Only around a thousand believers were selected to participate in the Muslim pilgrimage.
© WHAT / AFP

Due to the corona, the Muslim Hajj pilgrimage this year takes place under strict protective measures. Only around a thousand believers are expected in Mecca from Wednesday.

For the first time in the country’s modern history, believers living outside the Saudi Arabian kingdom must not be present on the pilgrimage. So it says on the homepage of the Islamic Center Vienna: “At the moment there are no Hajj / Umra trips”. (In contrast to the large pilgrimage, the Hajj, the Umra, the small pilgrimage, can be carried out at any time of the year).

In order to nevertheless do justice to the global nature of the pilgrimage, foreign Muslims resident in the Kingdom were given preference when issuing the Hajj tickets. Only 30 percent of the participants are said to be citizens of Saudi Arabia.

A mask is also required for the pilgrimage. In addition, believers should be tested for the coronavirus before they arrive in the holy city of Mecca. After the pilgrimage ends on Sunday, they should go to quarantine. The country of Saudi Arabia, with 33 million inhabitants, is one of the most severely affected by the corona crisis, with more than 260,000 infections and officially 2,635 deaths.

Participants were selected in lottery

Those interested in Hajj were able to register for a lottery online in early July. According to the authorities, citizens from 160 countries took part. The joy of the elect was as great as the frustration of those who went away empty-handed. The Nasser, who comes from Nigeria, spoke of a “golden ticket”. “I can’t describe the feeling,” he told AFP. However, social media also criticized the selection process, which was criticized as being non-transparent. Two widows from Nigeria and Egypt suspected that they had been rejected because they had not specified a male companion.

According to government officials, the local participants were selected from healthcare workers and military personnel who have survived the corona virus. But there were doubts about this representation. “I don’t know why I wasn’t taken,” said one man who met the criteria. The Saudi Arabian participants must also be under 65 years of age and must not have any chronic illnesses.

Hajj is one of the basic duties of Islam

The pilgrimage begins on Wednesday by circumnavigating the cube-shaped building of the Kaaba in the courtyard of the Great Mosque of Mecca seven times. Highlights of the pilgrimage include climbing Mount Arafat, where supplications are made to God to forgive sins, and the symbolic stoning of the devil at the sacred site of Mina, about five kilometers east of the Great Mosque of Mecca. The pilgrims throw pebbles onto a pillar that symbolizes Satan. This ritual marks the beginning of the Muslim sacrificial festival Eid al-Adha.

Hajj is one of the five basic duties of Islam. Every devout Muslim who is healthy and can afford it should go on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca for Muslims. At the start of the pilgrimage, the faithful enter into a state of consecration. For this, men wear seamless white robes. Uniform clothing is intended to symbolize the equality of all Muslims before God. The pilgrimage usually brings millions of people to Saudi Arabia and is therefore an important source of income for the Gulf state. Last year, 2.5 million believers made a pilgrimage to Mecca.

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