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Saddening Corona Crisis and its Impacts on Islamic Rituals

02 February 2024

The two pilgrimages hold immense reverence and significance for the Islamic State of Saudi Arabia.  Millions of the God-chosen Muslim devotees flock to the sacred twin cities of Makkah and Madinah to perform their planned rituals of Hajj and Umrah. These pilgrimages are also a great source of income for the State.

Significance of Hajj and Umrah for the Islamic World

Hajj and Umrah are the two pilgrimages of Islam that the God-chosen devotees gear up to perform on the holiest places of Makkah and Madinah. Millions of God fearers who are physically able and financially capable always strive to avail of this golden spiritual opportunity at Once-in their life time. The Hajj is an annual grandest gathering of Muslims in Saudi Arabia in which 2.5 million people from every corner of the globe get together to fulfill their mandatory milestone. Whereas Umrah is regarded as the Lesser –Pilgrimage or Lesser Hajj, that can be performed anytime around the year. Another shining pilgrimage aspect is the peaceful mix of Muslim brothers and Sisters from different countries, races, creed and classes of the world to ensure the Muslim harmony The pilgrimages are even more significant for the Saudi Arabia. These are the big business and backbone of the plans to expand travel and tourism in the State. The Saudi Govt. that is why has always whole-heartedly opened the doors of Haram for the whole Muslim world.

Diseases, Pandemics and their Impacts of Muslim Rituals

The history shows that the global diseases and pandemics have interrupted the two Muslim rituals many times. In mid 1800s specially, when the outbreaks of Cholera and plague hit the world, the pilgrims were stopped for a number of years. But since then, no limits or restrictions were imposed on the rituals.

Unusual Impacts of Coronavirus on Middle East and Saudi Arabia

However, in these postmodern times of 2020, the sudden outbreak of this clueless human harming Coronavirus has jolted the whole world and turned the entire human life to upside down. Every sort of human to human contact is banned to ensure the safety and security of human health. It is because of this fear of rapid Corona spread from close human contact; all the religious gatherings and ceremonies in all parts of the world have been canceled. The research confirmed the speedier rise of Corona infection in the worshipping places of public gatherings. That is why every country, community and group had to suspend their religious events. So due to this unavoidable reality, Saudi Arabia halted Umrah to stop the spread from the close-knit ritual crowd. Like all the world parts, the Coronavirus has also given a tough time to the Middle East as well. The noticeable Corona cases have been reported in Qatar and UAE. So as a result of this, they suspended their communal prayers. Similarly, the disturbing rise of Corona cases with serious health threats have been reported in Saudi Arabia. This pandemic has shaken the House of Saud in an unusual way that other no other pandemic or disease has done this before.  Almost 150 members of Royal members have been tested positive. Till the end of June the Kingdom has the number 167,267 of confirmed Corona cases, that is the highest among the Arabian Gulf countries. In addition to this, the Corona crisis has doubled up the State losses in form of sudden collapse in Oil Prices and finances from the Umrah ritual which the country halted in March.

Strict Anti-Corona Measures in Saudi Arabia

To combat Corona crises, Saudi Arabia has announced several strict steps and new measures in the State, including the

  • Closures of malls, parks, restaurants and cafes
  • Suspension of in person attendance at all Government institutions
  • Delay of the massive Kingdom’s vision of 2030.
  • Ban on Umrah ritual since the sudden outbreak
  • Cancelation of Haj pilgrimage

Besides Umrah Suspension, the State had also stopped all international passenger flights and blocked the entries and exits of its several cities including Makkah and Madinah. Among all these strict steps, the Hajj cancelation is the most painful and unusual step in the whole Islamic history.  The Hajj ritual of 2020 is supposed to take place from July 28 to August 4, but Saudi Govt. has stopped the world from the Hajj proceedings.  Now only a tiny fraction of 1,000 Saudi residents with different nationalities would be able to perform Hajj this year.

World’s Reaction on the Hajj Cancellation

A huge majority of the Muslim population has appreciated the Saudi sincere efforts towards the global health concerns and the containment of the harming speedy Coronavirus. Even before the announcement of Saudi Govt., the World states of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Senegal have already banned the Hajj proceedings for their Muslim communities.  The South-Asian Muslim population has also regarded the Saudi decision with utmost respect. The Bangladesh travel agency head has accepted the Saudi stance with open arms by calling it as the best decision for the health safety of many elderlies who are at the higher risk of Corona infection. However, a very emotional reaction from the desirous devotees of some Muslim communities has also been reported. Many of us express the sense of deflation, spiritual loss and a great sadness. Some travel agency members have called this Corona crisis as a Catastrophe on all levels- economic, social and religious.

Hajj Cancellation-The Best Decision from Islamic Point of View

The Hajj and Umrah cancelation by the Saudi Arabian Kingdom is one of the best decisions in the wake of these agonizing circumstances. All the learned Islamic scholars of the Muslim World have called the pilgrimage closure as “the Religious duty”. The wittiest words of the Muslim World League Secretory General are enough in this respect

“This is considered a religious duty dictated by the Islamic Sharia and its general and specific rules. Everybody knows that this pandemic requires taking every measure of precaution including preventing any form of gathering with no exception,”

Hajj-Cancelation- A Painful Decision for Saudi Arabia

Hence the Corona crisis has also forced the hospitable Saudi State to take unusual decisions.  The Royal family of Saud, whose King is the “Custodian of the two Holy Mosques,” of Makkah and Madinah has never canceled Hajj before this very year since the establishment of present Saudi Arabia in 1932. It is first time in the history of the world that Hajj has been canceled in this saddening manner.

Hope for the Brighter Side of Life

True Muslims can be saddened but never despair. It is the promise of Allah (SWT) that “With Every Hardship, there comes an Ease” Instead of mourning on not having spiritual opportunity ask for Allah mercy on Mankind and capability for next year to fulfill this mandatory spiritual responsibility.  Support the sensible Saudi decision in these days of troubles and turmoil. Saudi Govt. would surely resume the proceedings of the healthy Umrah ritual in the soothing winters of October, November and December when the things return to normal Insha-Allah.

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