Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta backs Saudi suspension of entry for Umrah pilgrimage over coronavirus fears

Ahram Online , Thursday 27 Feb 2020

Egypt says the kingdom's decision to suspend entry for the minor Umrah pilgrimage is in line with Islamic Sharia

Egypt's Dar El-Iftaa (Al-Ahram)

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta, the country's religious authority responsible for issuing fatwas, said on Thursday that it backs Saudi Arabia's decision to halt entry into the kingdom for the Umrah pilgrimage over fears of the spread of the coronavirus.

"The decision is in line with the provisions of Islamic Sharia to preserve the lives and safety of pilgrims," the prestigious Islamic institution said in a statement.

Dar Al-Ifta said it "firmly supports" the kingdom's efforts to preserve "the safety and stability of religious rites" and all the measures it takes to guarantee this.

Saudi Arabia, home to the holiest sites of Islam, announced on Thursday that it is temporarily halting foreigners’ entry for the Umrah pilgrimage, as well as tourism from countries where the epidemic has spread.

The decision, which comes months ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage which draws millions of Muslims, bars pilgrims from the holy city of Mecca and suspends visits to Prophet Muhammad's mosque in Medina.

An official at Cairo International Airport said the decision goes into effect on Thursday and that all flights scheduled for the day would be suspended.

Egypt's Civil Aviation Authority informed local tourist firms about the new decision, saying in a letter that Umrah flights will be suspended until further notice.

Million of Muslims from around the world travel every year to perform minor pilgrimage rituals (known in Arabic as Umrah), which starts at the beginning of the year and reaches its peak in the fasting month of Ramadan, which is set to begin at the end of April.

The new coronavirus, which emerged late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has infected more than 82,000 globally and killed about 2,800, mostly in China.

The deadly virus has spread to about 30 countries including in some in the Middle East, but there have been no confirmed cases of the virus in Saudi Arabia.

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