2000 News Story

Malaysian conference on Hajj and Umrah regulations

At a news briefing at the conclusion of the three-day conference, 'First Conference on Hajj Guidance - Towards Hajj Mabrur', held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Minister of Hajj Iyad Madani said that the aim of the new umrah [the minor pilgrimage] regulations, which would take full effect immediately following this year's hajj [the major pilgrimage], is to make the observance of religious rituals easier and better organized. With the new regulations, he said, there would be no ceiling on the number of people wishing to perform umrah; the umrah season, moreover, would be extended, and pilgrims would be able to travel anywhere in the Kingdom, to visit relatives, go to university campuses and medical institutes, or just enjoy the tourist facilities. In addition, the umrah visa will be for one month instead of two weeks as at present, and transit umrah visas would be available at the Kingdom's international airports for 72-hour periods.

Organization of the umrah pilgrimage, however, would still be through licensed operators, working through agents in the countries of origin of the pilgrims; and no operator will be licensed unless he has the logistics, staff, experience and background to provide the service.

The pilgrims' guidance conference concluded today by recommending that each Muslim country fully explain all aspects of pilgrimage to its pilgrims ahead of their arrival at the holy sites, not only religion, but social behavior, health, the environment and security. It also recommended the formation of a working team comprising Iran, Jordan, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Pakistan as well as Saudi Arabia, to devise a framework for such explanation that would include countries with Muslim minorities.