Saudi Arabia has banned Muslims outside the kingdom from carrying out this year’s annual hajj pilgrimage in an attempt to control the spread of the coronavirus.
The nation has seen 161,005 cases of COVID-19, with 1,307 confirmed death, the largest epidemic in the Gulf region.
But the brand ban pilgrimage for the first time in Saudi Arabia in recent history that Muslims outside the kingdom were prevented from performing the hajj, which last year attracted 2.5 million people.
The scaling back of the five-day event, scheduled for the end of July, faces political and economic peril and comes after several Muslim nations come out of the ritual that constitutes one of the main pillars of Islam.
Crowds of Muslim worshipers gather around the Kaaba to pray at the Great Mosque in Mecca
The kingdom of hajj ministry said the ritual will be open to various nationalities already in Saudi Arabia, but it did not specify a number.
“It was decided to organize the pilgrimage this year with very few figures … with different nationalities in the kingdom,” the Saudi news agency official said on Monday, citing the ministry.
“This decision is made to ensure the hajj is carried out safely from a public health perspective … and in accordance with the teachings of Islam.”
The hajj – a must for able-bodied people, Muslims at least once in their life could be a major source of contagion, as there are millions of pilgrims in crowded religious sites.
The move comes from Saudi Arabia struggling to contain a significant rise in infections, which have now grown to more than 161,000 cases – the highest in the Gulf and more than 1,300 deaths.
But, despite the ramp-up, Saudi Arabia moved on Sunday to end a coronavirus curfew across the kingdom and lift restrictions on businesses, including cinemas and other entertainment venues .
The announcement of holding a limited hajj will likely disappoint millions of Muslim pilgrims around the world who often invest their savings in a lifetime and endure long waiting lists for the trip.
The nation has seen 161,005 cases of COVID-19, with 1,307 confirmed death, the largest epidemic in the Gulf region. Pictured: Workers disinfect the soil around the sacred Kaaba building in the holy city of Mecca, which would be filled with people on the pilgrimage
But it will likely only appease inner pilgrims, who feared the ritual would quite be canceled for the first time in recent history.
‘Saudi Arabia has chosen the safest option to save face in the Muslim world, while ensuring that they are not considered likely to endanger public health,’ Omar Karim, visiting fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said.
“But there are many unanswered questions: what is the exact number of pilgrims who will be allowed? What are the selection criteria? How many Saudis, how many non-Saudis? ’
Saudi officials have said the Hajj ministry will hold a press conference on Tuesday to bring out the details.
In an apparent submission to the decision to plead religious sanctions, the Saudi Arabian-based World League said it approves the government to travel for the health and safety of pilgrims, media reports said. ‘state.
The prestigious Islamic institution Al-Azhar, in Cairo, is also congratulated for moving it. “This decision is wise and based on Islamic jurisprudence,” he tweeted.
The brand ban pilgrimage for the first time in modern Saudi Arabia, a story that Muslims outside the kingdom were prevented from performing the hajj, which last year attracted 2.5 million people
And Youssef Al-Othaimeen, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said in a statement carried by state media that he “appreciates the utmost care … for the health and safety of pilgrims.
But the decision still boring risks Muslim extremists outside of the uni, for whom religion prevails over health concerns.
He could also ask rival Saudi Arabia to re-examine his guard of Islam’s holiest sites – the most powerful kingdom of the source of political legitimacy.
A series of deadly disasters over the years, including a 2015 stampede that killed up to 2,300 worshipers, has drawn criticism from the Kingdom of Mecca.
A sweetened hajj would represent a significant loss of income for the kingdom, already shaken by the twin shocks of the virus induced by the slowdown and a drop in oil prices.
The shortest Umrah pilgrimage year length was already suspended in March.
Together, they add $ 12 billion to Saudi Arabia’s economy each year, according to government figures.
“It has been a difficult year, with Saudi Arabia facing declining revenues from all sectors of petroleum, tourism, domestic consumption, and now Umrah and Hajj,” Karen Young, researcher at the ‘American Enterprise Institute.
A large hajj with millions of pilgrims was soon after authorities advised Muslims in late March to postpone preparations due to the rapid spread of the disease.
Earlier this month, Indonesia, the nation’s most populous Muslim world, emerged as one of the first countries to withdraw from the pilgrimage after pressing Riyadh, for clarity.
An Indonesian minister called it a “very bitter and difficult decision”.
Malaysia, Senegal, Singapore followed suit with similar announcements.