Hajj is one of the largest gatherings of people in the world every year.
This annual six-day pilgrimage that typically brings together over 2 million Muslims to Mecca each year will be reduced to no more than an estimate of 1000 attendees this year due to the government’s international visitor cancellation in an effort to minimize risks of coronavirus spread. This will be the first time since the formation of the Saudi Kingdom in 1932 (more than 70 years) that Hajj will not operate as it usually does.
The effective cancellation of this year’s pilgrimage not only has massive cultural impact among pilgrims but also to Saudi Arabia’s trade and economy that is dependent on this event. Many locals that are highly dependent on the USD 12 billion pilgrimage sector are especially feeling the loss heavily during these times.
As international borders have been closed since as early as March, many have been left unemployed as many umroh (a lesser pilgrimage that can be conducted anytime) travel been cancelled or left on pause.
Right now, Saudi Arabia has already seen more than 190,000 cases of the virus in its country. While the decision to cancel hajj has surely disappointed Muslims worldwide who are looking to perform the pilgrimage, no doubt that consensus has agreed that it is necessary to do. Many has been sharing a relevant hadith - a tradition of sayings and practices collected from prophet Muhammad - that prodives guidance about traveling during a time of an epidemic: “If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks out in a place wile you are in it, do not leave that place.”