Hajj quota cut to 3?000

2011-09-06 00:00

SOUTH African Muslims are disappointed that the country’s annual Hajj quota has once again been decreased this year to a mere 3 000 pilgrims.

Shaheen Ayub Essop, secretary of the South African Hajj and Umrah Council (Sahuc), said it had asked for a quota of 7 500 pilgrims, but the Hajj ministry in Saudi Arabia only granted an additional 500 visas on top of South Africa’s previous quota of 2 500.

Sahuc has had more than 8 000 applications for the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam, is the largest annual gathering of Muslims and largest pilgrimage in the world.

Abdullah Saeed, a Muslim community member in Pietermaritzburg, said that all Muslims are required to go on Hajj once in their life if health and finances permit.

“I am extremely disappointed that the quota has only been increased by 500.

“It’s totally unfair to the large number of people that want to go on this sacred and obligatory pilgrimage.” said Saeed.

He attended the pilgrimage five years ago.

Mountain Rise resident Seroza Khan is also disappointed.

Khan said she has prepared all her life to attend the pilgrimage.

“Now that I am emotionally prepared there is a huge possibility that I won’t be able to go,” said Khan.

She is a widow and lives with her mother who is ill.

She has applied to attend Hajj with her two sons as she cannot travel on her own.

Her worry is that if her application is accepted, but not that of her two sons, it would mean she wouldn’t be able to go.

“If I don’t attend this year it might be my last chance as next year my mother might be too ill for me to leave her alone,” said Khan.

Khan said she is waiting to hear this week whether her application will be accepted.

Like many other Muslims, Khan has already paid the Sahuc registration fee and has booked and paid for her trip.

The small increase in the quota will also have an impact on travel agencies that have booked flights and arranged accommodation for prospective pilgrims from South Africa.

Shulimann Patel, a Hajj operator with a non-profit organisation, said the quota is too low.

Sahuc has capped his organisation at 600 pilgrims.

Patel said many pilgrims have already paid for airfares and and accommodation, which amount to between R25 000 to R30 000 per person.

Essop said Saudi Arabia does not offer an explanation for why it decided to set the quota at 3 000.

Before Saudi Arabia introduced the quota an average of about 7 000 South Africans travelled to Mecca each year.

Sahuc said it will sift through the applications, giving first preference to first-time pilgrims.

Mecca: SA Muslims disappointed by Saudi decision to limit pilgrims

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