Five thousand Kenyan Muslims are among the 2 million faithful that will miss this year’s pilgrimage to the holy sites in Mecca due to Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the Saudi Arabia religious authorities.
This pilgrimage is one of the five pillars that Muslims are required to perform at least once in their lifetime.
It is almost two months since the last 10 days of Ramadhan, which are considered among the holiest in the Islamic calendar. The Saudi authorities allocate quotas to each country seeking to send pilgrims of Hujjaj to perform the rites.
Under normal circumstances, 5,000 Kenyan Hujjaj join other Muslims. The pilgrimage rites are performed in the first 10 days of Dhul Hijja, the 20th month of the Islamic calendar.
This year Muslims will have to follow the proceedings online or tune into specific TVs stations. Only people living in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to participate in this year’s holy event that started on Wednesday and will last the next 10 days.
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Despite the new direction, Muslim clerics in Mombasa are upbeat, saying all is not lost because Islam provides a remedy for such eventualities and they will still receive the benefits of Dhul Hijja.
The first 10 days of the month of Dhul Hijja, the 11th in the Islamic calendar, which just commenced, are considered to be the best 10 days of the Islamic year.
Sheikh Yusuf Abdi, a scholar with a large online following, says many Muslims had planned to go for the pilgrimage, but with the virus spreading rapidly worldwide, the plans were cancelled by Saudi Arabia authorities.
“We believe everything happens according to divine destiny. Yes, Corona pandemic may have disorganised Islamic worship, but it does not necessarily mean we should miss out on the benefits of the first 10 days of Dhul Hijja,” he said.
Sheikh Abdi says while serving as a lesson to those who postpone the prestigious visit, the pandemic is also a wakeup call for all to always fulfill religious obligations in time.
The cleric pointed out that the first 10 days were the noblest in the Islamic calendar, owing to their having the special 9th, the only day in the entire year when Allah descends during the day to answer prayers of supplicants. He quoted the sayings of the prophet: “There are no days greater and more beloved to Allah than these 10 days of Dhul Hijja.”
On that same day, “Allah frees more people from hellfire than any other day.”
Sheikh Rishad said Muslims who did not make it for Hajj were expected to fast on that day.
According to the cleric, another benefit for those who did not make it for hajj but fasted on the day of Arafat, is the guarantee that their sins for the previous and current years would be forgiven.
With Muslims expected to increase their worship during these 10 critical days, those who intend to sacrifice on the climax of these period, which is Idd Ul Adha, are not allowed to clip their nails or shave their beards and heads.
“They can only shave and clip nails after they have slaughtered and eaten of their sacrifice on the day of Id,” says Sheikh Rishad.
CIPK Organising Secretary Muhammad Khalifa said Dhul Hijja was among the four sacred months. “We perform Hajj during this month and worship during this month is greatly rewarded,” he said.
The Sheikh also warned that sin committed during this holy month was severely punished and therefore everybody should be in their best behaviour.
Supkem Coast branch chair Sheikh Muhdhar Khitami said Hajj was a pillar only obligatory to those who could observe it.
“With the pandemic restrictions, we have automatically been exempted from Hajj. But we are expected to accord the holy days of Dhul Hijja utmost respect,” he said.
Traditionally, pilgrims who make it to ‘Makka’ circumambulate (to circle on foot especially ritualistically) the Kaaba, moving uniformly in one direction in a circular fashion.
In so doing, they profess their belief in one God and stone the Jamrat to signify the stoning of the devil by Hajar, wife of Prophet Ibrahim and mother of Ismail.
For Muslims who will miss the hajj will have to contend with the benefits of the first ten days of Dhul Hijja, only joining in the pilgrims on the final day for slaughtering their sacrifice and celebrating Idd Ul Adha.