SINGAPORE - Local pilgrims will be able to perform the haj this year, with Singapore granted a quota of 407 places out of 850,000 international pilgrims.
Singapore's quota this year is less than half of the previous official quota of 900, said the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) on Tuesday (April 26).
Due to Covid-19, Muis did not send pilgrims for the haj in 2020 and 2021.
Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced that Haj 2022 will be opened to one million pilgrims in total, with each country being given approximately 45 per cent of their previous official pre-pandemic quota.
The ministry also announced that this year's haj pilgrims must be aged below 65, vaccinated against Covid-19 with a Saudi-approved vaccine and must submit a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within 72 hours from the time of departure to Saudi Arabia.
Muis said that due to the deferment of the haj in 2020 and 2021, it will re-allocate the limited quota to pilgrims who were supposed to perform their haj in 2020 and now meet the conditions and requirements for this year's pilgrimage.
It added: "All other pilgrims who are in the Advance Haj Registration System will be automatically moved in the queue to perform haj in subsequent years. All pilgrims' eligibility to perform every year is subject to conditions and requirements mandated by the relevant Saudi authorities."
Muis had earlier reached out to pilgrims affected by the deferment in the past two years to get their updated contact details, vaccination status and their interest in performing the haj this year.
"This is part of Muis' efforts to get prospective pilgrims to prepare early, remain flexible and be spiritually, physically, mentally, and financially ready to perform their haj," it said.
Those who have yet to reply to Muis are urged to do so by the coming Friday, or they will be automatically moved in the queue for subsequent years.
Muis will announce approved haj travel agents and haj package prices on May 4.
A confirmed list of pilgrims who meet the requirements for this year's haj will be issued formal offer letters on May 5.
Eligible pilgrims will be notified via SMS to check their e-mail for details on the collection of their offer letter.
Pilgrims are required to purchase haj packages with their preferred approved travel agent within three calendar days upon accepting their offer letters.
Muis expects an increase in costs of approved packages this year compared with before the pandemic.
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that he is grateful Singaporean pilgrims will be able to perform the haj even though the quota this year is smaller.
He added: "For those who have not been allocated haj places this year, please do not be disheartened. In our recent meeting, Saudi's Hajj and Umrah Minister, His Excellency Dr Tawfiq Al Rabiah, assured me that the kingdom will provide more haj places for international pilgrims once the Covid-19 situation improves.
"On my part, let me reassure you that Muis and I will continue to request for more haj places beyond our official quota in view of the long queue of aspiring pilgrims in Singapore."
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.