Don’t accept advance payment, Haj operators told

Azlan Othman

The Ministry of Haj and Umrah of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is requesting all Haj operators not to accept advance payments to prevent any problems or losses, although there was a previous agreement for such Haj payments to be settled among agencies in Saudi Arabia, to make arrangements for hotel accommodations and other necessities there.

This was stated by Minister of Religious Affairs Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Haji Awang Othman, when asked about whether the Haj season in July would be affected by the COVID-19 situation.

“The decision to postpone the annual pilgrimage or otherwise depends on the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We can’t decide. Saudi Arabia has written to the ministers concerned with Haj affairs in their respective countries about this,” he said.

The minister also expressed the hope that the outbreak would subside before the start of Ramadhan in late April.

“Fasting, along with the nightly Sunnat Tarawikh, Witir prayers and the recitation of Al-Quran, will be carried out as usual. Given the current situation, we will see if mosques, suraus and religious halls can be used for our religious activities,” he said.

With the temporary closure of mosques, suraus and religious halls, Radio Television Brunei (RTB) and the Islamic Da’wah Centre have collaborated on religious programmes featuring experts from the State Mufti’s Office, the Syariah Court, Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) and the Religious Teachers University College of Seri Begawan (KUPU SB), in addition to accredited speakers or Da’ie.

Asked about whether Zakat money would be distributed to those affected by dwindling business during the COVID-19 outbreak, the minister said, “In the current situation, businesses are entitled for deferred payment, which does not fall within the category of Zakat recipients.

“But if they fall within the poor and destitute category following the outbreak, then the Zakat money can be distributed according to their suitability.”

The minister also said that around 116 local mosques had undergone cleaning and disinfection by March 26, and that several companies were appointed to carry out the sanitation efforts.