Saudi Arabia to hold ‘very limited’ Hajj for first time in modern history

Hajj is usually a massive tourism boost for the Kingdom

Haj pilgrims, Haj and umrah, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Hajj 2020
Image: AFP/Getty Images

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia has said Hajj will be held in “very limited” numbers this year.

Hajj is one of the Kingdom’s largest drivers for religious tourism, drawing in 2.5 million pilgrims last year. The decision by the Ministry is the first time in modern history that Muslims outside the kingdom may not perform hajj.

The Ministry said: “Hajj for this year (1441H/2020AD) 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.”

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It added: "This decision is taken to ensure the hajj is performed in a safe manner from a public health perspective... And in accordance with the teachings of Islam."

Hajj is a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetimes. At the time of writing, Saudi Arabia has more than 161,000 cases and 1,300 deaths. The Ministry’s statement gives no number on how many pilgrims are permitted.

"Saudi Arabia has chosen the safest option that allows it to save face within the Muslim world while making sure they are not seen as compromising on public health," Umar Karim, a visiting fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, told AFP.

"But there are lots of unanswered questions: What is the exact number of pilgrims that will be allowed? What is the criteria for their selection? How many Saudis, how many non-Saudis?"

According to sister publication Arabian Business, Saudi authorities said the Ministry will hold a news conference to flesh out the details.

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