Bakra Eid: The Hajj like never before for devouts in Mecca
The Hajj, this Eid, is different. Any other year, a devout Muslim would kiss the sacred black stone of Kaaba, the holiest shrine in Mecca, and drink from the holy well. They would stone the devil with pebbles by casting them at a series of symbolic pillars that they collect from Mecca before leaving. Sorry folks, no kissing and touching the Stone this year.
For the Kaffirs, to use a term used for non-Muslims in Islam, an initiation into its background is important. In Islam, there are two main celebrations: Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha. The first one, Eid-al-Fitr is celebrated to mark the end of Ramdan/Ramzan, the holy month of fasting. Eid al Adha, or Bakra Eid, is to observe the sacrifice of Ibrahim of his son Ismail which is symbolised in killing a goat. It’s in the last month of the Islamic calendar that Muslims also perform Hajj, a visit to Kaaba in Mecca.
But this Hajj is a victim of Coronavirus pandemic this year. The authorities have sterilized the pebbles hurled at the “devil.” Bottled waters are being provided from the Zamzam (a well of holy water located, 20 metre east of the Kaaba). As are prayer rugs. There are branded umbrellas provides by the authorities to pilgrims to shade themselves. All this is to make sure that coronavirus does not turn devouts a victim.
The biggest measure by the Saudi government, the custodians of holy shrines, is to shrink the crowd which throng the venue in tens of thousands every year. This year it has been reduced to a trickle and social distancing is a must. The Saudi kingdom has announced that 70 percent of pilgrims this year are foreign residents of Saudi Arabia and the rest are security personnel and the health workers, a gesture by the kingdom to appreciate their services. Visits from far lands of course is not possible because of bans on flights. Priority has been given to those who fall in 20-50 age group and have tested negative for the Coronavirus.
Last year, it was Hajj as usual. No less than 2.5 million faithfuls had turned up. This year the number is only 1,000. Pilgrims have to isolate themselves before and after the Hajj. The black-clad Kaaba of course has been sterilized too. Pilgrims are wearing masks and white garments as shown in photos and videos which have gone viral.
It's particularly devastating to those who had obtained the permission but couldn’t make it due to this year’s restrictions.
It’s not to say that untoward incidents haven’t happened in thousands of years of the Hajj history. War, plagues, political disputes all have stained the annual feature of Islamic world. But the Hajj has never been cancelled. And it hasn’t been this year too—even though it’s not a very pretty sight from Mecca to faithfuls across the world.
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