Saudi Arabia is asking Muslims around the world to be patient and delay their plans for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages amid uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the Kingdom’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah said.
The Kingdom’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten, said that Saudi Arabia was ready to receive and serve pilgrims at any time, but that the priority is currently placed for everyone’s safety.
“Saudi Arabia is currently providing care for 1,200 pilgrims who could not return to their home countries. We also returned the sums to those who obtained an Umrah visa but could not perform the Umrah,” Benten told al-Ekhbariyah television channel.
Saudi Arabia suspended all prayers in the outer courtyards of the Two Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina as part measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. It also stopped all nationals and residents from visiting Mecca to perform Umrah or visiting the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.
The Hajj pilgrimage is one of Islam’s five pillars, which all Muslims who are financially and physically able must perform at least once in their lifetime.
Coronavirus impacts religion
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted religion across the world, with many religious gatherings and ceremonies delayed to avoid human-to-human contact.
Religious gatherings have been some of the places where coronavirus has reportedly spread. In South Korea, the leader of a cult church apologized after his congregation became the center of an outbreak of the virus in the city of Daegu. In Malaysia, authorities reported a jump in the number of cases after 16,000 people attended a religious gathering.
The Secretary-General of the Muslim World League Mohammed al-Issa previously described the temporary closure of mosques in some countries across the Islamic world as a “religious duty.”
“This is considered a religious duty dictated by the Islamic Sharia and its general and specific rules. Everybody knows that this pandemic requires taking every measure of precaution including preventing any form of gathering with no exception,” al-Issa said in a video clip exclusive to Al Arabiya.
“The temporary closure of places of worship in some Islamic countries is considered a religious duty in light of the #coronavirus becoming a pandemic,” says Muhammad al-Issa, the head of the #Mecca-based Muslim World League (@MWLOrg_en).#COVID_19https://t.co/p4sCbAGBRq pic.twitter.com/bxkFa0Hoii— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) March 17, 2020