JAKARTA - The Ministry of Religious Affairs has decided to not send Indonesian hajj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year due to concerns stemming from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The policy is stipulated in Minister of Religious Affairs' Decree No. 494/2020 on the Cancellation of the Departure of Hajj Pilgrims for the 1441 AH/2020 AD Hajj Season, signed by Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi on Tuesday (2/6).

"As of 1 June 2020, the Government of Saudi Arabia has not reopened access to services required for the 1441 AH/2020 AD hajj season, and as a result the Government of Indonesia does not have enough time to adequately prepare training, services, and protection for hajj pilgrims safely, comfortably, orderly, and in accordance with the sharia law," Mr Razi wrote in the decree.

In addition, Mr Razi affirmed that the decision to not send hajj pilgrims this year aims to ensure their health, safety, and security amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"According to Islamic teachings, guarding the soul is one of the five principles in maqasid al-shariah, aside from guarding the faith, the mind, one's descendants, and one's wealth, which needs to serve as the basis of decision-making by the Government," he adeed.

Initially, the Indonesian government planned to send off the first batch of hajj pilgrims on 26 June 2020. For this year, Indonesia's hajj quota consists of 221,000 pilgrims. (MS)