The choice to restrict the hajj — which in 2019 drew almost 2.5 million folks to town of Mecca — will in all probability hit Saudi Arabia economically and ship a blow to people and households who had saved up and deliberate to carry out the pilgrimage. In accordance with an announcement made Monday by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, this yr’s pilgrimage can be accessible solely to “very restricted numbers” of people who find themselves already within the kingdom however that it’ll embody completely different nationalities, not simply Saudis. The announcement didn’t clarify how the pilgrims can be chosen.
On Tuesday, Well being Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah mentioned that this yr’s hajj will exclude folks over 65, that each one individuals can be examined earlier than they start the pilgrimage and that their well being can be checked day by day. A hospital has been ready for any emergency in the course of the hajj. Members can be quarantined at dwelling afterward, the minister mentioned.
“There’s a coordination between the [Saudi] Overseas Ministry and all of the diplomatic missions within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Allah keen, when the quantity of people that can perform this responsibility is set, these folks can be chosen through the diplomatic missions and their places of work of pilgrim affairs,” Benten mentioned.
The choice to restrict the hajj, set to start in late July, comes months after the federal government introduced it had halted umrah, a shorter type of pilgrimage that may be taken any time of yr.
The distinction, nevertheless, is that the hajj is likely one of the 5 pillars of Islam and is taken into account an obligation that each training, able-bodied Muslim should perform a minimum of as soon as of their lifetime.
Saudi Arabia has reported greater than 161,000 circumstances of the coronavirus, and the variety of deaths has surpassed 1,300. The dominion noticed an uptick in numbers in Could after it had loosened restrictions put in place to combat the virus in the course of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. Afterward, the variety of circumstances steadily climbed in order that by June, the nation was registering between 3,000 to nearly 5,000 circumstances a day. Mecca was below lockdown for months.
The hajj has been canceled up to now for causes of conflict and illness, with the final cancellation in 1798, when Napoleon Bonaparte’s navy marketing campaign in Egypt and Syria disrupted the path to Mecca. However not for the reason that founding of the trendy kingdom of Saudi Arabia 88 years in the past has the pilgrimage been so severely affected.
The cancellation of the pilgrimage is a blow to Saudi Arabia. The hajj is an integral a part of the nation’s self-proclaimed id because the main Muslim nation on this planet.
Its cancellation can be the most recent financial blow to the dominion, which is affected by low oil costs. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has made it his purpose since 2017 to wean the nation off its reliance on oil via financial overhauls, and he has spoken of desires and objectives to rework the nation into an leisure and tourism hub.
His “Imaginative and prescient 2030” plan emphasizes the significance of the dominion’s Islamic id as the location of the 2 holy mosques in Medina and Mecca, and it consists of efforts to increase the hajj, the spine of the kind of Islamic tourism that Saudi Arabia is searching for to advertise. Saudi kings have lengthy adopted the title of the custodian of the 2 holy mosques.
The dominion introduced an growth of the mosques, a brand new airport within the port metropolis of Jiddah and a brand new metro system to serve pilgrims. The crown prince’s plan additionally seeks to capitalize on pilgrims’ visits and calm down the phrases of their visas to permit them to go to elements of the dominion beforehand closed-off for tourism.
The curtailment of the pilgrimage can be a blow to multitudes of journey firms overseas, particularly in Arab nations the place advertisements for pilgrimage packages have been popping up on televisions and streets as early as March.
Muslims around the globe will even be disillusioned by the choice — it is not uncommon to see traces for weeks on finish exterior Saudi consulates as folks jostle to get much-sought-after visas to carry out the pilgrimage. Many save up for years to have the prospect to satisfy their Islamic responsibility.