Saudi Arabia said Saturday it will permit one million Muslims from inside and outside the country to participate in this year’s hajj, a sharp uptick after pandemic restrictions forced two years of drastically pared-down pilgrimages.
The hajj ministry “has authorised one million pilgrims, both foreign and domestic, to perform the hajj this year,” it said in a statement.
One of the five pillars of Islam, the hajj must be undertaken by all Muslims with the means at least once in their lives. Usually one of the world’s largest religious gatherings, about 2.5 million people took part in 2019. This year’s hajj, which will take place in July, will be limited to vaccinated pilgrims under age 65, Saturday’s announcement said.
Those coming from outside Saudi Arabia will be required to submit a negative Covid-19 PCR result from a test taken within 72 hours of travel.
The government wants to promote pilgrims’ safety “while ensuring that the maximum number of Muslims worldwide can perform the hajj”, Saturday’s statement said.
Hosting the hajj is a matter of prestige for Saudi rulers, as the custodianship of Islam’s holiest sites is the most powerful source of their political legitimacy.
Before the pandemic, Muslim pilgrimages were key revenue earners for the kingdom, bringing in some $12 billion annually. The restrictions in 2020 and 2021 stoked resentment among Muslims abroad who were barred. –AFP