What Hajj Looks Like During Covid-19July 22, 2021 2023-08-20 19:40
What Hajj Looks Like During Covid-19
Every year, around 2.5 million people perform Hajj. However, assembling this many people in one area could have dramatic repercussions in a global pandemic. For the second year in a row, due to COVID-19, the Saudi authorities declared that Hajj would be limited to the Kingdom’s residents exclusively. What has Hajj looked like exactly during Covid-19? Read on to find out!
What Happened To Hajj In 2020 Due To The Pandemic?
In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia declared on June 22, 2020, that it would host a “very restricted” Hajj. The Hajj was closed to the rest of the world, with a quota of just 1,000 pilgrims who were inhabitants of the Kingdom.
The decision, as wise, understandable and commendable as it was, made the heart of thousands upon thousands of Muslims around the world very heavy with sadness, as the chance to embark on the pilgrimage is hard to come by. It is held only once a year and requires a lot of planning and financing on the individual side.
It was particularly disheartening for many who had already been picked by Hajj agencies in their own countries but were unable to go to the Kingdom. The quota system is managed by each country’s national Hajj organization, and pilgrims might wait up to 20 years in line.
To prevent the spread of the virus during the 2020 Hajj, rigorous health procedures such as mandatory face masks and social distancing, as well as regular disinfection of Masjid al-Haram, were required.
Circumambulating the Ka’bah (tawaf), the back-and-forth walk (sa’ee) between Safa and Marwa mountains, standing atop Arafah mount, and everything in between were all regulated with social distancing. Because of the limited number of pilgrims, this was fairly easy.
Though socially distant congregational prayers (jama’a) were permitted during the Hajj, it remains an uncommon sight for the Muslim who is used to the closeness of traditional prayers, which contributes to a sense of community and togetherness in gratitude for Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.
The classic picture of the Ka’bah surrounded by a swarm of pilgrims contrasts sharply with the tiny groups of 50 occupying the enormous expanse of Mecca’s mosque, each spaced apart and carefully supervised by healthcare personnel.
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What About Hajj 2021?
Hajj this year took place from July 17 to July 22. The Ministry of Hajj in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced that Hajj would still be restricted this year, with a few modifications. It’s true that residents and citizens are the only people permitted to perform Hajj this year.
This year again, only Saudi residents were permitted to apply for Hajj. However, the number of people that would be selected was raised to 60,000, from just 1,000 last year thanks to other measures put in place as well as a context that is significantly different from last year since vaccination against Covid-19 is now available. As a matter of fact, only vaccinated pilgrims were allowed to participate in Hajj this year.
The Kingdom had indeed imposed various restrictions on residents who wished to apply for Hajj this year. According to some of these requirements, only those between the ages of 18 and 65 who had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccination at least 14 days prior to the beginning of Hajj and were free of chronic illnesses were be permitted to perform Hajj this year.
People who had only had one dose of the Covid-19 vaccination could apply to perform Hajj, but they needed to get their second dose at least two weeks before the start of the trip if possible.
Each pilgrim was required to bring vaccination certificates provided by authorized health institutes in their place of citizenship, as well as a negative PCR test certificate produced by a certified laboratory within the previous 40 hours.
Anyone who failed to meet these requirements of applying and starting Hajj, as well as people who were over the age of 65, were not allowed to perform Hajj this year.
Last year’s logistical procedures around the rites and rituals of Hajj were still in place this year, such as how pilgrims were separated into groups for transportation to holy places, all places of lodging had Covid-19 health protocols in place, and how catering services were required to guarantee food be served to pilgrims in their rooms to avoid crowding.
A Hajj smart card system, which enlisted all approved Hajj pilgrims and linked them to facilities and services such as access to camps, transportation, hotels, mobile banking ports, and ATMs, as well as identify crowded places at the holy sites in Makkah and Madinah, was also used for this year.