For the second year running, the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed special conditions on the Hajj process, including limiting this year's pilgrimage to 60,000 residents and nationals living in the Kingdom. The health of our fellow humans has always been a number one priority, especially with the new developments related to coronavirus and the emergence of new variants that could spread inside the Kingdom before being exported to other countries through the returning foreign pilgrims.
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Ensuring the safety of everyone is one of the main Islamic doctrines. Thus, when it comes to safeguarding pilgrims against deadly epidemics, we must deal with them wisely and legitimately to guarantee safety, security, and the halting the spread of pandemics across Muslim and non-Muslim countries.
Prophet Mohammed said: “If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.” This is a clear law on how to deal with epidemics, one the Kingdom followed when it limited Hajj to domestic pilgrims and in small numbers.
The purpose of this decision is to achieve two best outcomes: hold the Hajj’s pilgrimage and protect people from the pandemic. The decision was received favorably by international organizations, Muslim countries, and legislative bodies as it wisely aims at ensuring the well-being for all humans, both Muslims and non-Muslims.
The Hajj’s pilgrimage that usually has over 2 million pilgrims can easily become an epicenter of the pandemic, both locally and internationally, which requires a cautious and holistic approach to deal with the situation and eliminate possible threats; thus, ensuring the safety of the pilgrims.
The Saudi leadership proudly bears the sacred responsibility of organizing the Hajj, doing its utmost to ensure the complete success of the pilgrimage and the full protection of the pilgrims. Just as the Kingdom’s government ensures the development and preparation of all Hajj rituals and customs, bearing great costs to make the pilgrims feel as comfortable as possible while also enabling them to carry out their rituals easily and safely, it does not hesitate to take critical decisions to ensure the safety of pilgrims in unconventional circumstances, such as the current pandemic.
Saudi Arabia’s top three objectives are the success of the Hajj season, ensuring it does not spread diseases, and protecting human lives, and to achieve these objectives, the government spend billions upon billions of riyals every year to uphold its sacred duty.
This year’s Hajj will only be open to internal pilgrims and in limited numbers, which comes as an affirmation of the humanitarian intention of the Saudi leadership to prioritize the health and safety of the pilgrims and their homelands. The Kingdom has always dealt with the Hajj season as an absolute religious duty that was bestowed upon it, and not as an economic opportunity that takes into consideration profits and losses according to the false claims of some opponents and adversaries.
Evil Arabs have always taken to the podiums to discuss the economic consequences of the Hajj for Saudi Arabia while intentionally turning a blind eye to the billions of riyals spent by the Kingdom to ensure the success of one Hajj season after another. The expansion of the two holy mosques has cost more than one trillion riyals. This cost cannot be reasonably compared to whatever limited economic revenues the Saudi treasury makes.
Exploiting the subject of the financial revenues made from the pilgrims through claiming that Saudi Arabia’s main objective behind organizing the Hajj is to receive these revenues is a played-out tactic deployed by hostile media and Evil Arabs. And the simple decision to limit the pilgrims serves as an indisputable rebuttal to these claims.
If the Kingdom were truly interested in financial gains, it would not have taken the decision to greatly decrease the number of pilgrims. On the contrary, the Saudi government would have spared no efforts to open up the country and allowed the highest number of pilgrims to enter the country without any care for their safety or any disastrous health repercussions.
Despite the ongoing pandemic and its very real threats, this approach is adopted by tourist countries right now in their endeavor to compensate for the losses they incurred as a result of the pandemic halting tourism.
It must be noted that there remains a vast difference between upholding the religious duty of Hajj and traveling to another country for a vacation, which can be delayed or even completely ignored.
The Kingdom has proven its ability to wisely take the right decision that combines organizing the Hajj on the one hand and protecting the pilgrims on the other through taking necessary health precautions to achieve both and ensure a safe Hajj season.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi daily al-Jazirah.