Tajik Muslims cannot fly to Saudi Arabia on Feb 29 for performing Umrah

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Tajik Muslims cannot fly to Saudi Arabia on February 29 for performing Umrah as Saudi Arabia on February 27 suspended visas for pilgrims wishing to visit Mecca over coronavirus fears, Sadullo Qurbonov, top manager of Rasoul Company, told Asia Plus in an interview.

The company is engaged in sending Tajik Muslims to Saudi Arabia for performing Umrah and 50 Tajik Muslims were supposed to fly to Jeddah on February 29.

If they agree, we will send them to perform Umrah after the Saudi authorities lift the ban. Those who do not want to wait will get their money back, Qurbonov said.

Two companies in Tajikistan � Rasoul and Ormon are engaged in sending Tajik Muslims to Saudi Arabia for performing Umrah.

The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs says Saudi Arabia on Thursday suspended visas for pilgrims wishing to visit Mecca over coronavirus fears.

According to Al Arabiya, Saudi Arabia temporarily suspended entry for individuals seeking to perform Umrah pilgrimage in Mecca or visiting the Prophet's Mosque in Madina, as well as tourists traveling from countries where the coronavirus poses a risk as determined by the Kingdom's health authorities.

The new precautions are based on the recommendations of the competent health authorities to apply the highest precautionary standards and take proactive preventive measures to prevent the emergence of the coronavirus in the Kingdom and its spread, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Twitter.

The government is "suspending entry to the Kingdom for the purpose of Umrah and visiting the Prophet's Mosque temporarily", the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Umrah attracts tens of thousands of devout Muslims from all over the globe each month.

Even as the number of fresh cases declines at the epicenter of the disease in China, there has been a sudden increase in parts of Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

The ?Umrah (Arabic: lit. to visit a populated place) is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca (the holiest city for Muslims, located in the Hejazi region of Saudi Arabia) that can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the ?ajj (pilgrimage), which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar.

Umrah requires Muslims to perform two key rituals, Tawaf and Sa'i. Tawaf is a circling round the Kaaba. For men, it is recommended to do the first three circuits in a hurried pace, followed by four rounds of a more leisurely pace. This is followed by Sa'i between Safa and Marwah in the Great Mosque of Mecca, a walk to commemorate Hagar's search for water for her son and God's mercy in answering prayers. Pilgrims conclude the pilgrimage with Halq, a partial or complete shortening of the hair.

Umrah is sometimes considered the "lesser pilgrimage", in that it is not compulsory, but is still highly recommended. It is generally able to be completed in a few hours, in comparison to ?ajj, which may take a few days. It is also not meant to be interpreted as a substitute for Hajj. However, both are demonstrations of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to Allah.

SOURCE: ASIA PLUS