Decision to scale down Hajj wins support among Muslims

Decision to scale down Hajj wins support among Muslims
In recent years, more than 2 million pilgrims have performed Hajj. This year, only people who already reside in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to take part, but even then the number of places will be strictly limited to a few thousand. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 28 July 2020

Decision to scale down Hajj wins support among Muslims

Decision to scale down Hajj wins support among Muslims
  • KSA’s move prompted the governments across the world to cancel the pilgrimage for their intending pilgrims

JEDDAH: The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forced the postponement or cancellation of countless events and activities around the globe, causing great disappointment for many people.

Among them are hundreds of thousands of Muslims who, after saving and planning for years, will miss out on what is for many the once-in-a-lifetime experience of performing Hajj.
The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced in June that it is severely limiting the number of pilgrims this year to preserve global public health in the face of the ongoing coronavirus threat.
The move prompted the governments of Muslim-majority countries and Hajj authorities across the world to cancel the pilgrimage for their intending pilgrims.
In recent years, more than 2 million pilgrims have performed Hajj. This year, only people who already reside in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to take part, but even then the number of places will be strictly limited to a few thousand. Of those, 70 percent will be expats and 30 percent Saudi citizens.


As a result, many Saudis who have been fortunate enough to perform the fifth pillar of Islam many times will be unable to do so this year.
“I feel so pleased and gifted for having the chance to perform Hajj 22 times in my life,” said Wafa Shaheen, a Saudi author with a master’s degree in the scientific exegesis of the Qur’an. “I could not be more grateful to Allah.

Limiting the number of pilgrims is a sensible precaution and a welcome step to protect people’s health.

Wafa Shaheen

“I was not upset by the Hajj news this year as I know there are plenty of ways to take advantage of this precious spiritual time of the year. Worship and good deeds can be performed anywhere if the heart is with God almighty.”
She added that limiting the number of pilgrims is a sensible precaution and a welcome step to protect people’s health.
Abdulrahman Abdulkhaliq is a Saudi citizen who works as a chemical engineer who has volunteered to help pilgrims for more than 10 years. He said that Hajj is one of the most exciting activities he participates in and he looks forward to it every year.
“I cannot imagine that this Hajj season will pass and I will not be there,” he said. “This year’s Hajj is a challenge and we will learn a lot from it for future Hajj seasons.”
After months of preparation, many Malaysian pilgrims were left disappointed that the Hajj this year has been canceled, but they expressed their full understanding of the decision.
Samsiah Muhammad, a 62-year-old retiree, told Arab News that she was devastated to find out she would be unable to perform her pilgrimage but said that “this isn’t anyone’s fault.”
For Wan Mohamad Ali Wan Idrus, the cancellation was a blessing in disguise as he was already considering canceling his pilgrimage.
“My letter informing me that I was shortlisted arrived on Jan. 30. I got my first offer to perform my Hajj in 2009 along with my family but I had to turn it down,” the 26-year-old told Arab News.
This year, 31,600 Malaysians were shortlisted to perform the pilgrimage. A Malaysian official said the government would prioritize their applications in next year’s Hajj season.
Malaysian pilgrims are subsidized by the government and pay $2,340 per person for the journey and Hajj preparation courses.
In many countries, even people who can afford the expense of traveling to Makkah often wait years to be included in their country’s quota of pilgrims, set by Saudi Arabia to equalize the opportunity for Hajj across Muslim countries.

FASTFACTS

• In recent years, more than 2 million pilgrims have performed Hajj.

• This year, 31,600 Malaysians were shortlisted to perform the pilgrimage.

• Pakistan’s quota for this year’s Hajj was 179,210 pilgrims.

• Nearly 30,000 Afghans were shortlisted to perform the annual pilgrimage.

Pakistan’s quota for this year was 179,210 pilgrims.
Sanaullah Khan, 52, is one of 2.5 million Muslims globally, almost 180,000 from Pakistan, whose plans were upended when Saudi Arabia restricted this year’s Hajj event to only 1,000.


“I felt as if the sky had fallen down the day I got the phone call from the bank asking me to collect the pilgrimage deposit of Rs463,000 ($2,760),” the farmer from the impoverished town of Gomal on the edge of the South Waziristan tribal district told Arab News.
Soon, news reached relatives and neighbors, and the whole community of Gomal poured into Khan’s home to offer condolences and pray that his dream come true next year.

