By Alagie Manneh
The chairman of The Gambia’s hajj commission has told The Standard that Gambians intending to perform pilgrimage will likely not be allowed to perform the hajj this year.
According to the 12 June issue of Arab News, an English-language daily newspaper published in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi authorities have restricted the annual pilgrimage to 60,000 Saudi citizens and residents, because of the Covid-19 pandemic. An even smaller number of Saudi citizens and residents were allowed to perform the hajj in 2020.
Contacted for clarity on the matter, Ousman Jah, the chairman of the hajj commission said his commission is yet to receive any official correspondence from the Saudi counterparts regarding this year’s hajj.
“As an established government office, and as head of the National Hajj Commission, before I can make any official statement, it must be based on official reports or verdicts or rules. That has been the tradition every year – to wait for the Saudi authorities to notify us but so far, we haven’t heard anything yet and that’s why I believe, personally, that there will be no hajj or place for Gambian pilgrims in Saudi this year,” the Amir ul-hajj told The Standard.
He said as far as he was concerned, other countries are yet to be officially communicated to with regard to this year’s hajj.
“I know the whole nation is waiting to know something but my office is still waiting to receive official communication from the authorities.”
The amir-ul-hajj said so far, he only heard, like many other Gambians, on social media platforms that there will be no hajj this year.
“According to what I have heard, only those in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to go on the pilgrimage but I cannot give you any statement, officially, on whether hajj will be conducted or not.”
He said his office is “working tirelessly” with its line ministry to establish the correct official information.
“Once we have all the clear information, it will be disseminated to the public,” the chairman noted.
The Arab News report stated: “Saudi Arabia said it will limit registration for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage to citizens and residents of the kingdom in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The Ministries of Health and Hajj announced Saturday that a total of 60,000 pilgrims will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage this year, which will begin mid-July.
“It stressed that those wishing to perform Hajj must be free of any chronic diseases, and to be within the ages from 18 to 65 years for those vaccinated against the virus, according to the kingdom’s vaccination measures.
“The decision is ‘based on the kingdom’s constant keenness to enable the guests and visitors at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque to perform the rituals of Hajj and Umrah. The kingdom puts human health and safety first,’ the ministry said.
Meanwhile, a deputy to the Hajj minister said that Saudi Arabia found great understanding from Muslim countries over the decision to limit this year’s pilgrimage participants.”