Around 40 times in history the Hajj was either cancelled or the number of pilgrims was extremely low according to the King AbdulAziz Foundation For Research And Archives, and this idea is not as unprecedented as perceived.
Among the many factors were:
• Political turmoil
• Economic turmoil
• Instability of security
• Activities of bandits and raiders
Some years and events when Hajj was either suspended or interrupted:
- 251 AH / 865 AD:
Ismail bin Yusuf Al-Alawi known as Al Safak and his forces led a rebellion against the Abbasid Caliphate and massacred thousands of pilgrims who were gathered at the Arafat Mountain near Makkah, forcing the cancellation of the Hajj.
- 317 AH / 930 AD:
Arguably the most infamous event was when a sect called Qaramitah who considered the Hajj to be a pagan ritual led by Abu Tahir Qaramitani carried out a vicious attack on Makkah during the Hajj season. According to historic accounts, the Qaramitans massacred 30,000 pilgrims while mockingly chanting verses of the Quran at them burying them in their places without bathing or shrouding or Janazah prayer. They dumped 3,000 bodies into the sacred well of Zamzam and then destroyed it completely. They also stole the Black Stone from the Ka’bah and took it to their base in the east of Saudi called Hajr (modern day Qatif) for 22 years. It is said that sadly for 10 years after this event the Hajj was not carried out.
- 357 AH / 968 AD:
It is said that this year it was cancelled because of the spread of the so-called “Al-Mashiri disease” in Makkah, and because of it the pilgrims died, and their camels died on the way from thirst and only a few of them arrived in Makkah.
- 390 AH & 419 AH / 1000 AD & 1028 AD:
Hajj was suspended due to extreme high costs and inflation. For the same reason nobody did Hajj from the East and from Egypt in 419 AH.
- 492 AH / 1099 AD:
Hajj was not performed because of the turmoil and lack of security that befell the Muslims throughout their large state due to the raging conflict between themselves, and for five years before the fall of Jerusalem to the hands of the Crusaders.
- 654 AH / 1256 AD:
Apart from Hijaz no other country performed Hajj for four years due to ongoing conflicts.
- 1213 AH / 1799 AD:
Hajj trips stopped during the French Revolution due to the routes being insecure.
- 1246 AH / 1831 AD:
In more recent accounts, a plague coming from India spread and caused the deaths of a staggering three quarters of the pilgrims.
- Years 1252 AH to 1310 AH / 1837 AD to 1892 AD:
The epidemics spread in various years from 1837 AD until 1892 AD with thousands dying daily. In 1871 it struck Madinah. This outbreak known as Cholera spread during the Hajj season, as deaths spiked in Arafat and peaked in Mina.
- Year 1441 AH / 2020 AD:
The Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) caused suspension of international pilgrims performing Hajj.