Royalty receive greetings from 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 received greetings from some 320 intending Haj pilgrims who will be leaving for Madinah, Saudi Arabia, on two flights next week.

With His Majesty to receive the male pilgrims was His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Her Majesty, who received the female pilgrims, was accompanied by Her Royal Highness Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah.

At the end of the ceremony, the pilgrims received Haj attire in the form of ‘Telekung’ (prayer robes) for women and ‘Kain Ihram’ (Ihram cloth) that were wrapped inside black gift bags.

According to officials from the Haj Secretariat, 166 males and 154 females will be performing the Haj this year; 252 pilgrims will be travelling under the Darussalam Holdings Sdn Bhd’s packages, while 68 will follow Straits Central Agency.

The first flight is scheduled to depart on September 20 at around 8am, while the second flight (last flight) will depart on September 21 at around 3pm.

The pilgrims are scheduled to return back to Brunei Darussalam on October 21 and October 22 from Jeddah. All pilgrims will be accompanied by Haj medical and administrative officers.

It was revealed that the 737 pilgrims who did not make the cut for the pilgrimage last year would be prioritised to perform the Haj later this year (1434 Hijrah) and next year (1435 Hijrah).

The Minister of Religious Affairs, Pengiran Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohammad bin Pengiran Haji Abd Rahman, while officiating a course for Brunei’s Haj pilgrims last month said the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had again cut the Haj quota this year for all countries. Brunei was no exception.

The quota, which was cut to 400 last year, had been further reduced to 320 this year.

Last year, the Government of Saudi Arabia stipulated that their official Haj quotas for every country in the world. For Brunei, the quota was only 400 pilgrims or 0.1 per cent of the country’s total population.

As a result of this, many of the registered Haj pilgrims were not able to perform Haj last year. This year, once again a further reduction in the number of Haj quotas that has been announced by the Government of Saudi Arabia

The decision was made because Saudi Arabia was in the midst of implementing a number of upgrading projects at Masjidil Haram in Makkah and Al-Nabawi Mosque in Madinah. Aside from that, the cuts are also due to safety factors as well as for easy access for pilgrims performing their Haj obligations.

Therefore, he explained, in view of the unexpected announcement of the cut in Haj quotas, some of registered Haj pilgrims would not be able to perform the fifth pillar of Islam this year.

The minister advised the Haj pilgrims to fully utilise the knowledge and information provided during the course as it would help them while performing the Haj. In addition, he also advised the pilgrims to be mentally, physically and spiritually prepared and must at all time exercise patience so that all their Haj rituals will run smoothly.

At the same time, the minister reminded the Haj pilgrims that they need to prioritise their safety while at the holy cities. Among others, they need to wear bracelets and badges that have been provided that will function as their identification.

An army personnel, Awang Azamain bin Haji Ibrahim and his wife, Khadizah bte Haji Musa, are among those who will be performing the Haj this year. Speaking to the Bulletin yesterday, the couple shared their happiness for being able to perform the pilgrimage this year, as they were not able to do so last year due to the cutting of the quota.

A retiree, Awang Mohamad bin Haji Nayan, who will be leaving for the holy land to perform the Haj with his wife expressed his gratitude to His Majesty’s Government for giving them the opportunity to perform the pilgrimage. He did, however, point out that the Haj package fare and bank draft charges had risen this year compared to previous years.

Hajah Ros bte Minur who will be performing the Haj with her husband, meanwhile, shared her surprise on being selected to be part of the latest batch of Haj pilgrims from Brunei. She last performed the Haj back in 2004. - Borneo Bulletin (12 September 2013)