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This Is What Hajj 2020 Looks Like Right Now

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Shasha Dania  •  Jul 30, 2020

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The holy month of Zulhijjah and the major Hajj pilgrimage have finally started this year - but with some major differences. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, aspects of the Hajj have needed to be modified to allow for pilgrims to perform the pilgrimage safely.  While the essential steps and meaning of the pilgrimage remain unchanged, there's no denying that this year's Hajj is incredibly different from last year's! Here's what's different during Hajj in 2020 - may we hope that next year's Hajj will be able to welcome even more of us to the holy city of Mecca. ❤️ The most shocking difference is definitely in the number of attendees! Previously, Hajj attendees would reach astonishing numbers with an estimated 2.5 million pilgrims flocking to Mecca per year. However this year only 1,000 pilgrims were granted permission to perform the Hajj. The Saudi government also disallowed foreign pilgrims from attending, limiting it to Saudi nationals and foreigners residing in Saudi. An age limit of 65 was also implemented, and no attendees with chronic illnesses were allowed to make the pilgrimage. Priority was also given to those who had never attempted Hajj before. P.S.  Here's a story from a Singaporean who managed to perform her Hajj in 2018 with her father and husband ! At the same time, many national governments also cancelled or postponed their Hajj slots for their own citizens due to COVID-19 concerns. 😔 It's definitely a heartbreaking situation especially for older Muslims who may have saved or waited for decades to be able to attend Hajj. However in times like this, it also brings to mind the infinite Mercy of Allah, and hopefully those who missed their chance this year will be able to complete Hajj next year. Even for those who managed to attend this year, we can only imagine their thoughts as they went through extra steps of quarantine and disinfection throughout their journey. Pilgrims were all tested for COVID-19 before arriving in Mecca, and needed to quarantine before and after arriving in the holy city. Social distancing measures like face masks and physical distancing have been implemented - here you can even see the spacing between the pilgrims as they circle around the Kaaba! 😯 In previous years, pilgrims would be squeezed together shoulder-to-shoulder but now it seems surreal to be able to see so much space between them. Coloured markings have been laid out on the floor around the Kaaba for pilgrims to follow, and their umbrellas bear the same colour as the markings for easier tracking too. Funnily enough, pilgrims have brought along umbrellas in the past but it seems like they've only been able to use them this year due to the enforced social distancing! Another iconic moment of Hajj for many pilgrims is being able to touch the Kaaba or its fabric covering, however pilgrims have been banned from touching the Kaaba this year and there's even a physical barrier between the innermost ring of pilgrims and the Kaaba. Prayer mats were also issued, and social distancing had to be enforced for congregational prayers too. Prepackaged meals and bottled ZamZam water have even been issued to pilgrims! Meals were also served to pilgrims directly to their hotel or accommodation rooms, to ensure no possible contact between pilgrims. Even in holy sites at Mount Arafat, Mina, and Muzdalifah, entrance between 19 July to 2 August has been limited only to those with Hajj permits to ensure crowd control. And during the ritual of the stoning of the devil at Mina, sterilised pebbles will be distributed! Previously the stones would be picked up by pilgrims the previous day, but this small change will allow the ritual to go on with less worries about possible contamination or transmission of illness.  These changes to the Hajj rituals have definitely been surprising, but ultimately the meaning and significance of the Hajj continues. Regardless of whether it's 1,000 or 1,000,000 pilgrims, what is certain is that the devotion to Allah remains steadfast throughout each pilgrim's journey. ❤️ May we pray to Allah that we get the chance to complete our own Hajj next year, and in years to come.