Brunei not to send Haj pilgrims, says minister

Azlan Othman

Brunei Darussalam has deferred participation in this year’s Haj season, out of safety and health concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision was announced yesterday by Minister of Religious Affairs Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Haji Awang Othman, in a press conference providing updates on the COVID-19 situation.

“His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam gave his consent to the recommendation of the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB), which convened last Saturday, for cancelling the participation of Bruneian Haj pilgrims this year,” he said.

“This means that our country will not be sending the 1,000 selected pilgrims and those travelling at their own expenses to perform the Haj.

“Based on the Hukum Syara’, as decreed in the State Mufti’s Fatwa of No 14/2020 regarding the participation of Haj pilgrims, it is confirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic still poses a global threat, and that the spread of this virus is not likely to cease in the near future.

“The government of Saudi Arabia is also attempting to break the chain of COVID-19 transmissions.

“This includes implementing curfews, the suspension of Umrah and the closure of mosques in the holy land, such as Masjidil Haram and Masjid an-Nabawi.

“Thus, it is in accordance with the requirements of Hukum Syara’ to postpone the participation of the Haj pilgrims from Brunei Darussalam for 1441 Hijrah, based on the risks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic which is still prevalent, and it is uncertain as to when it will end.

“If the authorities or the government has ruled out participation in the Haj season for 1441 Hijrah as unsafe, then it must be heeded, to ensure the pilgrims’ wellbeing and safety from the global threat of COVID-19.

“Based on the advice from the Ministry of Health (MoH) regarding the circumstances and global situation of the COVID-19 pandemic during the MUIB council meeting, there are still concerns over the risk of transmissions from the ongoing pandemic.

“The Ministry of Health’s statement is in accordance with Hukum Syara’ Law as decreed by the State Mufti’s Fatwa of No 14/2020, and supports the decision to postpone the pilgrimage
this year.

“Additionally, the relevant parties involved in the management of Haj affairs have said that all matters concerning the participation of 1,000 pilgrims from our country are unable to be carried out, as the proceedings have been put on hold.

“These include pilgrimage visas, flight slots, transportation, hotel reservations in Madinah and Makkah, the procedures in Masya’ir (Arafah and Mina), along with the medical assistance provided by health workers and medical officers from the Ministry of Health, who will join the congregation while in the holy land. As yet, none of these can be carried out or managed.

“The Haj Affairs Department has stated the time constraints in administering to these matters, even if the pilgrimage is open to pilgrims from other countries, in the usual manner.

“In this respect, all transactions and commitments between intending pilgrims and companies providing Haj packages will be mutually settled, including the payments made by the prospective pilgrims to these companies.”