Due to COVID-19, the Fifth Pillar of Islam will be limited to a very small group of followers this year.
The Hajj is a week-long pilgrimage to the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It takes place during the month of Dhul Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar — beginning on July 28th, in this year’s Gregorian calendar. It is a journey that every adult Muslim must undertake at least once in their lives, if they are physically and financially able to do so. The Hajj is different from Umrah, a generally shorter pilgrimage that can be undertaken at any time.
The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is responsible for facilitating these two types of Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. This includes working with travel and hospitality industries, religious officials, and logistics coordinators, among others, to ensure safe, smooth, and adherent journeys. In recent years, technology has played an important role. For example, pilgrims are issued identifying water-resistant e-bracelets with their medical information and GPS access, that also alert them to prayer times. This is no small feat particularly during the week of Hajj, which typically has 2.5 million attendees.
The Hajj has been cancelled occasionally throughout history, but not since the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in 1932. This year, the Ministry has declared this year’s Hajj pilgrimage will be limited to individuals under the age of 65 who are already in the country, do not have chronic health conditions, and test negative for COVID-19. In addition, participants will be further limited to a number that officials feel can be safely accommodated using social distancing methods. Currently estimates are that these limitations will result in approximately 1,000 Hajj pilgrims — a very dramatic decrease from the usual.
For more information about this year’s Hajj, as well as services and programs available to all pilgrims to Mecca, visit the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah website.
Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager
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