For the first time, Hajj was denied to outsiders
Pilgrimage is an important part of any religion. In Islam, Hajj is one of the most important tenets of the religion. Every year, Muslims from around the world travel to Mecca, Saudi Arabia to complete the hajj.
Why is it important?
Hajj is important as Muslims believe it is commanded by Allah. The Qur’an speaks of the Ka’ba as a place of security and prayer to which Muslims should return and give praise to Alla. The hajj is a special religious trip that every Muslim person is supposed to make once in their lifetime.
What happened this year?
The timing for the hajj changes every year. This year it started on July 29 and ended on August 6.
Usually, over 2.5 million people take part in the Hajj. In the 90 years since Saudi Arabia was formed, it has never cancelled the hajj. But this year, because of the coronavirus, Saudi Arabia decided not to allow visitors from outside the country. Instead, the country has limited the hajj to a few thousand Muslims already in the country.
Large crowds are usually the biggest danger of the Hajj. Saudi Arabia made special rules to make sure everyone stays safe. Only healthy people between the ages of 20 and 50 were allowed to take part this year.
The six-day ritual
During Hajj, pilgrims join processions of hundreds of thousands of people, who converge on Mecca for the week. There, they perform a series of rituals: One ritual sees each person walk counter-clockwise seven times around the Kaaba (the cube-shaped building and the direction of prayer for the Muslims) in Mecca.
Then, Muslims go back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah and drink from the Zamzam Well. They also descend to the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil and spend a night in the plain of Muzdalifa.
A symbolic stoning performance of the devil also takes place by throwing stones at three pillars.
Sacrificing an animal is also part of the event, and pilgrims are required to shave their head.
The present pattern of Hajj was established by Muhammad, however, according to the Quran, elements of Hajj trace back to the time of Abraham.
Due to coronavirus only residents of Saudi Arabia were allowed for Hajj this year.