
Allah Almighty knows best.