Royal audience to intending Haj pilgrims
Azlan Othman

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha yesterday consented to receive in audience 400 intending Haj pilgrims, a day after they were shortlisted to perform the fifth pillar of Islam this year.

After performing the midday prayer at Istana Nurul Iman, they lined up to greet members of the royal family. His Majesty was accompanied by His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office.

Her Majesty was accompanied by Her Royal Highness Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah and Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Rashidah Sa'adatul Bolkiah.

Before leaving the palace, the intending pilgrims received a bag containing 'Kain Ihram' and 'Telekung' to perform the Haj.

An intending pilgrim, Latifah binti Hj Omar who will be part of Humaira Travel Sdn Bhd team and a first time Haj traveller said, it was totally unexpected, referring to the final list of pilgrims going for the Haj this year.

"I'm glad and at the same time sad after being shortlisted on Tuesday. I am thankful to Allah (the Almighty) for being able to perform the Haj this year when I am still healthy. We will not know whether we would be able to perform the religious obligation in the years to come."

Latifah added, "Actually, there are four of us who are supposed to perform the Haj this year including my sibling, my in-law and my nephew. But due to the cap, I am the only one who will perform the Haj. The call to perform the obligation is already strong and deep inside my heart."

Dyg Jonaidah binti Hj Ahmad, another first time Haj traveller and who will be going with her husband by joining the Darussalam Holdings package, said, "Every year around 1,000 pilgrims normally go to the holy land.

But when the announcement was made highlighting that only 400 intending pilgrims would be going, my preparations were put on hold.

"Looking at the criteria, I thought I would not be able to make it. There could be wisdom behind the quota as those who could not make it may get better opportunities.

"I was moved by the decision. But at the same time, I am also sad that some cannot go even as they had made preparations by attending talks and underwent medical tests," she said.

Meanwhile Awg Ismail bin Hj Ahmad said, "Praise to Allah (the Almighty), my wife and I were pleased when we found our names in the shortlist to perform the Haj this year. We are already old and have retired since 2001." He is also a first time traveller and will be following Darussalam Holdings. "We only knew about the result on Tuesday afternoon. I am very happy. But we are yet to be informed of the date of travel and flight details."

Meanwhile Awg Matusin bin Orang Kaya Sura Hj Tuba said he is thankful that his intention to perform the Haj is going to be fulfilled. "But I am also a bit sad as five of us were supposed to go this year. But, I will be going with my wife. We should be satisfied with our situation as only 400 pilgrims would be going and it is by Allah's Will. As for our preparations, we are physically and mentally ready."

Abdullah bin Hj Suhaili, another first time traveller to Mecca to perform the Haj said what is important is that preparations have been made earlier. When I heard about the announcement on the quota, I was more than 50 per cent hopeful as I fit into the category of more than 50 years old and have never performed the Haj. I am very pleased and praise be to Allah (the Almighty).

"The quota is beyond our country's jurisdiction as it comes from the Government of Saudi Arabia. But whatever it is, we have to accept it with an open heart. For those who could not make it, there could be wisdom behind it. They might get better opportunities in the future," he added.

Last Saturday, the Ministry of Religious Affairs announced that the Sultanate is only allowed to send 400 pilgrims (or 0.1 per cent of the country's total population) this year, as the Government of Saudi Arabia through its Hajj Ministry has ordered every country, including Brunei, to adhere to their official quotas.

According to the Hajj Ministry of Saudi Arabia, the move to cap the number of quotas for Haj pilgrims from countries around the world was due to the increasing number of Muslim population and Haj pilgrims from Muslim countries. Furthermore, the Hajj Ministry has received many applications for additional quotas that have put a strain on facilities and places of worships in the Holy Land, especially in Masyair Mina.

Saudi Arabia is also implementing a number of projects at Masjidil Haram and Masjid an-Nabawi, as well as in Masyair Mina, to enhance the capacity to accommodate the growing number of Haj pilgrims. - Borneo Bulletin (20 September 2012)