Can females perform Hajj without Mehram? Saudi Arabia explains dispute

RIYADH: As the forthcoming Hajj approaches, the Saudi Arabia authorities has responded to the problem of women traveling without a Mehram.
The Hajj and Umrah Ministry of Saudi Arabia has officially declared that women are no longer need to have a Mahram in order to perform the Hajj, and that this requirement no longer applies to all pilgrimages.

The ministry has also made it clear that, as part of the registration criteria for the 2019 Hajj, which is set for June, all domestic pilgrims must be vaccinated against Neisseria meningitis and seasonal influenza.

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It should be emphasized that a Mahram is a family member with whom marriage would be prohibited (haram), and that in the past, women had to travel on pilgrimages with a Mehram in tow. The Saudi Arabian administration has signed agreements with several nations in order to finalize preparations for the next Hajj. Flight schedules and other major matters are now being resolved by the government.

According to statistics, the country received almost 2 million Hajj travelers last year, and over 13 million Umrah pilgrims. The previous year, the monarchy removed social distancing measures that had been in place following the pandemic, which had forced travel to a halt.

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Training of Hajj Pilgrims 2024 Begins: Check Details

ISLAMABAD: Starting on Monday, the preparation for those who are planning to travel to Hajj for the pilgrimage in June of this year has started. The training will be offered nationwide in two phases, according to a Sunday announcement from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony.

The ministry has also issued a warning, stating that participation in the program—which will be run at the district level by the religious affairs ministry through seven camps—is required of Hajj pilgrims.

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“The series of training workshops will continue in Hajj camps until the departure of the last Hajj flight. The first phase of training will end before Ramadan, while the second phase will begin after Ramadan,” the ministry announced.

Two phases of intensive training are planned for around 69,000 pilgrims under the government system; the second phase is expected to start after Ramadan. Based on the information that is currently available, successful intending pilgrims will receive the comprehensive training schedule via text message and through the Hajj app, which will enable them to attend seminars at convenient local locations.

The Hajj training program is a thorough curriculum with a focus on administrative, discipline, and ritualistic aspects of the Hajj.

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Chief Hajj Trainer Nasir Aziz Khan is overseeing the instruction, which focuses on the ‘Pak Hajj’ smartphone app, preparations, understanding the rite, resolving difficulties, and general rules. Using 3D films and interactive workshops, the creative method uses model tents that resemble Mina Valley to create a realistic learning environment.

It is important to note that Pakistan has already held elections for pilgrims who applied through the official Hajj program. The Short Hajj package has been made available to pilgrims by the authorities, and this year’s Sponsorship Scheme is still in effect.

The cost of the Long Hajj, which would last 38–42 days and include an 8-day stay in Medinah, is Rs 10,65,000 for travelers from the South, including Karachi and Sukkhur, and Rs 10,75,000 for those from other cities, including Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Multan, Sialkot, and Faisalabad.

The cost for applicants to the sponsorship scheme is $3765 for those in the South Region and $3800 for those in the North Region who choose to purchase the Long Hajj package. Regular Hajj candidates would pay Rs 11,40,000 for the South region and Rs 11,50,000 for the North region for the Short Hajj package. Under this program, the Hajj would go for 20–25 days.

The cost of the Short Hajj under the Sponsorship Scheme is $4015 USD for the South and $4050 USD for the North.

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Training schedule to be announced next week for Hajj

Islamabad: Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Aneeq Ahmed, has announced comprehensive plans to further streamline the Hajj pilgrimage experience for Pakistani pilgrims, with the release of a detailed training and biometric schedule slated for next week.

In a recent meeting with Ambassador Nawaf bin Saeed Ahmad Al Maliky of Saudi Arabia, Minister Aneeq Ahmed emphasized the Ministry’s commitment to providing enhanced facilitation for the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage scheduled for June this year. He highlighted the convenience offered to Pakistani pilgrims, who can now complete their Saudi visa biometrics from the comfort of their homes, thanks to innovative initiatives introduced by the Ministry.

Acknowledging the efforts of the Pakistan Hajj Mission, Ambassador Al Maliky congratulated the organization for being recognized among the top three award-winning countries. He commended Minister Aneeq Ahmed’s dedication to ensuring smooth Hajj arrangements and facilitating pilgrims, while also praising the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony and the Pakistan Hajj Mission for their exemplary services related to Hajj.

The recently conducted balloting for pilgrims applying through the government Hajj scheme has already been completed, providing clarity and transparency in the selection process. Additionally, the introduction of the Short Hajj package and the continuation of the Sponsorship Scheme aim to accommodate various preferences and financial capabilities of pilgrims.

Under the Long Hajj package, which includes a 38-42 day journey with an 8-day stay in Medina, pilgrims from different regions will have standardized costs, ensuring equitable access to the spiritual journey. Similarly, the Short Hajj package offers a condensed pilgrimage experience lasting 20-25 days, with costs varying slightly based on the region of departure.

Read more: Good news for Hajj Pilgrim

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Grand Mosque Implements Ban on Children’s Strollers: Here’s What You Need to Know

In a recent development, the government of Saudi Arabia has introduced a new policy regarding the entry of children’s strollers within the Holy Kaaba’s circumambulating area, also known as Mataf. The decision, announced by the General Authority for the Care of the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque, aims to enhance safety and streamline crowd management within the premises.

According to the announcement, children’s strollers will no longer be allowed on the ground floor of Mataf. However, designated areas within the Grand Mosque in Makkah, including the upper floors of Mataf, have been specified where strollers are permitted. Additionally, access to Mas’a, the running area between Safa and Marwa, is allowed for strollers through the King Fahd Expansion Area, except during overcrowded conditions on Mataf and Mas’a floors.

This decision comes as part of the government’s efforts to finalize arrangements for the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage, which is scheduled to be held in June this year. With an expected influx of around 2 million pilgrims from across the world, the authorities are implementing cautionary measures to ensure the safety and comfort of worshippers, especially during the crowded Hajj and Ramadan months.

In line with these efforts, the authorities have also signed agreements with countries, including Pakistan, to facilitate the smooth conduct of Hajj. Moreover, plans are underway to divide Masjid al-Haram into coded zones, aiming to enhance pilgrim experience, streamline movement, and optimize the allocation of resources across the holy site.

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The Grand Mosque in Mecca, home to the Holy Kaaba, holds immense significance for millions of Muslims worldwide who gather to offer prayers, perform Umrah, and undertake the sacred journey of Hajj. Last year, despite challenges posed by the pandemic, the kingdom welcomed over 2 million pilgrims for Hajj and more than 13 million Umrah pilgrims, signaling a gradual return to normalcy with the lifting of social distancing protocols.

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