Bandar Seri Begawan (The Brunei Times/ANN) - Only 400 Bruneian Hajj pilgrims will perform this year's pilgrimage, as the quota system that has been set by the Saudi Arabian government is 0.1 per cent of the country's population, the Minister of Religious Affairs said.
"For Brunei, the quota for Hajj pilgrims is 400 but usually we apply for an increase [in the quota] for which Brunei usually sends 1,400 each year," said Pengiran Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Muhammad Pengiran Hj Abdul Rahman during a media conference at the Ministry of Religious Affairs' Kuliah Hall.
He explained that for this year, the Saudi Arabian authorities have stated that every country must follow the quota system due to the growing Islamic population in Muslim countries, as the facilities and places of worship would not be able to accommodate more than the quota, especially in Masyair, Mina.
"This has resulted in the inability of the places that are available to address the addition of pilgrims outside the official quota of each country," said the religious minister.
He added that the Saudi Arabian authorities is currently implementing various important projects at the two mosques, Haram Mosque and Nabawi Mosque, and in Masyair, with the aims of accommodating the ever increasing pilgrims in the future.
"Under these circumstances, the Brunei government through the appropriate agencies, have tried to sought approval from the Saudi Arabian government to give consideration in giving the extra quota which has been given to us since before," said the minister.
Looking at the latest developments, the ministry has taken into account criteria for the eligibility and selection of the chosen 400 pilgrims.
For applicants who have not yet fulfilled the Hajj pilgrimage before; priority will be followed by an age sequence order: age 60 above, 59 to 50, 49 to 40, 39 to 30 and 29 to 15. Ages 15 years below will not be prioritised.
Other criteria,including applicants who have medical conditions and need a companion, must submit their applications to the Pilgrimage Department for consideration; and that applicants being chosen must be from the order of registration.
"It is hoped that for the prospective Hajj pilgrims that were not listed for this year would understand the decision made by the Saudi Arabian government in restricting the number of pilgrims to perform the Hajj. This is to ensure that it runs smoothly, properly and for the safety, well-being and comfort of pilgrims in the Holy Land," said the religious minister.
He added that for the prospective Hajj pilgrims not listed for this year to be patient and to pray as their wish to perform the pilgrimage will be realised.