“We are living through a difficult period in the history of the world, but we are fully aware that it will pass despite its cruelty, bitterness and difficulty,..”
King Salman bin Abdelaziz Al Sa’ud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
By this day in the past, many would have been in the vicinity of the Haramayn in either Makkah or Madeenah to commence the fasting of Ramadan. Others would have been preparing to join them in the Two Holy Mosques for the Last Ten Days of Ramadan as is their custom annually. There are people who had not celebrated Eid in Nigeria for more than twenty years. What most of such people know of Eid is to take their bath after the Subhi Salaah, don their Jallabiyyah and saunter into the Haram for the two Raka’aat prayers followed by the Khutbah. With the Salatul Eid over it is usually time for Umrah pilgrims to start making arrangements for their return after spending days and nights on end, forsaking their beds, standing, bowing, prostrating themselves before their Sustainer, full of contrition in their hearts and seeking His pardon.
A journey to Umrah is a year-round pilgrimage, in or outside Ramadan, to the Haramayn; it also means the multiplication of rewards for obligatory prayers – observing Zuhr prayer in Al-Masjidun Nabawy, for instance, is better than observing a thousand prayers elsewhere, and performing Zuhr in Al-Masjidul Haraam, for example, is better than performing one hundred thousand prayers elsewhere. The same applies to the remaining obligatory prayers as well as the Jumu’ah prayer. Umrah is Du’aa at Raudah and a visit to Muhammad, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, asking blessings on him and saluting him with a worthy salutation (al-Ahzaab 33:56). Undertaking a trip to Madeenah and praying at the Quba Mosque entails garnering the reward for Umrah before the Umrah at the Ka’bah. COVID 19 forces us to feel nostalgic about all that. “And we know not whether harm is boded unto all who are in the earth, or whether their Lord intends guidance for them.” (Al-Jinn 72:10)
The Saudi Arabian government, in an effort to support calls by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and based on the recommendation of the committee concerned with monitoring developments about COVID 19, suspended Umrah temporarily and subsequently closed all mosques including the Haramayn to curb the spread of the virus. This preventive and precautionary measure was taken to secure the lives of multitudinous pilgrims that come for devotions from all over the world during these seasons as well as Saudi nationals and residents. However, alarmists around the world who are waiting for any chance to show that the Saudi authorities are mismanaging the affairs of the Haramayn are now using this temporary suspension of Umrah to accuse the House of Saud of debarring Muslims from the House of Allah. Some of them feigned Islamic scholarship and quoted texts out of context claiming that a plague will not affect the Ka’bah or the Masjidun Nabawy; why then will the Haramayn be closed or even be spread with disinfectants; that Allah shall protect His bondsmen; that Ramadan is the best period for people to converge in the holy territories and supplicate their Maker to rout the forces of the invisible enemy COVID 19. This reasoning is fallacious, farcical, and fatuous!
Yes, COVID 19 will not affect the Haramayn since it does move from place to place but people are the wheels on which the virus moves. Disinfecting the Haramayn does not contradict any text; suspending Umrah temporarily is not un-Islamic, it is rather textually supported by the Prophet’s order, ‘“Let there be no harm nor reciprocal harm.”
Abu Hurairah narrates that the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam says: “A man with sick camels should not let them graze or drink alongside healthy ones.” Reported by Al- Bukhari and Muslim. It is established by health professionals that asymptomatic carriers of COVID 19 unknowingly transfer the infection to everyone they meet for a long time. Only total shutdown and cessation of mingling with others could save lives.
Abdul-Rahman Ibn ‘Auf narrates that the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, says: “If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.” Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Saudi Arabia would not impede pilgrims performing their devotions except if their lives will be exposed to danger. The inflow of pilgrims into the Kingdom has economic advantages not least now when it has announced a steep US$13.3 billion cut in the government budget for 2020, amid falling oil prices and weakening growth expectations. But the wellbeing of its citizens and safety of the pilgrims are more important to the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud than any economic consideration.
The suspension of Umrah is a temporary measure that will be lifted as soon as practicable. Muslims around the world are in support of the decision which is in line with clear prophetic instructions during a plague like the virus pandemic we are witnessing today.
We understand that King Salman has not taken any decision yet on the issue of Hajj. Allah will guide the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to what is best for the Ummah. If COVID 19 affects Hajj, may it not be so, we know and accept that that is Allah’s making; the decision of King Salman in that regard is to avoid putting pilgrims’ lives in peril. COVID 19 will pass as did many other plagues before it.
To Allah we belong, and to Him will we return. O Allah reward us for our affliction and replace it for us with that which is better.