Amid Health Crisis, Saudi Arabia Urges Muslims to Delay Hajj Preparations
Saudi Arabia has called on Muslims everywhere to temporarily delay preparations for the annual hajj pilgrimage due to the coronavirus crisis. It comes after Riyadh last month took the unprecedented step of suspending year-round umrah visits to Islam’s two holiest sites, including Mecca’s Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure toward which nearly 2 billion Muslims worldwide pray five times each day. “As we are talking about a global pandemic… the kingdom is keen to protect the health of Muslims and citizens, so we have asked our brothers in all countries to wait before doing [hajj] contracts until the situation is clear,” a senior Saudi minister was quoted as saying. The House of Saud has not yet determined whether to proceed with this year’s hajj, which is scheduled for the end of July. The 2019 pilgrimage attracted 2.5 million people and is considered a crucial revenue source for the Sunni Gulf state. As of Tuesday, Saudi Arabia had reported more than 1,500 coronavirus infections and 10 deaths. Some 70,000 cases have been confirmed in the Middle East.