Their Majesties receive Haj pilgrims

National 3 minutes, 14 seconds


FOUR hundred Haj pilgrims met with His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, and Her Majesty Duli Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha yesterday before they leave for Saudi Arabia to embark on a journey to Islam’s holiest sites.

As is tradition, Their Majesties held a meet-and-greet session with the contingent – 204 men and 196 women – at Istana Nurul Iman before they depart for Mekah on August 30.

Receiving the male visitors was His Majesty and His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office. Meanwhile, receiving the female visitors in a separate room was Her Majesty, HRH Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah, and HRH Princess Hjh Rashidah Sa’adatul Bolkiah.

All pilgrims were also presented with kurnia (personal gift) from His Majesty, with men receiving ihram (Haj robe) and females receiving telekung (female prayer robes).

The pilgrims will leave in two batches on August 30 and 31, accompanied by 15 government officials and a medical team of four doctors and 16 nurses.

In a previous report, the health ministry said the government has set up two clinics for Brunei citizens at Hotel Dallah Taibah in Madinah, and in the Shisha area of Mekah, three kilometres from Masjid Al-Haram.

The Haj Medical Services Unit will provide basic health care, pharmacy, ambulance and 24-hour emergency services for Bruneians.

All Haj pilgrims have undergone a medical assessment to ensure they are healthy enough to perform the pilgrimage, which includes a four-kilometre journey by foot from Arafat to Mina.

One pilgrim, Fatimah Abdullah Sani, said she was grateful to the ministry for ensuring they are safe while abroad.

“I am old, approaching 63, and I have high blood pressure. So it puts my mind at ease that I don’t have to worry about looking for a doctor or worrying my family if anything were to happen to me,” she said.

Pilgrims have also prepared diligently for the journey, taking the compulsory Haj courses run by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

The course covers the practical elements of the Haj, such as correct way to don the ihram, as well as the obligatory rituals such as the symbolic stoning the devil.

Twenty-three-year-old Aisha said the course helped her understand the spiritual significance of the rituals.

“I am accompanying my parents on the Haj, and at first I was a little scared because I felt overwhelmed like I was not ready. But after learning more about the journey week after week, I feel more confident that I can submit myself to Allah’s (SWT) mercy.”

The Saudi Arabian government has capped the number of pilgrims from Brunei at 400, due to the ongoing upgrades of mosques Masjidil Haram in Mekah and Masjid Nabawi in Madinah.

The reduction in quota – which was previously set at 1,000 – has driven up the cost of performing Haj, with the cheapest Haj package priced around $8,000, and the most expensive around $15,000.

The government does provide a subsidy for civil servants, ranging from $3,500 to $4,500, to cover the airfare.

Retired government officer Mohd Shaafiq said the burden for prospective pilgrims is becoming greater, and many would not be able to afford the journey without the government allowance.

“The Quran says we should only perform Haj if we are financially able. But for many people, it is their dream to fulfil their iman (faith) as Muslims. I have saved many years since my retirement to finally take this step,” he said.

The Haj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is a religious obligation for all Muslims – that are physically and financially capable – to undertake at least once in their lifetime.

The pilgrimage occurs during the last month of the Islamic calendar, when millions of Muslims converge on Mekah for a week to perform a series of rituals.

The Brunei Times