- The pilgrimage, which will take place in late July, is one of the main pillars of Islam.
- In late March, the Saudi Minister of Hajj, Muhammad Salih bin Tahir Bintan, asked Muslims to wait before concluding the Hajj and Umrah contracts.
- Saudi Arabia has so far registered more than 161,000 Coronavirus infections, while the number of deaths has exceeded 1,300.
Saudi Arabia has decided to organize the Hajj season with a “very limited” number of pilgrims while the Coronavirus pandemic continues in the Kingdom and the world. The Hajj will be open to Saudi residents only, including foreign nationals residing in the Kingdom. The announcement came via the Saudi Press Agency.
The statement read:
“This decision is taken to ensure Hajj is performed in a safe manner from a public health perspective while observing all preventative measures and the necessary social distancing protocols to protect human beings from the risks associated with this pandemic and in accordance with the teachings of Islam in preserving the lives of human beings.”
The pilgrimage, which will take place in late July, is one of the main pillars of Islam. It is also a possible major focus for the spread of infection because millions of pilgrims from around the world flow to the crowded religious sites in the holy city of Mecca to perform the rituals.
The decision came after Saudi Arabia suspended Umrah in March due to fears that the virus might spread to the holiest Islamic cities. The decision to proceed in small numbers will disappoint millions of Muslims. Many often spend their savings traveling on pilgrimage, and some wait for many years until they obtain approval from their own and the Saudi authorities for the Hajj.
The statement continued:
“The government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques is honored to serve millions of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims annually and it confirms that this decision stems from the top priority it accords maintaining the safety of pilgrims on its land until they depart to their home countries.”
In late March, the Saudi Minister of Hajj, Muhammad Salih bin Tahir Bintan, asked Muslims to wait before concluding the Hajj and Umrah contracts. Sources say that in Saudi hospitals, the intensive care family is rapidly filling up with an increasing number of infected health workers.
Saudi Arabia has so far registered more than 161,000 Coronavirus infections, while the number of deaths has exceeded 1,300. The decision to limit the numbers of pilgrims was issued at a sensitive time for the Kingdom, as the oil state is struggling with low crude prices that have reduced revenues, as the world prepares for an economic recession due to measures to reduce the Coronavirus.
Authorities closed Mecca and Medina for weeks due to concerns, and imposed a curfew in many areas, before lifting it completely two days ago. Photos and videos spread on social media showed the Kaaba, in the middle of the mosque’s courtyard, on a single white floor surrounded by plastic obstacles, along with a group of security personnel and cleaners.
Despite the seriousness of the threat of the epidemic, the issue may be like a powder keg. The decision may cause the ire of hard-liners who want to continue visiting the holy places despite the health risks. In addition to declining oil revenues, the kingdom is losing billions of dollars that it usually earns annually from religious tourism.
About 2.5 million people traveled to Saudi Arabia from all over the world in 2019 for the Hajj, the duty that all Muslims must perform at least once in their lives if they are able to. The “Vision 2030,” led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, seeks to stop the dependence of oil on the economy of the Kingdom, the world’s largest exporter of crude. The government hopes to receive 30 million pilgrims annually by 2030.