Saudi Arabia has decided to triple the number of umrah visas issued every year, referring the sharp increase to the new expansions in the haram area.
“We are going online as an ambitious plan to double the number of Umrah pilgrims during the next five years,” Hajj Minister Bandar Al-Hajjar told Saudi Gazette.
He added that starting from 2016, 1.25 million pilgrims are expected to arrive every month compared to the present number of 400,000.
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Hajjar said the new system is aimed at increasing the number of pilgrims so as to fully utilize the gigantic projects implemented by the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
The minister said he would soon meet Umrah company owners to discuss plans for the Umrah season of 1437H which will begin in mid-November.
He called for deeper coordination among all agencies to provide excellent services to Haj and Umrah pilgrims.
According to hajj ministry, five million Umrah visas were issued in 2013 and six million each during 2014 and 2015.
It is expecting 10 million visas to be issued in 2016 and 60 million by 2018.
The word `Umrah means visiting or attending. `Umrah is an act of worship. Allah Almighty says, “Perform the Hajj and `Umrah for Allah…” (Al-Baqarah 2:196).
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have performed `Umrah after the treaty of Hudaybiyah, thereafter, he explained to other followers how it should be performed.
To begin the performance of `Umrah is to enter the city of Makkah with ihram (a sacred state), and the intention of making `Umrah, before crossing the pilgrimage boundary, known as miqat, by performing the cleansing rituals and wearing the prescribed attire.
Upon entering the Holy city, pilgrims then perform circumambulation (tawaf) around the Ka`bah, then perform sa`i between the two small mountains of Safa and Marwa, and finally to shave the head or have a haircut; a woman cuts her hair from the ends of the hair the length of a finger tip.
This was the ancient practice from the time of Prophet Ibrahim (peace and blessings be upon him). Its purpose is to allow Muslims to visit the city of Makkah during the year whenever possible. It is to keep the Ka`bah visited not only during the Hajj but to keep it visited by Muslims throughout the year.
According to [some] Muslim jurists`Umrah is obligatory (upon those who can afford it), at least once in a lifetime, either with or before Hajj or at any other time during the year. As one of the five pillars of Islam, Hajj is incumbent upon those who can afford it, once in a lifetime. ONISLAM