Uncertainty has gripped the Bangladeshi pilgrims over Umrah as the Ministry of Religious Affairs has not finalized the list of Hajj agencies yet.
Sources in the ministry say that they have prepared an initial list of hajj agencies but have not made a final list to deal with the pilgrims for perfuming Umrah.
Every year around 2.5 million Bangladeshi pilgrims perform Umrah, a voluntary Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina undertaken any time of the year. A big jam of waiting pilgrims has been created as no pilgrim from Bangladesh could perform the ritual in the last one and a half years.
Bangladeshi pilgrims, wishing to perform Umrah this year, do not know when they would be able to perform the ritual though Saudi Arabia has lifted the ban for Muslims living worldwide.
Ministry sources say that they are very cautious in finalising the list as they received numerous complaints from pilgrims against hajj agencies.
A top official of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, claiming anonymity, has said that they have already prepared a primary list of 247 hajj agencies and published it on Wednesday.
“We are taking time in finalising the complete list this year as we have received so many complaints from the pilgrims against the agencies in previous years,” said the official.
According to hajj agency owners, before sending Bangladeshi pilgrims to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah, agencies of two countries have to sign a deal and settle the fees which are impossible until the ministry confirms the names of Bangladeshi agencies.
“Umrah pilgrims are sent through the deals between private agencies of two countries. The Ministry of Religious Affairs has not finalised the list of our Umrah hajj agencies yet,” said M Shahadat Hossain Taslim, President of Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB). “Under the circumstances, if the process begins now, it will take at least three weeks to complete. Therefore, I hardly see any possibility of Bangladeshi pilgrims performing Umrah within one or one and a half months,” he added.
HM Ataur Rahman, Managing Director of Musafir Travels, said, “We have requested the pilgrims to wait for some days as we have not signed any agreement with the Saudi agencies. We have told them that we will inform them if we can settle the issue.” A number of hajj agency owners have blamed the lack of preparation of the Ministry of Religious Affairs for such a situation. Consequently, many pilgrims who wish to perform the ritual this year have expressed their frustrations in this regard.
Md Mainur Rahman Siddiqui, a pilgrim who wants to perform Umrah this year, said, “I was trying to perform hajj for the last couple of years but it was not possible as no pilgrims living outside Saudi Arabia was allowed to perform the ritual in the last two years due to the coronavirus situation.”
“I am physically ill. I don’t know whether I would remain alive till the Hajj next year. Thus I want to see the house of Allah before my death by performing Umrah,” he added.
“Muslim pilgrims of many countries have started performing Umrah from August 11,” he said, urging the government to take quick measures so that he can fulfil his wish.
This year no pilgrim aged less than 18 years can perform Umrah and only the pilgrims who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 either with complete doses of Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, or J&J or complete doses of China’s vaccines with a booster shot of Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, or J&J will be allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia for Umrah.