(DUBAI, United Arab Emirates) — Pilgrims, donning face masks and shifting in small teams after days in isolation, started arriving to Islam’s holiest web site in Mecca on Wednesday for the beginning of a traditionally distinctive and scaled-down hajj expertise reshaped by the coronavirus pandemic.
The hajj is one in every of Islam’s most vital and profound necessities, carried out as soon as in a lifetime. It follows a route the Prophet Muhammad walked practically 1,400 years in the past and is believed to finally hint the footsteps of the prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, or Abraham and Ishmael as they’re named within the Bible.
The hajj, each bodily and spiritually demanding, is meant to result in better humility and unity amongst Muslims.
However fairly than standing and praying shoulder-to-shoulder in a sea of individuals from completely different walks of life, pilgrims this 12 months are social distancing — standing aside and shifting in small teams of 20 to restrict publicity and the potential transmission of the coronavirus.
The pilgrimage is a journey that Muslims historically expertise with family members. In previous years, it was frequent to see males pushing their aged dad and mom round on wheelchairs with a view to assist them full the hajj, and fogeys carrying youngsters on their backs. The communal feeling of greater than 2.5 million folks from around the globe — Shiite, Sunni and different Muslim sects — praying collectively, consuming collectively and repenting collectively has lengthy been a part of what makes hajj each a difficult and rewarding expertise like none different.
This 12 months, nonetheless, pilgrims are consuming prepackaged meals alone of their lodge rooms and praying at a distance from each other.
Whereas the expertise shall be starkly completely different, it stays a possibility for pilgrims to wipe clear previous sins, deepen their religion and fulfill one in every of Islam’s 5 pillars.
For the primary time in practically a century, the Saudi authorities barred Muslims from coming into the dominion from overseas to carry out the hajj with a view to restrict publicity of the coronavirus.
As an alternative, as little as 1,000 folks already residing in Saudi Arabia had been chosen to participate within the hajj this 12 months. Two-thirds are international residents from among the many 160 completely different nationalities that may have usually been represented on the hajj. One-third are Saudi safety personnel and medical workers.
The pilgrims needed to be between the ages of 20 and 50 with no terminal diseases and exhibiting no signs of the virus.
All of the pilgrims had been examined for the coronavirus, given wristbands that monitor their motion and had been required to quarantine at dwelling and of their lodge rooms in Mecca forward of Wednesday’s begin of the hajj. They may also be required to quarantine for every week after the hajj concludes.
Worldwide media weren’t permitted to cowl the hajj from Mecca this 12 months. As an alternative, Saudi authorities broadcast stay footage from the Grand Mosque on Wednesday exhibiting restricted numbers of pilgrims, shifting a number of ft aside, circling the cube-shaped Kaaba within the first rituals of the hajj.
The Kaaba represents the metaphorical home of God and the oneness of God in Islam. Observant Muslims around the globe face towards the Kaaba throughout their 5 day by day prayers.
In the course of the hajj, Muslims circle the Kaaba counter-clockwise seven instances whereas reciting supplications to God, then stroll between two hills the place Ibrahim’s spouse, Hagar, is believed to have run as she looked for water for her dying son earlier than God introduced forth a nicely that runs to this present day.
This 12 months, pilgrims will solely be capable to drink the water from this Zamzam nicely in packaged in plastic bottles. Pebbles for casting away evil which might be often picked up by pilgrims alongside hajj routes shall be sterilized and bagged forward of time. Pilgrims have additionally been given their very own prayer rugs and particular apparel to put on throughout the hajj laced with silver nano expertise that Saudi authorities say helps kill micro organism and makes garments water-resistant.
In the course of the hajj, girls forgo make-up and fragrance and put on loose-fitting clothes and a head masking. Males gown in seamless, white terrycloth clothes meant to emphasise the equality of all Muslims and forestall wealthier pilgrims from differentiating themselves with extra elaborate clothes.