Who are the pilgrims?According to Islamic tradition, any Muslim who has reached maturity is due to perform the Hajj. During the last Hajj season before the COVID-19 pandemic, about two thirds of the pilgrims to Mecca came from outside of the Saudi Arabian Kingdom. The government of Saudi Arabia issues each years’ Hajj visas on a country quota system, based on the size of the Muslim population .
Financial aspectsOne main condition for a mature Muslim to qualify to perform the Hajj is to be free of debt and other financial and social obligations. Many Muslims around the world spend a significant amount of their life-savings to be able to make this spiritual journey. As an example, the cost of performing Hajj for a Malaysian Muslim was calculated at about 22.45 thousand Malaysian ringgits. For first time Hajj pilgrims, the Malaysian government subsidizes more than half of that amount.
Some Muslims who can’t afford the financial or physical challenges of the Hajj sometimes perform the smaller Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca called Umrah, which can be attempted all year round.