What has Changed for Hajj Pilgrimage amid COVID-19 Pandemic?
Hajj! For any follower, this pilgrimage is one of the most key moments of their lives. Islam, the faith afterall considers Hajj pilgrimage as one of the 5 pillars of Islam. Let’s get an insight on the origins, significance, and changes that have are now the new normal for Hajj Pilgrimage 2020.
What are the 5 pillars of Islam and what are their significance?
●Profession of Faith (shahada)- It is believed that in order to be a devout Muslim, one phase is repeated time and again. Written in Arabic in the holy Qu’ran, the phrase ‘"There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God” is repeated with conviction by all Muslims.
●Prayer (salat)- Payers done with utmost devotion 5 times in a day, in the direction of Mecca, is considered as one of the most important pillars of Islam.
●Alms (zakat)- Every devout Muslim must donate a percentage of his income to charity. This is a must during special occasions and especially during the two Eid festivals.
●Fasting (sawm)- Fasting during the hours of daylight during the holy month of Ramadan is another must for the faithful. From kids to pregnant women, with the exception of the sick and senior, fasting is a must for all.
●Pilgrimage (hajj)- As finances and health permits, all faithfuls must at least once in their life undergo the holy pilgrimage of ‘Hajj’. Undertaken at the holy city of Mecca, in present day Saudi Arabia, this journey is not for the faint of heart.
What were the rules for Hajj Pilgrimage before Coronavirus Pandemic?
The origins of Islam and the significance of sacrifice plays a very important part in understanding why Hajj is such a crucial part of the religion. Previously, there were a few rules in place for those seeking Hajj pilgrimage. Primarily, health, wealth and luck play a very vital role in securing permits, and visas. Additionally, purity of mind and soul is another important step.
Men gave up earthly possessions of gadgets, and wore a simple garment of white devoid of any stitches, wrapped casually across themselves. This symbolises that all men are equal in the eyes of Allah and their wealth back home don’t matter.
Women too dressed in modest abayas and covered themselves from head to toe while abiding to the laws of the land. The primary focus of all the faithfuls that enter the holy ground is to soak in the benevolence of Allah!
What has Changed for Hajj Pilgrimage 2020?
Places which were usually overflowing with pilgrims will be empty simply because the number of people attending the pilgrimage will be restricted to a mere 1,000, all of whom are Saudi citizens.
Safety norms and protocols dictated are as follows:
1. All with Hajj permits must self-quarantine at home for 12 days before Hajj process begins
2. All pilgrims must be healthy and aged between 20 and 60 years in age.
3. Once they reach Makkah, they will be screened for COVID-19 and must remain isolated in their respective hotel rooms
4. All pilgrims will be given an electronic ankle bracelet to wear to ensure their quarantine.
5. 8 Specialized hospitals and 95 clinics have been created around the holy shrine to help those in need.
6. Doctors and clinical staff will escort the pilgrims all through. They will be monitoring their health and ensuring utmost hygiene standards are met.
7.As pilgrims move from Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifah then back to Mina, it is important that social distancing is maintained at every step of the way.
8.The prayer mats will be wrapped up in unique plastic bags, and be sanitized regularly.
9.Regular hand washing and wearing of face mask is mandatory
10. All pilgrims will undergo a week of quarantine before returning back to their homes in Saudi Arabia
The whole Islamic community applauds the quick thinking and foresight of the leaders of Saudi Arabia to make Hajj Pilgrimage 2020 possible in the time of pandemic. This foresight towards the development of the blessed land has been true upon generations of Kings of Saudi Arabia who are also the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.