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Abstract

The two major gatherings of Muslims which take place in Makkah and Madinah, the two holiest cities of Saudi Arabia, are umrah during Ramadan the 9th month and Hajj Dhul-Hajjah in the 12th month of the Islamic year. The COVID-19 outbreak has had a massive economic and social impact on pilgrimages for Muslims - because these gatherings could lead to widespread exposures and possible spread of COVID-19 to every corner of the world, it forced the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to cancel Umrah in March 2020. The pandemic has also prompted the Saudi government to limit Hajj, with some exceptions, to pilgrims already in the country. As Hajj is one of the largest religious gathering in the world, Saudi officials, religious scholars, and scientists must meet the serious challenge to understand the impact of limiting this mass gathering.

Over recent decades, the numbers of Hajj pilgrims and visitors has been increasing and existing facilities are struggling to meet their needs. Therefore, while many may see the COVID-19 outbreak during Hajj as a challenge, instead it may provide an opportunity for the Saudi Arabia government and the broader Muslim world to rethink their response to this essential Muslim pilgrimage during the pandemic. This paper will explore the COVID-19 challenges facing the government of Saudi Arabia and the Muslim world over the coming months and analyse economic implications of the outbreak. Therefore, the paper will clarify the serious COVID-19 health risk facing Hajj pilgrims and argues that the geopolitics needs to be considered more seriously by organisations and institutions.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.

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