Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Muslim pilgrims observe the rules of the pandemic as the Hajj peaks shrink

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Muslim pilgrims perform the “Tawaf al-Ifada”, a mandatory bypass around the Kaaba (the Cube), the holiest shrine in Islam, at the climax of the annual pilgrimage to Hajj at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of La Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on August 11, 2019, after their descent from Mount Arafat. (Photo / AFP)

Muslim pilgrims in masks gathered Thursday near the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the climax of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which was significantly reduced this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A few thousand people participate, a fraction of the 2.5 million people who generally gather each year in the holy city of Mecca for the largest gathering in Islam.

This is the first time that Saudi Arabia has decided to drastically limit the number of pilgrims to Hajj in modern history.

Dressed in their traditional snow-white robes, the pilgrims wore protective masks and watched the distancing as they prayed inside the al-Namirah mosque in the area of ​​Mount Arafat, about 20 km east of Mecca.

The granite hill is the site where the prophet Muhammad is believed to have delivered his last sermon, some 14 centuries ago.

A senior Saudi cleric urged Muslims to show patience during the “tribulation” of the pandemic.

“Among the traits of the faithful is being patient in the face of painful fates,” Abdullah al-Manea, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, the highest Islamic body in Saudi Arabia, said in a televised sermon marking the peak of Hajj.

“Life in this world is not without disasters. [But] The tribulations, however great their scale, will not continue forever. God’s mercy is greater, “he added in the sermon delivered at the al-Namirah mosque.

The live broadcast of the ritual sermon showed pilgrims in masks listening and praying using personal rugs as part of strict health precautions.

Saudi authorities have also installed sterile tents to accommodate pilgrims in Arafat, Saudi state television al-Ekhbariya reported.

Pilgrims must remain in Arafat until Thursday evening, spending the day praying and reciting the Holy Quran.

They routinely sing there for God to forgive their sins.

The pilgrims will then head to the nearby Muzdalifah area, where they would normally collect pebbles to use as a symbolic stone for the devil’s ritual in the desert valley of Mina, about 7 km northeast of Mecca.

However, this year, the Saudi authorities have given them sealed bags containing disinfected pebbles.

The next day, which marks the beginning of the Muslim Eid al-Adha, pilgrims will gather in Mina for the stoning ritual.

Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is a mandatory duty for all Muslims once in life if they possess sufficient financial resources and are physically capable of undertaking the journey.

During Hajj, male pilgrims often wear seamless white pieces, while women wear loose clothing without makeup or jewelry.

Her outfit symbolizes abandoning worldly wealth and recognizing equality.

The pilgrimage takes place annually from the eighth to the twelfth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar.

This year’s Hajj, which started on Wednesday, has been overshadowed by pandemic fears.

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, has limited the number of Muslims attending Hajj for five days, confining it to Muslims already living within the monarchy in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Before Hajj, pilgrims spent a week in quarantine at home and another four isolated days in Mecca, as part of the measures imposed by the authorities, according to the Media Ministry.

Facial masks are compulsory, while buses transporting pilgrims between different holy sites must be filled to 50 percent of their capacity and pilgrims are only offered prepackaged meals.

This is the first time that Saudi Arabia has decided to drastically limit the number of pilgrims to Hajj in modern history.

Dpa

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