Hajj 1441 is set to begin July 28th to August 2nd though borders remain closed. COVID-19 is re-emerging and new Hajj guidelines apply to more than two million Muslims who hoped to make the once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Makkah and Madinah.
A recent release from the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced Hajj 2020 will be postponed for the masses.
The Hajj will go on but not as we know it. Only a limited number of Muslims who are currently in Saudi Arabia will be permitted to perform the Hajj.
The people will continue performing the Hajj and `Umra to the Ka`ba even after the appearance of Gog and Magog.” Narrated Shu`ba extra: The Hour (Day of Judgment) will not be established till the Hajj (to the Ka`ba) is abandoned.”The Prophet (ﷺ) as narrated by Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri, Bukhari
Who can go?
The number of Muslims has been said to be around one thousand and must fit the criteria:
- Only people residing in the Kingdom
- Pilgrims will come from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia
- No exceptions for pilgrims arriving from abroad.
- Pilgrims must be 65 years of age or younger
- Must not have chronic diseases
- Be tested on arrival and periodically during Hajj
- Must comply with compulsory isolation before and after the pilgrimage will also be enforced.
One can see how the criteria is within keeping of the COVID-19 restrictions. It eliminates older pilgrims and initiates continuous testing throughout the Hajj.
No doubt the decision was a difficult one especially given that this is the first time ever since the Kingdom was founded in 1932 that such a decision has been taken.
How to decide?
There were only two choices. One to have a limited number of pilgrims or to completely cancel the Hajj altogether.
The choice to have a limited number of pilgrims was supported by a number of Muslim authorities and institutes such as the Council of Senior Scholars, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the Council of British Hajjis, and the Muslim World League.
In late March, authorities advised Muslims and Hajj groups to defer preparations. Some countries took the initiative to withdraw from Hajj all together. These included Indonesia, Malaysia, Senegal and Singapore. Other countries urged Muslims to “postpone” their plans for Hajj to 2021 / 1442.
Then, on Monday 22nd June 2020, the Saudi Ministry of Hajj & Umrah released a long statement. Below are two section taken from what was said:
“In light of the continuation of the coronavirus pandemic and the risks of infections spreading in crowded spaces and large gatherings, it has been decided that Haj for this year (1441 H/ 2020 AD) will be held whereby a very limited number of pilgrims from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia, would be able to perform it.”
“The decision was 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.”
Sad, but sensible
“Hajjis” come from all over the globe, of different ages, pre-existing health conditions and ailments. The logistics of managing such 2.3 million Muslims could see massive outbreak of Covid-19.
If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.”The Prophet (ﷺ) Narrated by Saud, Bukhari
Reacting to the statement by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj & Umrah, many took to social media. One person wrote, “A tough, but vital decision to protect pilgrims during this pandemic.” Another wrote, “Alhamdhulillah, good decision from Kingdom.”
So, while Muslims worldwide are now grieving at the loss of their pilgrimage for this year, many are wondering who and how, the ‘thousand Muslims’ will be chosen?
Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammed Saleh Benten said, “There is a coordination between the [Saudi] Foreign Ministry and all the diplomatic missions in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and God willing, when the number of people who can carry out this duty is determined, these people will be chosen via the diplomatic missions and their offices of pilgrim affairs.”
The global ummah has heeded the call for social distancing within this time of COVID-19. Muslims have endured the closure of mosque doors, the stopping of umrah, Ramadan without community iftaar’s, Eid without community celebration, daily prayers without congregation, jum’uah’s without congregation, the temporary closure of Al Haram in Makkah, the temporary closure of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah and now the limited Hajj.
To those Muslims who will represent the millions who almost made the pilgrimage of a lifetime in 1441 may you find that obedience and great virtue through closeness to Allah. And, we say Hajj Mubroor to a handful of pilgrims.
“The reward for a Hajj Mabroor is nothing but Paradise” ~ Hadith