hajj2Saudi Arabia has urged Muslims worldwide to postpone their plans for Hajj and Umrah this year due to ongoing expansion work at Makkah’s Grand Mosque.

According to CNN, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, head of the Council of Senior Scholars in Saudi Arabia, considered the decree “essential, and pilgrims must respond to it and apply it, because it is in the interest of the nation in the long term”.

The government also declared this year that no visas for Hajj would be issued to individuals who had made the pilgrimage within the past 5 years, and that the maximum visa for Umrah would be 15 days.

5,499,603 Umrah visas were issued, representing 51 percent of the total and 1,669,210 Hajj visas (16 percent) in 2012, in addition to other visas handed out for other reasons, according to a statement published in the official website of Saudi Embassy.