Saudi Arabia said only “very limited numbers” of pilgrims could perform the hajj this year, with only Saudis and foreign nationals already in the kingdom allowed to take part.
The New York Times published a report prepared by a group of its correspondents in several Islamic, and highlights the impact of the kingdom’s decision on the Hajj on millions of Muslims whose plans to perform the obligatory prayer - the fifth pillar of Islam - went unheeded.
The kingdom announced on Monday that the 2020 hajj, scheduled to take place next month, would welcome “very limited numbers” of pilgrims in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The dramatic shrinkage of the largest annual rite in Islam could hit Saudi Arabia particularly hard, with a reduced pilgrimage delivering a further financial blow to a kingdom already grappling with low oil prices and an economic slowdown caused by the lockdowns aimed at preventing contagion.
It could also disappoint Muslims from around the world who have saved for years to have a once-in-a-lifetime religious experience, according to the newspaper.
The Saudi statement on Monday marked the first time since the founding of the modern Saudi kingdom in 1932 that such restrictions have been placed on the hajj.
The pilgrimage has been canceled many times throughout history because of wars and disease, but has faced no significant limits on attendance since the mid-1800s, when outbreaks of cholera and plague kept pilgrims away for a number of years.