By EDD K. USMAN
(SDN) — ISLAM’S fifth pillar the Hajj still hangs this year.
Thus, Muslims across the world are awaiting the decision of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia whether to conduct the pilgrimage to Mecca, or cancel it in 2020.
Pilgrimage comes around three months after Ramadan, which just concluded on Sunday, May 24.
You can imagine millions of believers of Islam are anxiously awaiting the annual Hajj, eager to perform it to complete the five pillars. The four other obligatory pillars of the Muslim faith are Shahaddah (Profession of Faith); Salat (Five Daily Prayers); Sawm (Ramadan Fasting); and Zakat (Obligatory Charity).
Recent years have seen over two million pilgrims fulfilling the religious obligation held in Mecca’s Masjidil Haram (Grand Mosque), Arafah, Muzdalifah, and Mina (the Tent City). Adults are obliged to perform pilgrimage once in a lifetime.
Awaiting the decision of Saudi Arabia on the Hajj includes Muslim Filipinos whose pilgrimage is facilitated by the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) headed by Secretary Saidamen B. Pangarungan.
The former governor of Lanao del Sur province appeared on television Monday in one of the episodes of the media briefing of Malacañang conducted by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) led by Secretary Martin Andanar.
Andanar, who was a journalist with TV5 before he joined the Duterte Administration, asked the NCMF head about Hajj 2020.
“We are waiting for Saudi Arabia to make its decision concerning the pilgrimage,” Pangarungan says.
No need to belabor that the global Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted all facets of life, from the mundane routine to the major activities, including travel. That’s where pilgrimage hurts the most because over a million pilgrims come yearly from other countries.
According to reliable information, he said he received, the Saudi government is weighing two options about the Hajj.
First option, conduct the pilgrimage minus 50 percent of each pilgrims quota (meaning, for example, if a certain country is allowed to send 10,000 pilgrims, in the time of the novel coronavirus, only 5,000 will be allowed to do the Hajj.
The Saudi Hajj system quota says that for every one million Muslim a country may send 1,000 pilgrims. So, if the first option is implemented each country will be allowed one half of its total quota.
Second option, Pangarungan said is about cancelling the pilgrimage this year.
The Saudi decision is eagerly awaited, he reiterated.
If the pilgrimage this year is canceled, Pangarungan assured that the money of pilgrims who already paid the cost of the Hajj through the NCMF will be returned.
“The money our paid pilgrims is intact with the NCMF depository bank,* he assured.
Early this year President Rodrigo R. Duterte designated Pangarungan the Hajj 2020 ameerul hajj (leader of Philippine Haij Mission). (SDN)