Fearing COVID-19 Outbreak, NHS Doctor Says Limited Hajj is a Blessing

Saudi Arabia released a statement two weeks ago stating that due to the coronavirus only a “very limited number” of people would be allowed this year to perform Hajj.

The announcement, of course, sent a wave of sadness and disappointment around the Muslim world, as the riveting news restricted hajj for all international travelers.

However, many healthcare providers understand the greater good in restricting this year’s pilgrimage for the safety of pilgrims.

Dr. Mohamed Abbas Khaki, a frontline NHS doctor and regular Hajj medic — having participated in hajj camps for a decade – believes the Saudi decision is a blessing.

“As a front line NHS doctor and regular Hajj medic, not only have I seen the devastation Covid-19 has brought, I can see how a Hajj outbreak could be catastrophic,” Dr. Khaki wrote in an article in The Independent,

? Read Also: “I have to Find Makkah of My Heart”: Muslims Still Grieving over Hajj Disruption

“Despite having been blessed with the opportunity to attend regularly, I still eagerly look forward to returning the following year.

“The Hajj is always an uplifting spiritual experience, meeting fellow pilgrims from around the world, dressing in white robes of humility and performing the same rituals in a grand demonstration of unity.

“But therein lies the problem: with attendees from all corners of the world in attendance, side by side and breathing the same air in tightly confined places, a single pilgrim carrying Covid-19 would be a recipe for disaster,” he added.

Doctor’s Hajj Experience

Dr. Khaki is a volunteer doctor who looks after groups of 150 and has participated in camps for 50,000-60,000 pilgrims. He sees the most severe cases and shares his concerns about having a potentially deadly Hajj amid a COVID-19 outbreak. 

“For medics like myself, Hajj is busy at the best of times. Whilst the Saudis have made extraordinary efforts to support the influx of pilgrims, it is still incredibly challenging,” he wrote.

“Waiting for ambulances to arrive is often futile, and on more than one occasion I have had to navigate crowds of tens of thousands to take a critically ill person to nearby emergency facilities.

“Many groups don’t have medical support, and rely heavily on the local services to assist elderly or chronically unwell pilgrims who fall ill.”

Annual Pilgrimage

Millions of Muslims typically make the pilgrimage to Makkah every year, with nearly 2.5 million doing so in 2019. 

Hajj ceremonies symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith. It commemorates the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.

Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform Hajj at least once in a lifetime.

In retrospect, a restricted Hajj appears to be the best option for all pilgrims, as it aims to protect human life from a major health crisis.

Prophet Mohammed’s wisdom, through his many hadiths, is part of something that has given solace to many Muslims. One of them is this popular Hadith:

“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.”

Despite us understanding Prophet Mohammed’s call to the Hajj 1400 years ago, at this time his advice on health and safety is just as important.