UAE announces new Haj, Umrah rules; fines of up to Dh50,000 for violations

Operators cannot receive pilgrimage requests without prior approval

by

Waad Barakat

/

Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Mon 27 May 2024, 12:58 PM

Last updated: Mon 27 May 2024, 10:07 PM

Operators in the UAE cannot receive applications or requests for Haj or Umrah without prior approval from the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, it was announced Monday.

This came as the authority announced hefty fines for misusing pilgrimage services. Individuals, campaign organisers, and offices will be fined up to Dh50,000 for violating the law.


Operators have to obtain approval from the authorities before organising or advertising Haj or Umrah trips. In addition, it prohibits collecting or receiving donations for the pilgrimage without a license.

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The new rules aim to regulate organising the Islamic pilgrimage, including licensing procedures and fines related to violations.

Don’t get fooled

Licensed operators in the country have welcomed the new rules, highlighting that the stringent fine will deter illegal activities.

According to Kabeer Master, Managing Director of Al Yarmook Hajj, Umrah and travel, several people try to enter Makkah illegally during the time of Haj. “Some people take multiple entry visas and then enter the country through roads illegally,” he said. “The new laws will be a deterrent to that. Anyone who is attempting to perform Haj, should do so through legal channels.”

Some illegal operators advertise Umrah permits for very low costs on social media. Agents have warned residents against falling for it. “Many of these operators are illegal and don’t have the necessary permits,” said Noushad Hassan, managing Director of Alhind Business Centre. “They take business visas and then rent out buses with international permits or book flight tickets and then market it as an Umrah package. The new rules will crack down on these unscrupulous agents.”

He further urged residents to check the licenses of the travel agents they pick for performing Haj or Umrah. “For Haj, there are only 10 licensed operators here,” he said. “And when getting Umrah permits, it is important to check the credibility of the agency. Now, with Saudi’s multiple entry visas, it has become easier for individuals to travel for Umrah on their own, without employing a travel agency.”

Haj

Haj, which has been held every year since the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), is one of the five pillars of Islam. All Muslims are required to undertake it at least once in their lives if they are physically and financially able to do so.

Many pilgrims spend their whole lives saving up for the journey or wait years to get a permit, which Saudi authorities issue based on quotas. There are packages available for pilgrims of all income levels, and charities to assist those in need.

The final days of Haj coincide with Eid Al Adha, or the festival of sacrifice. This is a joyous occasion celebrated by Muslims around the world to commemorate Ibrahim’s faith test. During the three-day Eid, Muslims slaughter livestock and distribute meat to the poor.

Pilgrims are selected through an electronic lottery, creating the ideal environment for them to perform the pilgrimage easily, conveniently, and safely.

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