Faizel Patel, Radio Islam News - 2013-06-20
Postpone Hajj if you can. This is the advice from Saudi authorities who have urged domestic and foreign pilgrims to postpone their Hajj plans for this year if possible due to ongoing expansion work at Makkah’s Grand Mosque.
The call follows the Saudi government’s decision to reduce the number of foreign pilgrims by 20 percent and domestic pilgrims 50 percent this year. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh has backed the measure, saying it was taken in public interest.
Saeed Al-Qurashi, a member of the Haj & Umrah Committee at Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Arab News, “By making this announcement our government is not preventing anybody from Hajj, but asking them to postpone in order to avoid congestion and help first-time Hajis to perform their religious duties without difficulties
Qurashi said the mataf (the circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba) could hold now only 39,000 faithful per hour, suggesting an influx of a large number of pilgrims could cause congestion inside the mosque. “Once the mataf expansion is completed, it can accommodate more than 130,000 pilgrims per hour. So, it would be better for our brethren to come for Haj next year or after two years, when they will be able to perform their rituals with ease,” he explained.
Hatem Qadi, deputy Haj minister and spokesman of the ministry, emphasized the need for reducing the number of foreign and domestic pilgrims this year. “The period for cutting the number of pilgrims will not exceed two years. The ongoing expansion work at the two holy mosques are aimed at accommodating more pilgrims in the coming years,” said Qadi.
Qadi cited the grand mufti’s statement on the issue saying the government took the decision because it was essential. “The ongoing expansion is for the benefit of pilgrims,” the mufti said.
The South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC) has accredited more than 2500 hujjaj for this year year’s hajj. However with the 20% reduction imposed by Saudi authorities, that number has been reduced to just 2000 Hujjaj.
Meanwhile SAHUC has made a humble appeal to accredited Hujjaj to voluntarily defer accreditation to 2014. Those who defer will be guaranteed of accreditation in 2014 (1435AH) Insha-Allah.
Hujjaj who desire to follow this route, should contact SAHUC, via email to sahucSG@sahuc.org.za – mark the email VOLUNTARY DEFERMENT or alternatively to contact the SAHUC offices during working hours. A fax can also be sent to 086 672 4913.