This year, due to the pandemic, Saudi Arabia will hold Hajj for minimal numbers of ONLY citizens and residents of all nationalities living inside the country.
The decision to allow pilgrims already in the kingdom fraught with political and economic peril comes in the midst of the virus and tiring struggles of Saudi Arabia to contain. Reportedly, SA is recording a new spike in daily cases and deaths.
According to the official Saudi Press Agency, “It was decided to hold the pilgrimage this year with minimal numbers… with different nationalities in the kingdom”.
Hajj, a must practice for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, represents a significant contagion as it involves millions of pilgrims congesting religious sites. The decision to limit the event risks resentful Muslim hardliners for whom religion trumps health concerns.
The economic loss would be huge for the kingdom due to watered-down Hajj, which is already reeling from the twin shocks – one is the virus and a plunge in oil prices. It also triggers renewed scrutiny of the Saudi custodianship of Islam’s holiest sites, which is the kingdom’s most potent source of political legitimacy.
This month, the world’s most populous Muslim nation – Indonesia, emerged as the first country to withdraw from the pilgrimage after pressing Riyadh for clarity, calling it a “very bitter and difficult decision.” Later on, Malaysia, Singapore, and Senegal followed suit with similar announcements.