Saudi Authorities Discuss Allowing Overseas Pilgrims for Hajj 2021

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(SDN) — With the holy month of Ramadan in the rear view mirror and Shawwal is in, Muslims are now eyeing the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Makkah, Saudi Arabia.

On Thursday, May 13, the Islamic world of an estimated 1.907 billion (per Wikipedia) population erupted in muted cheers and mixed feelings as they celebrated Eid’l Fitr (Festival of Breaking the Fast). The post-Ramadan Eid occurring annually every first day of Shawwal is sometimes likened to Christendom’s Christmas celebration.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar Hijri calendar (now year 1442); around three months later it’s the season of the Hajj.

Around 2.5 million Islamic believers journey to Makkah every year to perform the 5-day pilgrimage, but the pandemic has vastly affected the obligatory religious activity. In 2020 the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia did not want to cancel the Hajj, so the Saudi leadership of King Salman bin Abdulaziz allowed only 1,000 pilgrims from within the Kingdom under very strict health protocols and medical and health practitioners stood by.

The Kingdom has time and again emphasized the health and safety of pilgrims are of utmost importance.

Saudi religious authorities said the Hajj this year “is expected to begin on July 17” even as health authorities, in an Arab News report on May 9, said discussions are ongoing whether to allow pilgrims from overseas to perform the pilgrimage since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in December 2019.

The Arab News report citing the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah noted the Kingdom is keeping its option of allowing the entry of a small number of pilgrims who will be under strict health and precautionary measures.

The ministry added the authorities’ decision is “based on the Kingdom’s constant keenness to enable the guests and visitors to the Grand Mosque (in Makkah) and the Prophet’s Mosque (in Madinah) to perform the rituals of Hajj and Umrah. The Kingdom puts human health and safety first.”

In the Philippines an average of 6,000 Filipinos have been performing the pilgrimage under the auspices of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF). Saudi quota regulation says for every one million Muslim population of any country 1,000 pilgrims are allowed for the Hajj.

Reached by SDN — Science & Digital News, Director Malo Manonggiring, head of the Bureau of Pilgrimage and Endowment (NCMF-BPE), emphasized the readiness of the Commission in sending pilgrims to the Kingdom this year.

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“We are determined to send hajjis from the Philippines. We havel aready prepared all necessary documents required for every intending hajjis like the vaccination against Covid-19.

We have educated our prospective hajjis on standard health protocols duly authorized by the Philippine government and the World Health Organization (WHO). We are only awaiting the invitation from the Kingdom’s authorities like the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.”

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Here’s lat year’s announcement from the NCMF on Hajj 2021:

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“The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos requests intending pilgrims to the 2021 Hajj to register with us from December 16-31, 2020. This is to determine the actual number of intending pilgrims for the 2021 Hajj. There is no advice yet from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia if international worshippers will be allowed for the 2021 Hajj. However, the Kingdom has eased some of the restrictions for foreign pilgrims who were allowed to perform Umrah pilgrimage. There remains a possibility that the 2021 Hajj for the international Muslim community will push through.”

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Pilgrimage rituals are conducted at the Masjidil Haram (Grand Mosque), in Arafat, and in Mina (the Tent City).

It is during the Hajj that Islam’s second festival, Eid’l Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) is celebrated by the Islamic world. Islam only has two major festivals — Eid’l Fitr and Eid’l Adha.

Propping up Islam are its obligatory “five pillars” such as Shahaddah (Profession of Faith), Salat (5-daily prayers), Sawm (Ramadan fast), Zakat (Obligatory charity), and Hajj. (/)

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Featured image of Masjidil Haram with the Ka’aba at the center credit and thanks to Izuddin Helmi Adnan on Unsplash.

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