Cancellation of Saudi Hajj Covid-19 is not first for Muslim pilgrims – Quartz Africa

Saudi Arabia has effectively canceled hajj for most of the world’s Muslims, saying the mandatory pilgrimage to Mecca will be “very limited” this year due to the coronavirus. Only pilgrims residing in Saudi Arabia can attend the event, which begins in late July.

Earlier this year, Saudi authorities had indicated that this decision might be coming, and had also halted travel to holy places as part of umrah, the “minor pilgrimage” that takes place throughout the year.

A drastically reduced hajj will be a massive economic blow to the country and many companies worldwide, such as the hajj travel industry. Millions of Muslims visit the kingdom of Saudi Arabia every year, and the pilgrimage has not been canceled since the founding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

But as a student of global Islam, I have come across many cases in the more than 1,400 years of pilgrimage history when its planning had to be altered due to armed conflict, disease or simply politics. Here are a few.

Armed conflicts

One of the first significant disruptions to hajj occurred in 930 AD, when a sect of Ismailis, a minority Shiite community, known as the Qarmatians attacked Mecca because they believed that hajj was a pagan ritual.

The Qarmatians are said to have killed dozens of pilgrims and eloped with the black Kaaba stone, which the Muslims believed had been sent from heaven. They took the stone to their fortress in modern Bahrain.

Hajj was suspended until the Abbasids, a dynasty that ruled over a vast empire that spanned North Africa, the Middle East to modern India from 750-1258 AD, paid a ransom for their return more than 20 years later.

Political disputes

Political disagreements and conflicts have often meant that pilgrims from certain places were prevented from performing hajj due to lack of protection along land routes to Hijaz, the region in western Saudi Arabia where they are located. both Mecca and Medina.

In 983, the rulers of Baghdad and Egypt were at war. The Fatimid rulers of Egypt claimed to be the true leaders of Islam and opposed the Abbasid dynasty government in Iraq and Syria.

His political tug-of-war kept several pilgrims from Mecca and Medina for eight years, until AD 991. C.

Then, during the fall of the Fatimids in 1168, the Egyptians could not enter the Hijaz. It is also said that no one from Baghdad performed hajj for years after the city fell to the Mongol invasion in 1258 AD. C.

Many years later, Napoleon’s military forays to control British colonial influence in the region prevented many pilgrims from fighting between AD 1798 and 1801.

Diseases and Hajj

As in the present, disease and other natural calamities have also got in the way of the pilgrimage.

There are reports that the first time that an epidemic of any kind caused the cancellation of Hajj was an outbreak of plague in 967 AD. And drought and famine caused the Fatimid ruler to cancel Hajj’s land routes in 1048 AD.

Cholera outbreaks in several years throughout the 19th century claimed the lives of thousands of pilgrims during hajj. An outbreak of cholera in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in 1858 forced thousands of Egyptians to flee to Egypt’s Red Sea border, where they were quarantined before being allowed to return.

Indeed, for much of the 19th and early 20th centuries, cholera remained a “perennial threat” and caused frequent disruptions in annual Hajj.

A cholera outbreak in India in 1831 claimed the lives of thousands of pilgrims on their way to perform Hajj.

In fact, with many outbreaks in rapid succession, hajj was frequently interrupted in the mid-19th century.

Recent years

Also in more recent years, pilgrimage has been interrupted for many similar reasons.

In 2012 and 2013, the Saudi authorities encouraged the sick and the elderly not to undertake the pilgrimage amid concerns about the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS.

Contemporary geopolitics and human rights issues have also played a role in who was able to make the pilgrimage.

In 2017, Qatar’s 1.8 million Muslim citizens were unable to carry out Hajj following the decision of Saudi Arabia and three other Arab nations to cut diplomatic ties to the country due to differences of opinion on various geopolitical issues.

The same year, some Shiite governments, such as Iran, filed charges alleging that the Sunni Saudi authorities were not allowed to make the pilgrimage.

In other cases, faithful Muslims have called for boycotts, citing Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

While the decision to cancel hajj is sure to disappoint Muslims seeking to make the pilgrimage, many of them have been sharing a relevant hadith online, a tradition that informs the sayings and practice of the prophet Muhammad, which provides guidance on travel. for a time epidemic: “If you find out about a plague outbreak in a land, don’t go in; but if the plague breaks out in one place while you are in it, don’t leave that place. “

This story has been updated to reflect the latest developments.

Ken Chitwood, professor, Concordia College of New York | Fellow journalist, USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, Concordia College New York

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.