This is the 3rd anniversary of my life-changing experience when I embarked for Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca and the 5th pillar of Islam. I have posted every year since, reliving my experience, one step at a time. My posts usually started with something like this- “Muslims from around the world are gathering in Mecca…”. It is quite painful to state that this is the first time in a very long time that Muslims are not gathering at Ka’aba from around the world. Yes, Coronavirus pandemic has hit the Hajj as well.
To be accurate, Hajj is not cancelled this year. But it is significantly curtailed. Only the Saudi citizens and those who are living in Saudi Arabia currently are allowed to perform Hajj, and that too in a significantly reduced number.
Each year, I would go to YouTube and watch live telecast of the proceedings. Seeing hundreds of thousands of people from around the world doing Tawaf (circumambulation) around Ka’aba with the usual hustle and bustle associated with Hajj brought back tons of GREAT memories.
This year the numbers are so small that the Saudi authorities are not even showing the live shots around Ka’aba. The live transmission typically shows the masjid around Ka’aba, the eye bird view of the city, but no Tawaf.
Here is a link to the live transmission this year.
Here is a private video, from just before the hajj season this year.
It is pretty depressing, to say the least.
And here is how it looked in the prior years.
This is how I remember my own experience. We were shoulder to shoulder with other hajjis, no matter what time of the day or night we were there.
I want to also make it clear that I completely agree with the decision. This is the prudent thing to do. There is a great risk of spread of the virus with so many people gathering in tight spaces. Millions of people would have been exposed. Islam puts a premium in protecting life.
… if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind. The Qur’an 5:32
I understand this is not unique to Hajj. It is not even unique to Islam. Many pilgrimage of various faiths have been affected-Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists. Not just that but even the regular services are affected. Many mosques in America are not allowing congregational prayers, including the prayers during Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha, that will follow Hajj.
It remains a depressing site.
There are so many elements of this pandemic- the toll on people’s lives and health, as well as the economical toll we are all paying across the world and how it has affected every aspect of our life. Having lost many people I know to the pandemic including the daughter of my cousin, I know how terrible this pandemic is.
The inability to perform Hajj and the sight of an empty Ka’aba remains a depressing site in my heart.
I hope and pray that we will get rid of Coronavirus soon. I hope and pray that we will return to our normal lives soon, including the Hajj as we have come to know and that it will continue to provide the spiritual high to the millions around the globe. Ameen.