Hajj cancellation: Facts we didn’t know before the pandemic

Lahore, 4th April: The pandemic coronavirus, which spread from China’s city Wuhan is wreaking havoc globally, killing almost 60,000 people so far in the world.

Saudi Arabia is one such state where there have been some reported deaths from COVID-19 and the number of patients is on the rise. The Saudi government has imposed curfew in the state, a ban has been imposed on Umrah pilgrims and all air operations are also suspended.

The rising concern amid the pandemic all over the Muslim countries is whether or not there will be a Hajj this year? The Saudi government has asked the countries to wait and that the concerned authorities are looking into the matter closely and will soon inform the countries about the major decision taken.

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If Hajj is canceled this year, it will not be the first time, as in the past, Hajj had been canceled several times as well. The Gulf East Eye has published a report stating that if Hajj Baitullah is not carried in the year 2020, it would not be the first time in Islamic history.

According to the report, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia came into existence in 1932, since then Hajj had never been interrupted. And if Hajj does not happen this year, it will be the first time in present Saudi rule.

Reportedly, there was a global outbreak of Spanish flu in 1917-18, which caused the death of 5 million people but Hajj was not canceled during the epidemic.

if Saudi Arabia cancels Hajj in the year 2020, it will be added to a list of almost 40 dramatic cancellations since the first in 629. Middle East Eye takes a look at some of the most striking cancellations in history:

865: Massacre on Arafat Mountain
Abbasid’s have a history of misconduct and damaging Islamic civilization. Ismail bin Yousef, Known as Al-Safak during his conflict with the Abbasid Caliphate based in Baghdad, launched an attack on the holy Arafat Mountain overlooking Mecca in 865, massacring pilgrims there. The raid forced Hajj to be canceled.

930: Qarmatian attack
In 930, Abu Taher al-Janabi, the chief of the Qarmatians heterodox sect based in Bahrain, launched an attack on Mecca.

Historical accounts say the Qarmatians killed 30,000 pilgrims in the holy city and dumped bodies in the sacred Zamzam well. They also looted the Grand Mosque and stole the Black Stone from its Kaaba, taking it to the island of Bahrain.

Hajj was then suspended for a decade until the Black Stone was returned to Mecca. The Qarmatians were an Ismaili Shia sect who believed in an egalitarian society and considered pilgrimage a pagan ritual.

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983: Abbasid and Fatimid Caliphates
Politics, too, has disrupted Hajj. In 983 political disputes between the rulers of two caliphates – the Abbasids of Iraq and Syria and the Fatimids of Egypt – got in the way of Muslims traveling to Mecca for pilgrimage. It would be eight years until Hajj was held again, in 991.

1831: Plague
Not only conflicts and massacres have canceled Hajj. A plague from India hit Mecca in 1831 and killed three-quarters of the pilgrims there, who had endured weeks of travel through dangerous and barren lands to perform Hajj.

1837-1858: Series of epidemics
In a span of almost two decades, Hajj was halted three times, leaving pilgrims unable to head to Mecca for a total of seven years.

In 1837, another plague hit the holy city, putting things on hold until 1840.

Then in 1846, the disease of cholera hit Mecca, killing more than 15,000 people, and plagued its inhabitants until 1850. Outbreaks returned in 1865 and 1883.

In 1858, another global cholera pandemic arrived in the city, prompting Egyptian pilgrims to run away en masse to Egypt’s Red Sea shores, where they were held in quarantine.

Saudi Arabia has indicated that the Hajj may be postponed, Saudi Minister Hajj Muhammad Bentan has said that their government is concerned about the health of the Muslims foremost and will wait for the situation to get under control.

In this regard, the Saudi government has written a letter to Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs stating that agreements and any reservations should not be made with regard to the Hajj as yet.

COVID-19 and the uncertainty surrounding Hajj