Hajj, the annual pilgrimage has been put on hold for this year, at least for now.
This was announced by the Saudi Hajj Minister Mohammad Saleh Benten, while speaking to state-owned television Al-Ekhbariya on March 31.
He asked Muslims everywhere to temporarily defer preparations for Hajj amid uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic.
This year’s Hajj will be in July-August.
Millions of Muslims use their life’s savings to perform this once-in-a-life-time obligation and much sought after experience.
Pilgrims retrace the steps enacted by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail (as) and Ismail’s mother Hajar in desperate search of water for her infant son dying of thirst.
The well of Zam Zam is where a spring had gushed forth in the parched valley of Makkah.
Zam Zam still continues to quench the thirst of millions of pilgrims all year round, a living miracle since it has never dried up in thousands of years.
Each year, about 2.5 million Muslims from all over the world perform Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah and Madinah.
This year, however, because of the pandemic, Hajj performance has been put on hold.
It is highly unlikely that it will be possible to perform Hajj this year.
While this will come as a huge disappointment to millions of Muslims, under the present circumstances it is the right decision.
Muslims converge on the city of Makkah where the Ka‘aba—the simple cube structure—is situated in the middle of Masjid al Haram.
As part of Hajj (and Umrah) performance, Muslims circumambulate the Ka‘aba seven times going counter-clockwise.
The Haram as it is called, is packed with pilgrims—young and old, men and women, all times of the day and night.
They come from all over the world and from all walks of life.
Under such conditions, the risk of spreading or contracting the disease is very high.
Even if there is one infected person, he could potentially spread it to thousands of others, if not more.
That would be a catastrophe.
Further, Hajj entails the pilgrims leaving Makkah and staying in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah.
Pilgrims stay in tents in very close proximity to each other for several days.
Besides, prayers are offered in congregation, again a very risky undertaking in these circumstances.
Even in normal circumstances, many pilgrims returning from Makkah after Hajj or Umrah, develop sore throat and cough because of pollution or being infected by others.
In the age of coronavirus, this would be much worse.
Our sincere advice to all Muslims is to defer Hajj plans for this year until the pandemic has subsided.
Besides, the Prophet (pbuh) has said, it is the intention that counts with Allah (The two best-known hadith collections, Bukhari and Muslim carry it. It is the first hadith listed in Imam Nawawi’s collection of Forty Hadith).
If a person has made the intention to perform Hajj and is unable to do so for whatever reason, he/she will still get the reward from Allah.
Muslims can take comfort in the fact that the Merciful Lord will reward them even if they are unable to visit His House in Makkah this year.