Following recent delays in the release of the list of accredited Hajj operators, the South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC) on Monday released the list of companies who are licensed to operate during Hajj 2018/1439. But, absent from the list is well-known operator, al Anwar Express.
The Hajj regulator has encouraged prospective hujjaaj to ensure that they secure bookings with accredited operators to ensure a hassle-free journey. SAHUC says hujjaaj can view packages on the websites of licensed operators once all packages are made available by February 5, 2018.
With the Hajj season on our doorstep, the local Haj and Umrah industry has been at the centre of recent discussions, the latest being the pending accreditation of long standing operator, Al Anwar Express, by SAHUC. This followed a complaint tabled against the operator that was directed to Hajj authorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia about actions of Al Anwar Express during jamarat proceedings in Hajj 2017/1438.
Al Anwar’s spiritual guide, Shaykh AbdurRahman Laily explained that the issue at hand is not focussed on the pelting time of 10h00 that SAHUC agreed upon with the operators, which al Anwar Express did not agree upon, since the decision of pelting times is enforced by the muássasa or the Jamarat Committee of the Ministry of Hajj.
In terms of acceding recommendations made via the mu’assasa Service Office 21, which deals with African non-Arabic speaking pilgrims, Laily said that South Africans would be creating a precedence of pelting at a time that may not be opportune.
He said al Anwar Express does not want to create a precedent in terms of the times of pelting by hujjaaj, forcing south Africans to be bound to the time slot in future.
“Firstly, from a fiqh perspective, South Africans have always been able to conduct all of their manasik, including pelting, at times that would find some resonance in the four schools of fiqh and having opted to accede to the directive put forward via the mu’assasa to pelt before midday on the days of pelting, would mean that we will be going out of the ambit of how the four schools have viewed pelting times,” he stated.
Laily said that the difference of time preference resulted in a ruling by a senior Islamic jurist in South Africa. The scholar ruled that those who had pelted prior to midday would be required to repeat their pelting.
Certain groups of pilgrims were, therefore, forced to repeat their pelting in the heat.
Based on advice from its medical personnel, Dr Shafiq Ismail and Dr Salim Parker, al Anwar opted to pelt before sunset.
Upon leaving the Kingdom, the operator departed with a clean slate, but was later informed that a violation had been lodged against it.
“Al Anwar Express left Saudi Arabia with a clean bill of health, knowing that there was nothing that had been tabled against the name of Al Anwar Express, only to come back to South Africa and then weeks later to receive communication from SAHUC stating that a violation had been tabled with the Jamarat Committee.”
According to Laily, Saudi authorities proceeded to investigate the original source of the email tabling the complaint.
Imam Yusuf Panday, who is a member of Al Anwar Express, is expected to meet with the deputy minister of Hajj in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to find a solution to the matter.
Laily further voiced his concern that the South African Hajj regulator has issued accreditation to prospective hujjaaj and operators without having confirmed that South Africa has 2500 visa placements.
“We must acknowledge that SAHUC has acted in good faith in terms of releasing the accreditation early, even before signing the protocol in Saudi Arabia. The rationale behind that gives incumbent hujjaaj an opportunity of preparing somewhat for their trip in a very volatile climate.
“So, operators on the one hand feel that they have to ‘guesstimate’ their costings so that they can advertise packages, whereas there is no confirmation on the Saudi Arabian side,” Laily noted.
With regards the business of al Anwar, Laily said that SAHUC has dealt it an “unfair hand”, saying he concern was taken directly to the Jamarat Committee, but encourages both operators and SAHUC to work together in the service of hujjaaj.
“Yes, it prejudices Al Anwar Express in a sense that it may not be possible by the time this issue is resolved, to secure any clientele from the first accreditation list, which would be the majority of hujjaaj.”
Comment from SAHUC to follow.