Saudi authorities are considering canceling the Hajj this year, for the first time in the 90 years of Kingdom’s history, quoted a senior official of Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.
The idea returned to discussions once again after the number of coronavirus infections exceeded 100,000.
The case has been carefully studied and various scenarios are being considered. A formal decision will be taken within a week.
Hajj 2020, scheduled for later this year, is one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, hosting more than two million Muslims in the holy cities of Saudi Arabia.
Another idea on the table is to organize a limited hajj this year, with a small number of people being allowed for the holy pilgrimage.
Earlier, the Minister for Religious Affairs had said that the Saudi government is considering allowing 20 percent of Pakistani pilgrims to perform the pilgrimage. A final decision in this regard is still awaited.
The cancellation of Hajj will not only be a significant setback for the Muslim world, but it will also hurt Saudi Arabia’s tourism revenue. Last year, the Kingdom earned $12 billion from the Hajj and the year-round Umrah pilgrimage.
In March this year, the Kingdom had hinted at postponing pilgrimage for non-native Hajis to prevent local transmission of the virus.
The Saudi Hajj and Umrah Minister, Mohammed Saleh Benten, had asked Muslims to postpone their hajj plans until there is more clarity about the coronavirus pandemic.