LONDON: Over 130 British Muslims attended a Hajj seminar at the London Muslim Center on Sunday, in preparation for the first pilgrimage after the COVID-19 pandemic that will be open to foreigners.
Attendees learned how to perform the fifth pillar of Islam correctly, were given practical tips to ensure a smooth journey, and were able to ask a religious scholar questions about the journey that Muslims must undertake at least once in their lifetime if they are able to.
They were also given health and safety advice, and were able to purchase essential items for their Hajj journey such as the ihram, the two pieces of white cloth worn by male pilgrims.
The event, organized by the Council of British Hajjis, was the final in a series of seminars held across England by the organization, and was watched online by dozens of people.
Rashid Mogradia, CEO of CBHUK, said the seminars aimed to enrich and enhance pilgrim experiences through sharing relevant information, advice and guidance.
“We want to make it easy for pilgrims to have a spiritual and uplifting journey,” Mogradia told Arab News. “We’ve been running Hajj seminars since our inception in 2006. It was very important for us to reconnect with Hajj pilgrims face-to-face this year after the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He said it was important that would-be pilgrims attend the seminars this year not only to learn about the rites of Hajj, but also “the latest developments in Saudi Arabia, and health and safety requirements in the Kingdom.”
He added: “Such events allow us to connect directly with the pilgrims themselves, and address the needs and concerns they may have at an early stage so that we can relieve any anxiety and stress pre-departure.”
Imam Yunus Dudhwala, a Muslim scholar and the head of chaplaincy at Barts Health NHS Trust, presented the seminar and has held similar events annually for the last 10 years.
“I think it’s important for people who are traveling for Hajj to be prepared mentally, physically and spiritually. And in terms of Islamic jurisprudence, they need to understand how to perform Hajj correctly. That’s why we do the seminar,” he told Arab News.
Dudhwala accompanied 250-300 British pilgrims on Hajj annually as their spiritual and religious guide for over 10 years before the pandemic struck.
For over three decades preceding the pandemic, British pilgrims would book a package with a licensed Hajj operator in the UK that included flights, accommodation, meals, visas, and other essential services such as easy access to a religious scholar to help with their queries.
This year, the way pilgrims book Hajj has changed. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced last week that pilgrims from Europe, America and Australia are required to register for this year’s Hajj electronically at www.motawif.com.sa.
Applicants will be entered into a draw system, and pilgrims will then be selected from the pool.
The new portal is part of the ministry’s efforts to facilitate Hajj procedures and provide competitive prices for European, American and Australian pilgrims.
“We understand that the government of Saudi Arabia is modernizing the way people go for Hajj and Umrah as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. We also understand that they’re doing this to increase pilgrim numbers and enhance the facilities and services provided to pilgrims,” Mogradia said.
“Just as Umrah has gone through a rigorous change since 2019 with the implementation of the e-visa making it easier for people to travel to Saudi Arabia, Hajj too will need to go through that phase.”