Haj 2020: GOI decides against sending Indian pilgrims to Mecca this year

Decision was taken in accordance with request made by Saudi authorities in wake of the Covid-19 crisis


The coronavirus pandemic has affected the annual Haj pilgrimage this year with the Government of India announcing that no Indian pilgrims will be allowed to go to Saudi Arabia to perform Haj at Mecca this year. Union Minister of Minority Affairs made the announcement tweeting, “Honouring the decision of the Saudi Arabia Government in view of serious challenges of #Corona pandemic and keeping in mind the health and well-being of the people, it has been decided that Muslims from India will not go to Saudi Arabia to perform Haj (1441 H/2020 AD).” He added, “2 lakh 13,000 applications had been received for Haj 2020. The process has been started today to immediately refund full amount of money deposited by the applicants without any deduction. The money will be refunded through online DBT mode into bank accounts of the applicants.”




So far, this seems to be a final and all binding decision taken by the Union Government, though the minister did not share if it was done in consultation with the Haj Committee of India (HCOI). The  HCOI is a statutory body constituted under the Act of Parliament No.35 of 2002, and functions under the Ministry of Minority Affairs. On June 5, the Haj Committee, itself had announced that it will offer a full refund to those who wished to cancel their pilgrimage this year in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and uncertainty over travel and other permissions.

Haj, is considered the holiest pilgrimage to be undertaken by Muslims at least once in their lifetimes. The faithful congregate at Mecca from across the world to participate in what is considered one of the largest religious gatherings at one place. Reportedly over 2 lakh people make the annual pilgrimage with the Haj Committee facilitating travel for around 1.40 lakh people and others making arrangements with private tour operators. However, given how international air travel remains suspended across many countries, the chances of Haj this year appeared to be bleak prompting the HCOI to announce an option of cancellation on June 5. 

A circular was uploaded on the HCOI’s official website and pilgrims were asked to fill a form, attach a cancelled cheque and send it to the CEO of the Committee. At that time the HCOI had stated that as there had been no official communication from the Saudi authorities about this year’s Haj, and those who wished to cancel could do so. On June 9, the Haj Committee also offered an online cancellation facility to the pilgrims who had wished to go for Haj 2020. The circulars have been signed by its CEO Dr. Maqsood Ahmed Khan. The step by step instructions were also uploaded for the pilgrims.

On June 23, the Union Government made the cancellation official. Meanwhile, according to a report by CNN the pilgrimage itself has not been called off, but has new restrictions in place. Saudi Arabia has a strict limit on the number of people allowed to take part in this year’s Haj pilgrimage at Mecca due to Covid-19 situation, say news reports quoting the country’s  state-run media. “Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said the annual pilgrimage would be restricted to a very limited number of pilgrims of all nationalities who are already residing in the country,” CNN quoted the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The statement added that the the ministry said that as Covid-19 cases continue to grow globally, and because of the risks of coronavirus spreading in crowded spaces and from other countries, the Haj will “take place this year with a limited number of pilgrims from all nationalities residing in Saudi Arabia only, who are willing to perform Hajj. This decision is taken to ensure Hajj is safely performed while committing to all preventive measures to protect Muslims and adhere strictly to the teachings of Islam in preserving our health and safety.”

The ministry statement cited the Saudi Ministry of Health as saying that the risks from coronavirus “are expected to grow further, but there is no vaccine available yet for those infected by the disease. Global health security needs to be preserved.” It added that Saudi Arabia has recorded more than 160,000 cases and 1,307 deaths, as stated by Johns Hopkins University.


Over two million Muslims performed Haj in 2019, most of whom come to Mecca from all over the world. This year the pilgrimage was to begin on Tuesday, July 28 and end on Sunday, August 2, though the exact date can vary.



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