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‘Temporary suspension of Umrah
compliant with Shariah’
March 6, 2020
MAKKAH/MADINAH — The steps taken by the government of Saudi Arabia under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, to temporarily suspend Umrah and Ziyarah is fully compliant with the stipulations of the Shariah, Imam and Khateeb of the Grand Mosque in Makkah Sheikh Dr. Abdullah Al-Jihani has stressed.
Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended Umrah and Ziyarah as a precautionary measure to stem the spread of this deadly epidemic [coronavirus (COVID-19).
In his Friday sermon (khutba) at the Grand Mosque Friday, Sheikh Al-Jihani emphasized that protection of lives is one of the great responsibilities of the ruler and he has the power to assess the risks after consulting with knowledgeable religious scholars and experts.
Sheikh Al-Jihani, in support of his reasoning, gave an example from history — narrating the story of the Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab (May Allah be pleased with him) when he was traveling to The Levant (Al-Shaam).
On the way, Caliph Omar met with the commanders of the Muslim troops, Abu Obeidah Bin Al-Jarrah and several of the Prophet’s companions (May Allah be pleased with them).
They informed Caliph Omar that an epidemic had broken out in the Levant. The Caliph Omar consulted the companions seeking the advice of the oldest among them, but they differed in their opinions.
Then Abdulrahman Ibn Owf (May Allah be pleased with him) came forward and said: “I have some knowledge on this issue. I heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) saying: “If you hear about the outbreak of an epidemic in some land, do not travel to it. And if it occurs at a place where you are, do not flee from it to another place.”
Ibn Owf added: “The Caliph Omar thanked Allah Almighty and then left.” This is narrated by Al-Bukhari and Muslim. This saying is evidence of the necessity to take precautionary measures and prevent the spread of the disease.”
Meanwhile, the Khateeb of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah Dr. Salah Al-Budair said that the novel coronavirus epidemic has dealt a severe blow to the world as a whole causing great concern for the global population.
Sheikh Al-Budair praised the precautionary measures taken by the Kingdom to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. This includes temporarily suspending entry into Saudi territories for the purpose of performing Umrah and visiting the Prophet’s Mosque.
He described the decision as wise, having lofty goals and noble intentions and great benefits in protecting people’s health.
Sheikh Al-Budair also called on all to take precautionary measures against the virus, especially by wearing facemasks and covering the nose and mouth with tissues when sneezing or coughing, as the spray from the mouth and nose can infect people nearby.
Mataf is washed, sterilized
and incensed 7 times a day
March 9, 2020
MAKKAH — The Mataf (circumambulation area around the Holy Ka’ba) and all the entrances to the Grand Mosque are washed and sterilized seven times per day. The areas go through the sanitization and perfuming process thrice between Isha (night) and Fajr (dawn) prayers, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) quoted the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques as saying on Monday.
The sterilization process is carried out in shifts by 330 workers and 10 machines.
The whole process is carried out meticulously to ensure the safety of worshipers and visitors to the Grand Mosque by eradicating all viruses and microbes stuck on the floors and surfaces of facilities and implements being used in the Mataf.
The first washing process starts immediately after Isha prayer. This is carried out by 140 employees and workers assigned different tasks like rolling and carrying away the carpets from the prayer areas, the plastic spreads to wash and sterilize them, washing the entrances to the Mataf and its floor, and sterilizing and perfuming them in a concentrated fashion.
All the facilities and implements used in the Mataf are washed and sterilized. These include the shelves for keeping copies of the Holy Qur’an, security barriers, and staircase hand rails, to ensure 100 percent sterilization. Then the carpets and plastic spreads are unfolded to make sure they are clean, sterilized and perfumed. The process is completed at midnight.
The process is repeated twice using the same mechanism. The last operation is completed an hour before the call for Fajr prayer.
The second and third washings are carried out with special care with the workers focusing on sterilization by spraying since there are no worshipers present in the Mataf at that time.
Saudi Arabia reports five new cases
of coronavirus; first in Makkah
Total number of cases: 20
March 10, 2020
RIYADH — Saudi authorities on Tuesday announced the discovery of five more new coronavirus cases, raising the total number of cases in the Kingdom to 20.
The Ministry of Health said that three of the new cases (a male and two females) were quarantined in a hospital in the Eastern Province. They had visited Iran and Iraq and were tested on arrival to the Kingdom. The laboratory tests showed that they were infected with the virus.
The ministry statement explained that the fourth case is of a citizen with mild respiratory symptoms had reported to a hospital in the Eastern Province. He has been isolated in the hospital for treatment after the tests returned positive.
All contacts of the infected people were identified and accounted for, and samples were taken from them for examination.
The ministry added that the fifth case is an Egyptian, who had recently come from his country. He too showed mild respiratory symptoms and tested positive. The patient has been isolated in a hospital in Makkah, and all those with whom he had contacts were identified and accounted for.
The ministry called upon all people to contact its 937 Service Center for any queries about the virus, while stressing that information should be taken from its official sources and not to believe in rumors.
