Saudi Arabia: No Umrah for Now due to COVID-19

(SDN) — NO Umrah temporarily this year as a measure against the spread of the deadly COVID-19.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has suspended the conduct of Umrah, or the lesser pilgrimage, as reported today, February 27, on Arab News, the Islamic country’s main English language newspaper.

“COVID-19” is the official name of the novel coronavirus, then known as 2019-nCoV, which originated in Wuhan, Hebei province, China, in December 2019 and now gripping the world.

Latest figures from the website tracking the potential pandemic — Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE — put the total world deaths at 2,810 people and 82,548 confirmed cases.

COVID-19 continues its seemingly inexorable spread across the world with hundreds confirmed cases and several dead outside China.

It’s the fear of the coronavirus’s being brought to spreading in Saudi Arabia that the Kingdom has temporarily deferred the acceptance of Umrah pilgrims.

Umrah is performed before and after the major pilgrimage — Hajj — in Mecca’s Masjidil Haram (Grand Mosque) after which pilgrims visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. Sometimes they visit Madinah before doing Umrah.

Saudi Arabia, Umrah, suspension, Hajj, pilgrims, NCMF
Grand Mosque in Mecca photographed by Adli Walid. The cube-shaped figure is the Ka’aba, which pilgrims circumambulate seven times in both Hajj and Umrah.

Arab News said seven million pilgrims perform the optional Umrah every year. Hajj is obligatory to every adult Muslim.

Here in the Philippines, at the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) headed by Secretary/CEO Saidamen B. Pangarungan, it was learned that more or less 2,000 Filipinos perform Umrah annually.

Bureau of Pilgrimage and Endowment (NCMF-BPE) Acting Director Malo Manonggiring told SDN — Science and Digital News — that Umrah is no longer handled by the commission.

“Umrah since the birth of the NCMF is now being handled by private sector through around 10 travel agencies,” he said, adding it was handled by the defunct Office on Muslim  Affairs (OMA) before the NCMF’s creation.

As for the Hajj, he said hundreds have already registered. Hajj will be conducted in the last week of July, he said.

“The Saudi Arabian Embassy has not yet told us anything about the Hajj in relation with COVID-19. We will continue the preparations for the Makkah pilgrimage,” said Manonggiring, former regional director of NCMF-Visayas.

Meanwhile, Pangarungan is Hajj 2020’s “amerul hajj” or head of the Philippine Hajj 2020 Mission to Saudi Arabia.

As this developed, the 57-member Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, backed the Kingdom’s suspension of Umrah this year.

Even Egypt’s Dar Al-Iftaa (House of Opinion) supported the suspension aimed at preserving lives of pilgrims. (SDN)


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