Perhaps Hajj was not written in my destiny this year, we might as well help the needy people and this in itself is similar to going on Hajj.

Tajuddin Sangarwal

Last year, too, Khan was all set to go but withdrew his Hajj application at the last minute so his ailing brother could travel instead.
Khalid Anwar, a government employee and Khan’s neighbor, said he had twice visited his friend to offer condolences and “to explain that the pandemic affected millions of intending pilgrims, not only him.”
But for the aging Khan, missing Hajj this year is an inconsolable blow.
 “My only wish at this age is to visit Makkah and Madinah,” Khan said, “If I am still alive and can still afford it.”
Sehzad Husain, 39, a London-based businessman, was planning to perform Hajj this year with his wife Aziza Husain, 38, an assistant headteacher at a primary school in the British capital.
Husain told Arab News that they booked their Hajj packages in January and paid for them in full because they were “extremely happy” at having the opportunity to perform the pilgrimage and were determined to go.
This year, the price of Hajj packages in the UK ranged between £5,500 ($7,003) and £13,000 depending on a range of factors including how far hotels are from the holy sites, meals included, type of package and services offered within them.
“I feel very sad at not being able to perform Hajj this year,” Sehzad said. “Initially I was very excited about performing Hajj and was looking forward to it. I’d already started making preparations.”

I felt as if the sky had fallen down the day I got the phone call from the bank asking me to collect the pilgrimage deposit.

Sanaullah Khan

He said they were still optimistic about performing Hajj even as coronavirus cases started to increase in the UK.
“We were hearing rumors that a limited number of people from each country would be able to perform Hajj. We were confident that we’d be among those people as we’re young, fit, and healthy, and we’d paid for our packages in full already. We were prepared to pay extra if the price increased,” he added.
Husain described the disappointment that he and his wife felt when it was announced that overseas Muslims would not be able to take part. An Afghan man is using his time and Hajj savings to help poor people in his home country, following Saudi Arabia’s decision.
“Perhaps Hajj was not written in my destiny this year, we might as well help the needy people and this in itself is similar to going on Hajj,” Tajuddin Sangarwal told Arab News.
The 42-year-old resident of Logar, south of Kabul, added that the pandemic had left people jobless with a majority struggling to make ends meet.
“Based on information from preachers in mosques and radios, people in different parts of Afghanistan have been badly affected by coronavirus and (therefore), we have decided to help them in whatever way we can.”
Himat Shah, a tribal elder from Samangan province in northern Afghanistan, said: “God does not need our Hajj or worshipping, but he loves if we give charity to people, helping them to reduce their poverty and hunger.”
Sangarwal and Shah are not alone. With the pilgrimage canceled for the nearly 30,000 Afghans who constitute the Hajj quota, people from Logar and across the country are engaging in charitable deeds.

With inputs from:

Nada Hameed Jeddah
Ushar Daniele Kuala Lumpur
Rehmat Mehsud Peshawar
Zaynab Khojji London
Sayed Salahuddin Kabul


King Salman issues royal order to promote members of Public Prosecution Office

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman issued a royal order to promote a number of members of the Public Prosecution Office. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman issued a royal order to promote a number of members of the Public Prosecution Office. (SPA)
Updated 30 min 9 sec ago

King Salman issues royal order to promote members of Public Prosecution Office

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman issued a royal order to promote a number of members of the Public Prosecution Office. (SPA)
  • Attorney General Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mujib praised the issuance of the royal order

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman issued a royal order to promote a number of members of the Public Prosecution Office, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Saturday.

Attorney General Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mujib praised the issuance of the royal order, and said that it came within the framework of the king and crown prince’s support for the Public Prosecution, and their “interest in promoting the principle of universal sufficiency for all its needs,” SPA said.

The attorney general said this included stimulating the administrative system in a way that contributes to fulfilling its duties to the fullest.

Sheikh Al-Mujib urged employees of the Public Prosecution to redouble their efforts to meet the expectations of the leadership and society.