The ministry stated that it provides all information and advice about dealing with the virus through social media and also by specialist doctors through the No. 937.
Sheikh Sudais regarding the Mataf ban / umrah suspension:
“We have to take the information from its correct sources so that we are not
driven behind the rumors, slanders, lies, and exaggerations transmitted
by some of the rumour spreaders, propaganda, and bidders.”
The Presidency have temporarily stopped the running of touch screens as a preventative measure in The Blessed Lands.
Hand sanitisers have now been introduced in Masjid al Haram
Corona cases likely to increase
Public urged to stay indoors;
closing private firms under study
March 16, 2020
RIYADH — Minister of Health Tawfiq Al-Rabiah has predicted that there could be an increase in the number of coronavirus cases over the coming period.
Addressing a press conference here on Monday, the minister called on all citizens and expatriates in the Kingdom to stay in their homes and not go out unless absolutely necessary.
Al-Rabiah said concerned authorities are studying suspension of work in the private sector. “Authorities in the Kingdom are continuing to implement the preventive and precautionary measures against coronavirus. As many as 18 government agencies and departments are engaged in assessing the situation on a daily basis,” he was quoted as saying by Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
He also emphasized that the authorities were committed to ensure transparency on each and every development pertaining to the epidemic.
The minister stated that there have been three more cases of corona recovery, bringing the number of people who have recovered so far to six. Out of the total 118 cases reported, the remaining cases are currently quarantined in health facilities in various regions of the Kingdom.
Al-Rabiah asked citizens to take information from official sources only. The Kingdom reported 15 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday. These included five cases of citizens who were in contact with previous cases and two expatriates, from the Philippines and Indonesia, who were in contact with a previous reported case of infection.
Businesses, travellers could lose
thousands if COVID-19
forces Hajj cancellation
Muslims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, in the Muslim holy city of
Mecca, Saudi Arabia on March 7, 2020. It took Muhammad Siddique five years to save up for a
pilgrimage to Mecca, but now the COVID-19 pandemic has left his plans up in the air.
15 March 2020
CANADA - It took Muhammad Siddique five years to save up for a pilgrimage to Mecca, but now the COVID-19 pandemic has left his plans up in the air.
The pilgrimage – a process known as Hajj – is considered one of the most important obligations for a Muslim to fulfill. Every follower of the religion who has the money and the health to complete the journey to Mecca is required to do it once in their lifetime during the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. This year, that falls during July and August.
But after Saudi Arabia closed off travel to the holy city for another pilgrimage called Umrah last month, many potential travellers are concerned that Hajj could be affected too. The unprecedented move to cancel Hajj wasn’t even taken during the 1918 flu epidemic that killed tens of millions worldwide.
“If it’s spreading more, it’s better to lose money and not go for Hajj this year,” said Siddique, who said he’s paid $6,000 worth of non-refundable deposits for himself and two family members.
“We have to take preventative measures,” he said, adding that he’d cancel the trip if COVID-19 starts infecting larger numbers of people in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi government has already limited travel into the country after the novel coronavirus started spreading throughout the Middle East. On Sunday, the country announced the closure of mosques and announced that Friday prayers would be called off.
Travellers from Canada have cause for concern as well: the federal government urged Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel this weekend and told Canadians abroad to head back as soon as possible to avoid the closure of international travel routes.
But Hajj is not a cheap undertaking. Prices listed online for the multi-week pilgrimage can range from $10,000 to $15,000 per person, with more expensive luxury packages also available. Many people spend years saving for the trip.
Abdalla Ali, senior community adviser at the Islamic Society of North America, said a move to cancel Hajj would be unprecedented. But he believes that it could happen based on the cautionary measures the government is already taking.
“It’s never happened before, but this year it’s likely because they already closed all the universities, schools and major events,” said Ali.
He also said while travellers may lose out on deposit payments, the tour operators based in Canada could take the hardest financial hit if Hajj is cancelled by the government.
“There are so many things that will be a loss for them,” said Ali, noting that companies could sink even deeper in the red if the exchange rate between the Canadian dollar and Saudi riyal gets worse.
“I have a feeling some of them will go bankrupt,” he said.
Tour operators who organize Hajj trips for Canadians say that they’re already receiving voluntary cancellations every day for both Umrah and Hajj trips.
Mahad Warsame, a director at Sahal Umrah and Hajj, estimates that 150 people have cancelled their pilgrimages since the coronavirus outbreak began.
“It’s a catastrophe, it’s been very tough, we’ve actually had to lay a person off,” said Warsame.
“It’s a scary time we’re all living in, it’s not just about business, it’s about lives being lost.”
But Warsame says he’s still optimistic that Hajj will not be cancelled this year.
“This is similar to SARS, and the Saudi government handled it very well in regards to the safety of people,” he said, adding that the pilgrimage still took place during that outbreak in the 2000s.
With several months to go before Hajj takes place, Ali said around 500 people at his mosque’s tour group are hoping that the situation will improve in the coming weeks.
“I personally think (Saudi Arabia) will do everything in their capacity not to cancel the Hajj,” he said.
This cannot be undone and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.