The Stream

What will Hajj be like during the pandemic?

Saudi Arabia prepares for a dramatically scaled-back annual pilgrimage.

On Monday, July 27 at 19:30 GMT:
The Islamic ritual of Hajj is expected to begin on July 29 but in the midst of a global pandemic, it will look unlike anything the Muslim world has seen before.

Saudi Arabia, home to the holy city of Mecca on which the pilgrimage centres, has said it will allow about 1,000 people to perform a ritual that ordinarily draws more than two million worshippers. Though this year’s attendees come from 160 countries, they have been selected from people already living in the kingdom.

Pilgrims will have to be tested for the novel coronavirus and quarantined at home before they can travel to Mecca. Once there, they will again be tested and given GPS bracelets for contact tracing. Rituals will be performed while wearing face masks. Touching or kissing the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam, is banned. All pilgrims must also maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres (five feet) during prayers.

Saudi Arabia is currently experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases and the scaling back of Hajj is expected to deepen its economic slump. In normal times it is estimated the pilgrimage adds $12bn to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product (GDP) each year. The International Monetary Fund expects the kingdom’s GDP for 2020 to contract by 6.8 percent as both the pandemic and slumping oil prices take a toll. 

In this episode of The Stream, we will discuss the effect of this year’s Hajj on Muslims around the world and the economic implications of the scaled-back pilgrimage.

On this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Joseph Lumbard, @JosephLumbard
Professor of Quran Studies, Hamad Bin Khalifa University and host, Quran For All Seasons podcast

Sheema Khan
Columnist, The Globe & Mail

Shehriar Ashraf, @LabbaikVR
Founder and chief executive officer, Labbaik VR

Read more:
Scaled-down Hajj pilgrimage to start on July 29: Saudi officials – Al Jazeera
Hajj 2020: What you need to know about this year’s pilgrimage – Al Jazeera