BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah has justified Brunei’s decision to skip the Haj this year with pilgrims’ safety at risk amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a televised titah marking Hari Raya Aidiladha on Friday, the monarch said it is with a heavy heart that the annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca had to be postponed.
“The postponement is due to the importance of ensuring safety. Safety must not to be neglected, it must be taken care of and preserved. Anything that is unsafe must be avoided,” he added.
On June 10, the government announced that Brunei would not be sending its quota of 1,000 Haj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year due to the pandemic.
The sultan said the deferment of the pilgrimage — a requirement for all able-bodied Muslims — is a test of patience.
The world today is still being tested by the coronavirus pandemic, he said.
“If we accept it with patience, it is not impossible that Allah will reward us based on our good intentions.”
The monarch urged those who were scheduled to attend the Haj this year to not be disappointed.
The Saudi government has limited the number of pilgrims to 1,000 this year and only those who are residing in Saudi Arabia can perform the Haj, a drastic decrease from the 2.9 million pilgrims that performed the pilgrimage last year.
The Haj pilgrimage has never been cancelled since Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932.
Saudi Arabia imposed a temporary ban on the year-round Umrah pilgrimage in March, and the national carrier Royal Brunei Airlines also announced the suspension of flights to Saudi in the same month.
Over 270,000 coronavirus cases have been reported in Saudi, including more than 2,000 deaths.
Following the announcement on Brunei’s decision to cancel the Haj, travel agencies appointed by the government to handle Bruneian Haj and Umrah pilgrims issued refunds to prospective Haj pilgrims.
Hari Raya Aidiladha celebrations on Saturday will also be toned down due to the pandemic.
Congregants who wish to join the mass prayers must register for a spot via the BruHealth app and scan the QR code prior to entering the mosques.
His Majesty and other members of the royal family are expected to join the Aidiladha prayers at Jame’ ‘Asr Hassanil Bolkiah on Saturday.
Hari Raya Aidiladha or the Feast of Sacrifice is performed by slaughtering cattle, goats or camels during the three days of Aidiladha as an act of worship. The sacrificial meat is then distributed to the poor, as well as to friends and family as an act of charity.
The monarch also praised the country’s frontline healthcare workers in dealing with the pandemic regardless of the risks.
He added that their sacrifices will not be in vain as Allah SWT promises great rewards for their determination.
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