Gana Adhikar News, June 13 2021 :
Saudi Haj authorities have imposed blanket ban on this year’s Haj pilgrimage to the twin holy cities of Mecca and Medina by pilgrims from foreign countries due to the second wave of Covid pandemic in several parts of the globe. This year’s Haj will be a curtailed one even for Saudi pilgrims to reduce risk of Covid infections in the twin holy cities and among pilgrims. Only around 60,000 vaccinated Saudi Arabian residents will be allowed to attend this year’s Haj pilgrimage in July, the Saudi Haj Committee announced Saturday.
This is the second year in a row that the annual holy pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina will be completed with smart Covid restrictions in place. Saudi Arabia is now one of the most highly vaccinated countries in the world.
The religion of Islam requires believers to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lives if they are able to.
Inputs from Reuters, AP News Wire Service and Deutsche Welle :
What is the Haj?
The Haj is a five to six day religious pilgrimage which Muslims believe retraces the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad, as well as those of Prophets Ibrahim (Abraham) and Ismail.
During Haj, pilgrims perform a number of rituals and rites around religious sites in Mecca.
It is one of the five pillars of Islam, alongside Shahadah, Salat, Zakat and Sawm, as well as a demonstration of submission to Allah.
Every year, several million pilgrims aged 18 to 65 years travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
This year attendance will be limited to 60,000 Muslim residents of the kingdom who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
What have the Saudi Haj authorities said ?
The Senior Scholars′ Council said the move to limit attendees is aimed at protecting people, calling the decision “good and responsible” and in line with Sharia law.
“Specialists have decided that gatherings are considered the main reason for transmission of [the COVID-19] infection and that limiting these gatherings is the best solution,” the council said, according to the state Saudi Press Agency.
“The decision [was made] to guarantee the safety of hajj amid uncertainty over the coronavirus,” the kingdom’s health minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah said during a televised press conference.
“Despite the availability of Covid vaccines, there is uncertainty over the virus and some countries still record high numbers of COVID cases. The other challenge is the different variants of the virus, hence the decision to restrict Haj,” al-Rabiah added.