Every year about two million pilgrims embark on the Hajj, a journey to Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia. Yet in the wake of COVID-19 this practice, mandatory for all Muslims once in their lifetime, is being severely restricted. Tom Doyle with Uncharted Ministries says this change could open up opportunities for Muslims to hear the Gospel.
A Religious Mandate
For Christians the idea of mandatory travel for worship is foreign. Jesus’s resurrection and the indwelling Holy Spirit for all believers means that worship can happen anywhere. However, Islam is tied strongly to land in the Middle East.
Doyle gives some background on the journey. “The Hajj is one of the five key pillars of the faith of Islam. So Hajj is required of all Muslims to do this at least once in their life. [They] journey to the city of Mecca, which for Muslims is the holiest city. Mecca would be number one, because that’s where Muhammad, they consider the Prophet, was born. And then Medina would be number two. So that’s called the Hajj and to go to both of those places, Mecca and Medina, you’re in the area called Hejaz. That’s the special holy place for all Muslims and they’re required to go there.”
Every year Muslims from around the globe travel to the area during a specific time and walk the well-worn route of the Hajj en masse. This year the Hajj will occur from the evening of Tuesday, July 28 through the evening of Sunday, August 2. For many who planned to make the once in a lifetime journey this year with millions of others of their faith, Saudi Arabia just slammed the doors shut. Only those residing within Saudi Arabia are able to make the trek this year. And presumably, there will be other restrictions in place that will change the experience.
Doyle says, “This year for people that do not have a permit that just try to get into Saudi Arabia from other countries, that try to get there without an official government permit (perhaps some workers that live there from another country, expatriates that live in Saudi Arabia), they will be fined. And it’s a steep fine. It’s 10,000 Riyals, which is about $2600-$2700.”
What Does This Mean?
For many Muslims, in addition to general frustrations and disappointments with COVID-19, now there is sincere religious disappointment. For those who are there, the journey will be different than it has been in the past. For those unable to make the pilgrimage, there is frustration.
However, this change offers an opening for Christ. Doyle says, “They’re going to be thinking about their religion, they’re going to be thinking about the veracity of Muhammad’s words and all of that, but as we know this is the time where Muslims are questioning their faith. This is the crack. This is the opening. And Christians need to be praying for Muslims during this time to meet Jesus as Savior through the internet, through a Bible that somehow gets into their hands, through a dream or a vision that introduces them to Jesus, and they want to know more.”
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SOURCE: Mission Network News, Anna Deckert
CALL TO ACTION
- Pray that God would open the eyes of Muslims to His truth during this year’s Hajj.
- Seek out opportunities to encourage and engage with Muslims in your friend groups and neighborhoods.
- Ask God to give Saudi Arabian Christians wisdom and strength as they worship you in a place hostile to your Truth.