Al-Jubeir calls on Kingdom’s accusers in Bezos phone hack to ‘acknowledge their mistake’

Saudi Arabia's Adel Al-Jubeir called on Saturday for people who
Saudi Arabia's Adel Al-Jubeir called on Saturday for people who "accused the Kingdom" with regard to claims it was involved with the hacking of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos' phone last year to "acknowledge their mistake." (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 25 min 22 sec ago

Al-Jubeir calls on Kingdom’s accusers in Bezos phone hack to ‘acknowledge their mistake’

Saudi Arabia's Adel Al-Jubeir called on Saturday for people who "accused the Kingdom" with regard to claims it was involved with the hacking of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos' phone last year to "acknowledge their mistake." (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said Saudi Arabia “had nothing to do with the allegations”
  • Saudi embassy in US rejected the claims at the time as “absurd”

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's Adel Al-Jubeir called on Saturday for people who “accused the Kingdom” with regard to claims it was involved with the hacking of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos’ phone last year to “acknowledge their mistake.”

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs posted to Twitter asking if now that the truth that “the Kingdom had nothing to do with the allegations” had been revealed, whether people would “simply delete their tweets” and “hope that their positions at the time disappear into the sunset?”

Reports in January 2020 suggested Bezos’ phone was hacked after receiving a WhatsApp message sent from the personal account of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia's embassy in the US rejected the claims at the time as “absurd,” while Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the allegations were “absolutely silly” while speaking to Reuters at last year’s World Economic Forum in Davos.

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Saudi crown prince and Pakistani prime minister discuss bilateral ties, international issues

Saudi crown prince and Pakistani prime minister discuss bilateral ties, international issues
Updated 27 min 49 sec ago

Saudi crown prince and Pakistani prime minister discuss bilateral ties, international issues

Saudi crown prince and Pakistani prime minister discuss bilateral ties, international issues
  • The two sides reviewed all regional and international issues, and agreed to intensify cooperation
  • Khan arrived in the Kingdom for his two-day visit on Friday

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan held talks on Saturday to discuss bilateral relations and ways to strengthen them in all fields.
Khan arrived in the Kingdom for his two-day visit on Friday upon an official invitation from the crown prince.
The two sides affirmed the depth of the historical relations between their two countries, a joint statement said, adding that they also reviewed all regional and international issues, and agreed to intensify between government officials and the private sector in both countries, with the aim of promoting bilateral relations to broader horizons in a way that serves their common interests.
Khan praised King Salman’s leadership role in promoting Islamic unity, the Kingdom’s positive role in resolving the issues facing the Islamic nation, and its endeavors for regional and international peace and security.
He also praised Prince Mohammed’s historic visit to Pakistan in February 2019, during which the launch of the Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council was announced, and the two visits that his country made to the Kingdom in 2018 and 2019.
Khan said the visits “contributed to pushing bilateral relations toward more joint cooperation based on trust, mutual benefits and common interests between the two countries.”
The crown prince affirmed the Kingdom’s continued support for Khan’s vision of transforming Pakistan into a prosperous and developed country.
The two sides discussed ways to strengthen and enhance economic and trade relations between them by exploring areas of investment and opportunities available in light of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, and Pakistan’s development priorities to shift from geopolitics to economic geography, in addition to increasing cooperation in the fields of energy, science, technology, agriculture and culture.
“They affirmed their satisfaction with the strength of bilateral military and security relations, and agreed to further cooperate to achieve common goals between the two countries,” the statement said.
It added that issues pertaining to the Islamic nation were at the forefront of discussions, and “they stressed the need for concerted efforts by Muslim countries to confront extremism and violence, reject sectarianism, and relentlessly pursue international peace and security.”
They also stressed the importance of continuing joint efforts to combat terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations regardless of their source, and should not be associated with any religion, race, or ethnic background.
The two sides also reaffirmed their full support for all the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, especially their right to self determination and the establishment of an independent state with pre-1967 borders and East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and relevant UN resolutions.
They also expressed their support for political solutions in Syria and Libya, and the efforts of the UN and its envoys in this regard.
The two sides also stressed the importance of supporting efforts to reach a comprehensive political solution to the conflict in Yemen based on the Gulf Initiative and its implementation mechanism, the outcomes of the comprehensive national dialogue, and the relevant Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 2216.
The crown prince and prime minister condemned ballistic missiles and drones attacks by “terrorist groups and militias,” including the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen, on Saudi territory targeting vital installations and civilian objects.
“They expressed their grave concern over the threats (posed) to the security of oil exports and the stability of global energy supplies,” the statement said.
The prime minister praised the Saudi Arabia’s role and its peace initiative to end the war in Yemen, “which aims to achieve security and stability in Yemen for the benefit and development of the region and its people.”
The crown prince welcomed the understanding reached recently between the Pakistani and Indian military authorities regarding a cease-fire in Jammu and Kashmir at the Line of Control (LoC), which is based on a 2003 understanding between the two regional rivals.
“The two sides stressed the importance of dialogue between Pakistan and India to solve the outstanding issues between the two countries (especially the Jammu and Kashmir conflict) to ensure peace and stability in the region,” the joint statement said.
On Afghanistan, Prince Mohammed said Pakistan played a pivotal role in facilitating the Afghan peace process, and the two sides agreed to continue mutual consultations and said that a comprehensive political settlement is the only way forward.
The two sides also agreed to continue exchanging support and coordination in international organizations and forums, and stressed the importance of all states committing to the UN Charter and the principles of international legitimacy, adhering to the principles of good neighborliness, respect for the unity and sovereignty of states, non-interference in their internal affairs, and to resolve disputes by peaceful means.
Khan congratulated the Saudi government for successfully organizing and holding the G20 summit last year and the positive decisions that it yielded in all economic, developmental, environmental, health, energy and other fields.
Pakistan also welcomed the Saudi Green and Middle East Green Initiatives launched by Prince Mohammed in late March, which shows the Kingdom’s leadership role toward common international issues, including combating climate change, and praised its positive impact on the region and its inhabitants.
The crown prince also praised the prime minister’s Clean Green Pakistan initiative, as well as the successful 10 Billion Tree Tsunami initiative.
Khan also praised Saudi Arabia’s efforts and its leadership in serving the Two Holy Mosques, pilgrims, Umrah performers and visitors, especially in organizing last year’s Hajj season despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Several agreements and Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) were signed to further strengthen and diversify bilateral relations, including an agreement to establish the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council (SPSCC), a cooperation agreement to cooperate in combating crime and an agreement to transfer convicted prisoners, a MoU in combating illicit drug trafficking, and a MoU to finance projects in energy, hydropower generation, infrastructure, transport, communication, and water.
The prime minister expressed his gratitude and appreciation to King Salman, the crown prince, and the Saudi people.


