This article will give you brief detail on the performance of Hajj amid COVID-19 pandemic.
Millions of Muslims from all around the globe head towards Mecca to perform the Hajj (annual pilgrimage). Many of them who cannot easily bear it, used to save the money for years to become able in bearing the expenditure of Hajj. It is the biggest pillar of Islam among other five basic pillars including Salah, Soum (Fasting), Zakat (Charity), Shahdah (To believe in one god and Muhammad (PBUH) as the last messenger of God) and final one is Hajj (Pilgrimage).
Muslims are required to meet all of the above requirements, they are bound to perform the first four, there is no relaxation in it but the last one is the biggest of all and every Muslim has the dream to perform it. But it is conditional with the financial strength of the pilgrim. If a person who is not financially strong enough to perform Hajj can skip that one. But everyone is urged to at least perform the Hajj once in their life and they were asked by the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) to do efforts for making it possible.
Each and every country has a specific quota of pilgrims; it is being restricted by the authorities of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to accommodate the strength coming at Mecca to perform Hajj from every part of the globe.
Pakistan is the country from which around 200000 Muslims used to travel to Mecca to perform Hajj every year. But in this year of 2020, it didn’t allow anything to go in a proper manner as it disturbed the Hajj as well.
Closure of Mecca and Medina
At the very initial state of the COVID-19 pandemic in March and April 2020, Mecca and Medina were being closed for the visitors, and no one was allowed to perform Umrah, even to offer Salah under the premises of Masjid-al-Haram in Mecca and Masjid-un-Nabawi in Medina. But afterwards when the SOPs were developed, and the whole disinfection process of both of the grand mosques was done, some of the staff members and other members from administrative authorities started offering Salah in Masjid-al-Haram.
Muslims were quite disturbed when they got aware about that news. Sadness and deep sorrow spread all over the Muslim world. But it was the utmost requirement of the current COVID-19 pandemic to stop people to travel from one place to another to stop transmission cases of COVID-19.
In May 2020, it was rumored that there will no Hajj amid COVID-19 pandemic this year, and it was biggest news of that time as everyone became shocked because since the foundation of Islam the Hajj was never abandoned for even a single year.
And according to the Prophecy of Muhammad peace be upon him, the end of the times will reach very near after that year in which the Hajj will not be performed. It was quite frightening to hear that news. But in the start of June – 2020 the Saudi Arabian authorities confirmed that the Hajj is going to be performed this year, which relieved Muslims all around the globe. But at the same time it was announced that no one except from Saudi Arabia will be allowed to perform Hajj, means only those people will be allowed to perform Hajj that are residing in Saudi Arabia, both locals or foreigners.
Hajj amid COVID-19 pandemic
Now, today at 30th of July 2020, performance of Hajj amid COVID-19 pandemic is in progress at Mecca. However no one from outside of Saudi Arabia was allowed to participate in this Hajj but it is quite relieving and satisfactory enough that at least the Hajj is happening this year.
The Hajj of 2020 is quite different from the previous ones as social distancing practices are creating a very different image of Hajj this time. As in the previous times we used to see dense crowd circulating and doing ‘Tawaf’ around Kaaba.
Big changes observed in this year’s Hajj
While, this time it was quite a different picture, only few of the pilgrims were performing Tawaf with very strict practicing of social distancing measures and discipline was at its peak.
Teams and groups were formed and they were lead by their group leaders, holding different flags to make them distinct from one another, so the members of different groups can identify their group leaders and follow the instructions.
Masks were declared mandatory for all the pilgrims, that is why there were masks you could see everywhere. Disinfected and sanitized Jaaye Namaz (Sheet for Salah) was issued to the pilgrims.
Hujjaj (pilgrims) were traveling in their vans following all the social distancing practices and showed great discipline. It felt a big change to see the Hajj being performed with such high protective measures and discipline. In the pre-COVID-19 scenario we usually saw a very different image that the people used to lose their lives specifically those who got fails to match the speed of the other people performing Tawaf and other steps of Hajj.
But comparing that scenario to this there is no chance to hear about these types of accidents. As now the safety measures and discipline are being maintained quite at high levels.
Strategy to be finalized by Kingdom’s authorities for next year
These practices can prove to be a role model for post-COVID Hajj going to be performed next year in 2021, because performing Hajj with this little crowd will never prove justice to the Muslims of the whole world, as the Kingdom’s authorities are required to think deeply about it and make strategy to maintain the strength in next Hajj as they use to do in the previous years in pre-COVID-19 scenario.
Parellarly they also need to look over the COVID-19 scenario in next year. As if the coronavirus shoots next year too as if its second wave comes, then the Saudi authorities are going to have very tough time, because Muslims will not be able to control their emotions. As it is always a very bad feeling if you can bear to do something very important and special and even after having the power to bear it you still can’t able to achieve it. And Hajj is the most important and special dream for each and every Muslim living on this planet.
Story by: Talha Ali Hashmi (Creative Head, MTD), Talha is a researcher possessing a degree in Environmental Studies and a certified Environmentalist from Technical University of Denmark. He is writing on Current Affairs, Environmental Management, Education and Technology since last 8 years.