Hajj is one of the five fundamentals of Islam. It is mandatory on every able Muslims once in lifetime. I was also planning Hajj this year. Alas, it was not to be. InshaAllah some other time. This year’s Hajj is unprecedented in many ways. The menace of corona virus has left nothing untouched. The Hajj 2020 is no exception. There have been years in history when Hajj could not take place due to war, famine or other factors. It seemed that this year also Hajj would be cancelled due to the circumstances. It came as good news that Hajj was not cancelled.
However, it was not Hajj as usual. This is dramatically different Hajj due to the global pandemic. Millions from all over the globe converge in Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj every year. Last year 2.5 million performed Hajj. However, this year only 10000 people were allowed to perform the five day pilgrimage. These 10000 are the ones who have been chosen through a lottery system. The criteria for selection was giving representation of as many nationalities as possible. People from 160 different nationalities performed Hajj this year. Those from different nationalities selected to perform Hajj this year were from among the foreigners working and residing in Saudi Arabia. Nobody from outside the Kingdom was allowed. The basic criteria for selection was good health. Besides those who were selected were tested for corona virus and were quarantined for one-week prior to Hajj. The pilgrims will undergo a second quarantine after the end of the Hajj. All the pilgrims had to wear mask. One could very well see in live broadcast from Mecca that physical distancing was maintained during Tawaaf, Sayi and Salaat. Kissing or touching the Kaaba or black stone was also not allowed. Even the pebbles used for symbolic stoning of the devil was different this time around. Pilgrims were not allowed to collect pebbles. Pilgrims got special pouches with sanitised stones kept in them.
Hajj is usually a huge media event with press and television channels present from around the world to cover the pilgrimage. But this year the foreign media was not allowed. Usually Hajj costs a lot but this year all the expenses from lodging to food were borne by Saudi Arabian Government. Economically Hajj is estimated to contribute almost $12 billion every year to Saudi coffers. This is lost economic opportunity for the Kingdom. Definitely not the right time for the loss. The Hajj supports a host of economic activities from ticket booking, to hotel, to airlines, to barbers, to gold businesses, to dates businesses, to souvenirs businesses, to restaurant businesses and what not?
It was rightly mentioned in the Hajj Khutba (Sermon) that ‘No matter how difficult circumstances may become in this world, those difficulties do not last forever. Allah’s mercy is always more expansive, and the relief He grants is always near”.
Let us pray that Hajj takes place next year will all its glory and pilgrims from all over the world are able to freely participate in it. Ameen.
For more information and references, please see:
- Jomana Karadsheh and Tamara Qiblawi, (29th July 2020) Unprecedented’ Hajj begins — with 1,000 pilgrims, rather than the usual 2 million. CNN. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/hajj-2020-coronavirus-intl/index.html. Accessed on 30 July 2020
- Al Jazeera (29 July 2020) Muslims begin downsized Hajj pilgrimage amid coronavirus pandemic. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/07/muslims-downsized-hajj-pilgrimage-coronavirus-pandemic-200729055254952.html. Accessed on 30 July 2020
- Al Jazeera (25 July 2020) Hajj 2020: What you need to know about this year’s pilgrimage. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/06/hajj-2020-year-pilgrimage-200623085733669.html. Accessed on 31 July 2020
- Arab News (25 July 2020) Hajj 2020: Good health main criteria for selection of pilgrims, minister says. Available at: https://www.arabnews.com/node/1709701/saudi-arabia. Accessed on 31 July 2020
- Arab News (19 July 2020) Hajj 2020 pilgrims start 7 day quarantine. Available at: https://www.arabnews.com/node/1707061/saudi-arabia. Accessed on 31 July 2020.
- The National (30 July 2020). Hajj 2020: Arafat Day sermon released in English. Available at: https://www.thenational.ae/world/gcc/hajj-2020-arafat-day-sermon-released-in-english-1.1056833. Accessed on 31 July 2020.