Hajj scrapped for the first time since the founding of Saudi Arabia

22nd May 2020
Hajj scrapped for the first time since the founding of Saudi Arabia

A few workers are seen nearby empty Kaaba after the precautions against Covid-19 are taken in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (Credit: Stringer/Anadolu Agency)

Harun Nasrullah

Saudi Arabia has given the strongest indication that this year’s Hajj pilgrimage is to be cancelled, calling on pilgrims to delay travel bookings amid uncertainty over the Covid-19 pandemic. Umrah (the non-mandatory pilgrimage) has already been suspended.

Around two million people visit Makkah to perform Hajj, which this year was set to begin in late July, but plans have been thrown into doubt.

The country’s Health Minister, Dr Tawfiq Al Rabia, predicts the number of cases to soar to 200,000 if measures to counter the disease are not followed.

Saudi Arabia has also suspended Tarawih prayers at the two holy mosques in Makkah and Madina during Ramadan. The special night prayers were instead performed mainly with the mosques’ staff.

Saudi Arabia has enforced a lockdown in an attempt to stem the outbreak, and entry to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah has been severely restricted.

The Kingdom’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Muhammad Banten, recommended that would-be pilgrims wait before concluding contracts. “We have asked our Muslim brothers around the world to wait before making contracts until things become clear,” Banten said.

“Under the current circumstances, as we are talking about the global pandemic, from which we have asked God to save us, the Kingdom is keen to protect the health of Muslims and citizens,” he added.

Banten said that the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has refunded the fees of Umrah visas to travel agencies after visits to Makkah were suspended late in February.

Though Hajj has been cancelled several times over the centuries, since the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s foundation in 1932 it has never missed a year, not even during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1917-18 that killed millions of people worldwide.

Should this year’s Hajj be cancelled, it will be among a list of almost 40 dramatic cancellations since the first in 629. In 865, the hajj was cancelled due to the ‘Massacre on Arafat Mountain.’

During his conflict with the Abbasid Caliphate based in Baghdad, Ismail bin Yousef, known as Al-Safak, launched an attack on the holy Arafat Mountain overlooking Makkah, massacring pilgrims there. The raid forced Hajj to be cancelled.

In 930, Abu Taher al-Janabi, the chief of the Qarmatians heterodox sect based in Bahrain, launched an attack on Makkah. Historical accounts say the Qarmatians killed 30,000 pilgrims and dumped bodies in the sacred Zamzam well. They also looted the Grand Mosque and stole the Black Stone from the Ka’abah, taking it to the island of Bahrain. Hajj resumed a decade later when the Black Stone was returned.

Disputes between the rulers of two caliphates – the Abbasids of Iraq and Syria and the Fatimids of Egypt – disrupted travel to Makkah in 983. It would be eight years until Hajj was held again, in 991.

Not only conflicts and massacres have led to the cancellations of Hajj. A plague from India hit Makkah in 1831 and killed three-quarters of the pilgrims there, who had endured weeks of travel through dangerous and barren lands to perform Hajj.

In a span of almost two decades, Hajj was halted three times, leaving pilgrims unable to head to Makkah for a total of seven years. In 1837, another plague hit the holy city, putting things on hold until 1840. Cholera struck Makkah in 1846, killing over 15,000 people, and plagued its inhabitants until 1850.

Outbreaks returned in 1865 and 1883. In 1858, another global cholera pandemic arrived in the city, prompting Egyptian pilgrims to run away en masse to Egypt’s Red Sea shores, where they were held in quarantine.

As of May 18, the Kingdom recorded 57,345 Covid-19 cases and 320 deaths.

Leave a Comment

What is 2 + 10 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)

Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

Latest Tweets