1,000 Muslims’ll perform 2020 Hajj, Saudi insists

…declares Friday July 31 Eid-el-Kabir Day

Saudi Arabia has insisted that only 1000 pilgrims within the Kingdom would perform this year’s hajj. This decision was due to the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the World. The Kingdom’s Supreme Court has also announced that Friday, July 31, will be the first day of Eid Al Adha.

The court said that Wednesday, July 22, would mark the first of Dhu Al Hijja. Since the first day of Eid Al Adha always falls on the 10th day of Dhu Al Hijja and one day after Arafat Day, Friday, July 31, will mark the first day of Eid Al Adha. The announcement follows a confirmation by the moonsighting committees formed to determine the beginning of the 12th month of the Islamic calendar. The committees confirmed that the crescent of Dhu Al Hijja was not visible yesterday (Monday) and will be clearly visible after the sunset of Tuesday.

This means that Wednesday, July 22, was the first of Dhu Al Hijjah that marked the start of this year’s Hajj season, which will be limited to only 1,000 pilgrims from within the Kingdom due to the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has been admitted to the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh for medical tests, the royal court said in statement early on Monday. The king was admitted for inflam-mation of the gallbladder, said the announcement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Later, the king received a number of calls from regional rulers, including the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Sabah, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al- Khalifa. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also received a call from Kuwait’s crown prince.

He reassured Sheikh Nawaf Al-Sabah of the king’s health. Saudi Arabia has earlier announced that it would hold ‘very limited’ Hajj due to coronavirus this year. The kingdom will hold Hajj for a limited number of people from all nationalities living in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has announced it will hold a “very limited” Hajj this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with people already living in the kingdom allowed to take part in the pilgrimage that begins in late July.

“It was decided to hold the pilgrimage this year with very limited numbers … with different nationalities in the kingdom,” the official Saudi Press Agency said on Monday, citing the Hajj ministry. The decision comes in light of the increase in COVID-19 cases around the world, the lack of a vaccine and difficulty maintaining a safe physical distance among large numbers of pilgrims coming from overseas, the statement said. More than two million people perform the annual pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca every year, including many travelling from abroad.

The Hajj, a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, represents a major potential source of contagion as it packs millions of pilgrims into congested religious sites. A watered-down Hajj would represent a major loss of revenue for the kingdom, which is already reeling from the twin shocks of the virusinduced slowdown and a plunge in oil prices. It could also trigger renewed scrutiny of the Saudi custodianship of Islam’s holiest sites – the kingdom’s most powerful source of political legitimacy.

A series of deadly disasters over the years, including a 2015 stampede that killed up to 2,300 worshippers, has prompted criticism of the kingdom’s management of the Hajj.

A full-scale Hajj, which last year drew about 2.5 million pilgrims, was unlikely after authorities advised Muslims in late March to defer preparations due to the fast-spreading disease. Earlier this month, Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, emerged as one of the first countries to withdraw from the pilgrimage after pressing Riyadh for clarity, with a minister calling it a “very bitter and difficult decision”.


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