Singaporeans' Haj pilgrimage to resume this year but with 45 per cent fewer slots: Muis
SINGAPORE — Muslims hoping to travel to Mecca for their haj pilgrimage will now be able to do so for the first time in two years, after Singapore was granted a quota of 407 vaccinated individuals, aged 65 and below, to make the journey.
- The Haj pilgrimage for people in Singapore will resume in 2022, after being deferred for two years due to the pandemic
- This year, Singapore has been allocated 407 slots, which is about 45 per cent fewer than the pre-pandemic quota
- Pilgrims who are selected in 2022 must also be below the age of 65 and vaccinated with Covid-19 vaccines approved by Saudi Arabia
SINGAPORE — Muslims hoping to travel to Mecca for their Haj pilgrimage will now be able to do so for the first time in two years, after Singapore was granted a quota of 407 vaccinated individuals, aged 65 and below, to make the journey.
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) said in a statement Tuesday (April 26) that this is about 45 per cent of its previous official pre-pandemic quota of 900.
It added that the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has announced that this year’s Haj will be opened to one million pilgrims, consisting of 850,000 international pilgrims with fewer slots allocated for all countries.
As the Haj has been deferred for two years in a row due to the spread of the coronavirus, Muis said that it will reallocate the limited quota to pilgrims who were supposed to perform their Haj in 2020, if they meet the conditions and requirements set for this year’s pilgrimage.
All other pilgrims who are in the Advance Haj Registration System will be automatically moved in the queue to perform Haj in the following years, Muis said.
The council has already reached out to potential pilgrims affected by the pandemic deferments and has asked them for their interest in performing this year's Haj as well as their vaccination status and their contact details.
“This is part of Muis’ efforts to get prospective pilgrims to prepare early, remain flexible and be spiritually, physically, mentally and financially ready to perform their Haj.”
It added that those who have yet to reply to it are requested to do so by April 29, or they will be “automatically moved in the queue for subsequent years”.
As for approved travel agents for the Haj, Muis said that it is in the midst of appointing them and they will be announced, along with the Haj package prices on May 4.
Aside from being under the age of 65, pilgrims must be vaccinated with Covid-19 vaccines approved by Saudi Arabia, Muis said.
They must also submit a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within 72 hours from the time of departure to Saudi Arabia.
Muis also advised pilgrims to ensure their passports are valid for at least six months before departure, have on hand a passport photograph and their Covid-19 vaccination certificate, which can be downloaded from the government website notarise.gov.sg.
Pilgrims are also recommended to obtain both meningococcal meningitis as well as a seasonal influenza vaccination certificate.
Once the final list of pilgrims who are able to meet the conditions and requirements for the Haj are confirmed, Muis will issue formal letters to those who are chosen to perform the pilgrimage on May 5.
Eligible pilgrims will also be notified via phone through text message.
Once the offer is accepted, pilgrims are required to buy Haj packages with their preferred approved travel agent within three calendar days.
They are also “strongly encouraged” to buy travel insurance that cover their medical expenses in Saudi Arabia, trip cancellation and trip curtailment, should they fail their PCR test and cannot travel to the country.
WAITING FOR 10 YEARS
One couple who have been waiting to perform the Haj for 10 years are hopeful that they will be selected for this year’s journey.
Madam Noni Yusran, 58, who spoke on behalf of her 60-year-old husband, said that they were elated to hear Tuesday’s announcement even though they were uncertain if they had been selected to perform the Haj yet.
Mdm Noni, who works as nurse, said that she and her husband were initially selected to perform the Haj in 2020, but the trip had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.
“At that point in time, we just accepted it (being told of the trip’s cancellation). We knew the situation and did not want to make it worse.”
However, they have high hopes this year. “If we are selected — and others who are selected as well — we will be very blessed.”
If not, there will always be another time, she added. “I know that slowly, gradually, the number of allocations for pilgrims will increase again.”
Not all were so sanguine in their outlook, however.
Madam Rahmah Mohd Nor, 67, said that she was hoping to perform the Haj with her 71-year-old husband until they were informed of this year’s age limit.
“I’ve been disappointed again and again, but I’m kind of used to it at this point,” she said in Malay.
“It’s hard to accept that the barrier for us to perform such a sacred pilgrimage is our age. I waited 10 years to perform the Haj, put in blood, sweat and tears to save money all these years.”
She was hoping that the authorities would allow pilgrims who had booked the packages earlier to go first, no matter the age.
“Age does not determine whether a person is healthy or not,” she added.
“I am sad and disappointed, no doubt about that. For now, I can just stay hopeful that I will get the opportunity to perform it with my beloved husband one day. That is truly one of my life’s goals.”
Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, acknowledged in a Facebook post on Tuesday that the number of pilgrims allocated this year is smaller due to health and safety measures in place.
“With more Muslims applying to perform Haj, many would have liked to see more places allocated to Singapore. However, we are still not out of the woods. Hence, the Saudi authorities have set similar reduced quotas for all countries.”
Mr Masagos, who is also Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for Health, urged those who have not been allocated Haj places this year not to be disheartened.
“In our recent meeting, Saudi’s Hajj and Umrah Minister, His Excellency Dr Tawfiq Al Rabiah, assured me that the kingdom will provide more Haj places for international pilgrims once the Covid-19 situation improves.”
Mr Masagos also said that he and Muis will continue to request more Haj places beyond Singapore’s official quota, in view of the long queue of aspiring pilgrims in Singapore.
“As the pandemic situation stabilises and the gradual easing of travel restrictions, I, too, hope that more places will be made available for us in the coming years, InsyaAllah (Arabic for 'God willing').”
TODAY has sought comments from the Association of Muslim Travel Agents Singapore.