A different kind of Hajj as Riyadh bars pilgrims

Pilgrims gather around the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in  Mecca on August 8, 2019, prior to the start of the Hajj. FILE PHOTO

What you need to know:

  • Hajj, a celebration usually held in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, officially starts on July 29.
  • Chief Kadhi Ahmed Muhdhar on Wednesday announced the start of the pilgrimage month. 

This year, Muslims are making a different kind of Hajj pilgrimage as the world battles the coronavirus pandemic.

Hajj, a celebration usually held in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, officially starts on July 29.

Chief Kadhi Ahmed Muhdhar on Wednesday announced the start of the pilgrimage month. 

But Kenyan Muslims, like those from other parts of the world, will have to adhere to the guidelines set to curb the spread of Covid-19 and celebrate this important and mandatory duty at their homes, after Saudi Arabia banned visitors  from outside the kingdom from the holy city.

Sheikh Muhdhar on Wednesday said they had not sighted the moon in Kenya, but  received a confirmation “from our brothers in Zanzibar, marking the first day of the month of Dhul Hijja”.

The first 10 days of Dhul Hijja, the twelfth and final month in the Islamic calendar, are very holy and is a chance for faithful to deepen their faith.

This year, only 1,000 people from different countries who reside in Saudi Arabia will get the chance to make the pilgrimage.

But the millions who have missed the opportunity will celebrate the occassion through other religious practices.

“If one misses the chance to go to the Hajj celebrations, then they can fast the 10 days, give to charity, visit the sick, among other religious activities,” said Sheikh Muhdhar.

The Hajj is marked in the first nine days of the month, which culminates in the Eid-ul-Adha or Festival of Sacrifice on the 10th day.

“We have kicked off celebrations and expect the Eid-ul-Adha celebrations to be on Friday, July 31, 2020,” said the Chief Kadhi.

He urged Muslims to  adhere to the Covid-19 guidelines set by the Ministry of Health.

For the Muslim community, this year’s celebration will be a little different from the previous years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.  People are being encouraged to avoid visiting families and observe social distancing while avoiding gatherings.

Authorities in Riyadh are only allowing a maximum of 1, 000 visitors who reside in the Kingdom, unlike previously where more than 2.5 million people from all over the world usually participate in the ritual. It will be held under strict health protocols, with those age 65 and over and those with chronic illnesses barred.

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