Saudi Arabia To Hold “Very Limited” Hajj Over Pandemic: The hajj is a should for able-bodied Muslims at the least as soon as of their lifetime (File)
Saudi Arabia To Hold “Very Limited” Hajj Over Pandemic
Saudi Arabia on Monday introduced it will maintain a “very restricted” hajj this 12 months, with pilgrims already within the kingdom allowed to carry out the annual ritual because it strikes to curb the most important coronavirus outbreak within the Gulf.
The choice marks the primary time in Saudi Arabia’s fashionable historical past that Muslims exterior the dominion are barred from performing the hajj, which final 12 months drew 2.5 million pilgrims.
The transfer to reduce the five-day occasion, scheduled for the tip of July, is fraught with political and financial peril and comes after a number of Muslim nations pulled out of the ritual that kinds one of many essential pillars of Islam.
The dominion’s hajj ministry mentioned it will likely be open to varied nationalities already in Saudi Arabia, nevertheless it didn’t specify a quantity.
“It was determined to carry the pilgrimage this 12 months with very restricted numbers… with completely different nationalities within the kingdom,” the official Saudi Press Company mentioned, citing the ministry.
“This determination is taken to make sure the hajj is carried out in a protected method from a public well being perspective… and in accordance with the teachings of Islam.”
The hajj, a should for able-bodied Muslims at the least as soon as of their lifetime, could possibly be a serious supply of contagion because it packs tens of millions of pilgrims into congested non secular websites.
The choice comes as Saudi Arabia grapples to include a serious spike in infections, which have now risen to greater than 161,000 instances — the best within the Gulf — and over 1,300 deaths.
However regardless of the surge, Saudi Arabia on Sunday moved to finish a nighttime coronavirus curfew throughout the dominion and carry restrictions on companies, together with cinemas and different leisure venues.
The announcement to carry a restricted hajj would possible disappoint tens of millions of Muslim pilgrims around the globe who typically make investments their life financial savings and endure lengthy ready lists to make the journey.
However it will possible appease home pilgrims, who feared the ritual would completely be cancelled for the primary time in current historical past.
“Saudi Arabia has chosen the most secure choice that enables it to save lots of face throughout the Muslim world whereas ensuring they aren’t seen as compromising on public well being,” Umar Karim, a visiting fellow on the Royal United Companies Institute in London, instructed AFP.
“However there are many unanswered questions: What’s the actual variety of pilgrims that will likely be allowed? What’s the standards for his or her choice? What number of Saudis, what number of non-Saudis?”
Saudi authorities mentioned the hajj ministry will maintain a news convention on Tuesday to flesh out the small print.
In an obvious bid to offer the choice a veneer of spiritual sanction, the Saudi-based Muslim World League mentioned it endorsed the federal government transfer for the well being and security of pilgrims, in response to state media.
The choice nonetheless dangers annoying hardline Muslims exterior the dominion for whom faith trumps well being considerations.
It might additionally immediate Saudi Arabia’s rivals to resume scrutiny of its custodianship of Islam’s holiest websites — the dominion’s strongest supply of political legitimacy.
A collection of lethal disasters through the years, together with a 2015 stampede that killed as much as 2,300 worshippers, prompted criticism of the dominion’s administration of the hajj.
“Tough 12 months”
A watered-down hajj would signify a serious lack of income for the dominion, which is already reeling from the dual shocks of the virus-induced slowdown and a plunge in oil costs.
The smaller year-round umrah pilgrimage was already suspended in March.
Collectively, they add $12 billion to the Saudi economic system yearly, in response to authorities figures.
“This has been a extremely tough 12 months, with Saudi Arabia dealing with declining income from all sectors — oil, tourism, home consumption, and now umrah and hajj,” Karen Younger, a scholar on the American Enterprise Institute, instructed AFP.
A full-scale hajj with tens of millions of pilgrims was unlikely after authorities suggested Muslims in late March to defer preparations because of the fast-spreading illness.
Earlier this month, Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, emerged as one of many first international locations to withdraw from the pilgrimage after urgent Riyadh for readability. An Indonesian minister referred to as it a “very bitter and tough determination”.
Malaysia, Senegal and Singapore adopted go well with with related bulletins.
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