Saudi Arabia records 14 COVID-19 deaths, 997 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 14 COVID-19 deaths, 997 new cases
Updated 08 May 2021

Saudi Arabia records 14 COVID-19 deaths, 997 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 14 COVID-19 deaths, 997 new cases
  • The Kingdom said 1,026 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • The highest number of cases were recorded in Riyadh with 372

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 14 new COVID-19 related deaths on Saturday, raising the total number of fatalities to 7,059.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 997 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 425,442 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 9,707 remain active and 1,319 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 372, followed by Makkah with 250, the Eastern Province with 123, Asir recorded 54 and Madinah confirmed 49 cases.
The ministry also announced that 1,026 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 408,676.

The ministry renewed its call on the public to register to receive the vaccine, and adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs temporary closed nine mosques in five regions after nine people tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of mosques closed to 1,056 within 89 days, 1,037 of which have reopened after being sterilized.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 157 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.28 million.


Saudi Arabia, UAE reject Israeli measures to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

Saudi Arabia, UAE reject Israeli measures to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem
Updated 08 May 2021

Saudi Arabia, UAE reject Israeli measures to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

Saudi Arabia, UAE reject Israeli measures to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem
  • The ministry renewed its stand with the country’s people, and supported all efforts aimed at reaching a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia rejects Israeli plans to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem and impose Israeli sovereignty over them, Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry stressed the country’s condemnation of any unilateral measures and violations of international legitimacy decisions. It also denounced anything that might undermine the chances of resuming the peace process to achieve security and stability in the region.

The ministry renewed its stand with the country’s people, and supported all efforts aimed at reaching a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue.

It has also shown its support in enabling the Palestinians to establish their independent state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with international legitimacy decisions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

A night of heavy clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and elsewhere in Jerusalem left more than 200 Palestinians wounded, medics said Saturday, as the city braced for even more violence after weeks of unrest.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates has also condemened the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli authorities, stressing the need for them to assume responsibility in accordance with international law.