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500 Somali pilgrims arrive in Mecca to begin Hajj journey


Saturday May 25, 2024
By Yunis Dekow

The first group of Somali pilgrims to arrive in Mecca on Thursday was verified by Mukhtar Robow, the country’s minister of endowment and religious affairs. For thousands of Somalis, this is the start of their Hajj pilgrimage journey.

This marks the commencement of the Hajj pilgrimage journey for thousands of Somalis.

Hajj, an annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, is one of Islam’s five pillars. Every year, millions of Muslims from all over the world go to Saudi Arabia to complete the religious obligations contained in Islamic teachings.

“We did adequate planning ahead of the Hajj period which has been largely successful. This is a momentous occasion for our country and our people,” said Minister Robow.

On Thursday, 500 pilgrims touched down in Saudi Arabia, with 11,000 Somalis anticipated to participate in this year’s pilgrimage to Mecca.

The number excludes Muslim faithful from the Federal Member State of Puntland which withdrew from Somalia’s 2024 Hajj pilgrimage.

The semi-autonomous Federal member state cited concerns of purported black market trading of pilgrimage slots and the politicization of the pilgrimage process by the Federal Government as the basis for their withdrawal.

The Somali Federal Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs is responsible for monitoring religious affairs and promoting religious tolerance in the country.

Pilgrims from Somalia arrive in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, aboard a bus, marking the beginning of their journey for the annual Hajj pilgrimage next month.

Other specific responsibilities of the ministry include arranging affairs for Somali Hajj pilgrims and regulating religious instruction throughout the country.

Abdi Ali Hisri, who arrived from Medina, the second holiest city in Islam after Mecca, after completing Umrah, described the journey to the sacred land to perform Hajj as “a transformative experience, a journey of the heart and soul.”

“Conducting Umrah before Hajj has prepared me spiritually for the challenges and blessings of this sacred pilgrimage,” he said.

Sheikh Haji Shire, a coordinating officer at the Ministry of Religious Endowment received the pilgrims who were transported in a convoy of select buses for Somali citizens.

He expressed gratitude as he received the delegation to the holy city of Mecca.

“We are blessed to be here and grateful for the hospitality extended to us by the Saudi authorities,” Sheikh Shire remarked, acknowledging the support provided to pilgrims from around the world.

Pilgrims from Somalia arrive in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, aboard a bus, marking the beginning of their journey for the annual Hajj pilgrimage next month

The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has suspended Umrah permits, starting from May 23 to June 21, to facilitate the ease of rituals for Hajj pilgrims. During this time, visit visa holders will be barred from entering Makkah.

“Anyone found violating this rule faces fines up to SR10,000, (Sh 354,610) with penalties doubling for repeat offenders,” the Ministry said in a statement.

It added, “Expatriates caught without permits will be deported, with a ban on reentry. Transporting violators will incur imprisonment up to six months and fines up to SR50,000, (Sh 1,773,054) with vehicles subject to confiscation.”

Haji Abdiaziz Fiiqow of Tadaamun Hajj and Umrah welcomed the pronouncements which aim to streamline the pilgrimage experience for Hajj pilgrims in Makkah.

He expressed gratitude for the measures aimed at upholding the sanctity and safety of the Hujajs, critical in maintaining order and compliance within the holy sites of Makkah and its surroundings.

Pilgrims from Somalia arrive in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, aboard a bus, marking the beginning of their journey for the annual Hajj pilgrimage next month

He said the decision will ensure a smooth and orderly Hajj experience for pilgrims.

“Clarity on visa regulations is crucial to prevent any misunderstandings or disruptions during the pilgrimage,” Haji Fiiqow said.

267,657 travellers from all over the world arrived in Saudi Arabia as of Sunday to undertake the yearly Hajj pilgrimage.

According to the General Directorate of Passports, these pilgrims arrived through Saudi airports, seaports, and land entry points, with the majority travelling by air.

The directorate said it will streamline entry procedures for pilgrims by enhancing online platforms at entry points with advanced technology and multilingual staff to assist pilgrims effectively.

Somalia is predominantly Sunni Muslim, comprising over 99 per cent of the population. With estimates ranging from 12.4 million to at least 15.7 million, Somalia boasts one of the largest Muslim demographics in Africa.

Islam plays a central role in Somali society, influencing various aspects of daily life, culture, and governance.

Mosques and other Islamic Institutions serve as focal points for community gatherings, religious education, and spiritual guidance.

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