Over 7,000 in ‘hajj queue’; those who pay now will have to wait until 2033

Hajj pilgrims bid farewell to their families on June 7, 2024. (Photo/President's Office)

There are over 7,000 people waiting in queue to go on hajj pilgrimage, with those who pay now needing to wait until 2033 to go on the holy pilgrimage.

The long waitlist for the annual hajj pilgrimage is an issue of deep concern to Maldivians, many of whom have spent their entire lives saving up to perform the rite.

Aishath Gahir, the head of office operations at the Maldives Hajj Corporation, told Sun on Sunday that there are thousands of people on the waitlist, and that those who put down their names now will need to wait until 2033 to perform the hajj.

The long waitlist came under renewed scrutiny recently, following the government’s decision to sponsor the pilgrimage of 1,000 people below the poverty line over the next five years.

50 of them travelled to Saudi Arabia for perform this year’s hajj, over the last two weeks.

Islamic Minister Dr. Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed blamed the long waitlist on the three years foreign pilgrims were restricted from performing the hajj in Saudi Arabia, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Shaheem said he found the refusal to accept the “obvious truth” and tarnish the reputation of Hajj Corporation “regrettable.”

He said the Maldivian people should be proud of Hajj Corporation.

The 50 people who received the free hajj trips have also come under scrutiny, especially in light of allegations that some of them skipped the queue.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mohamed Iyaz Abdul Latheef, an Islamic scholar, recently raised concern over government sponsorship of hajj pilgrimage.

He said that hajj is only obligated upon Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and of supporting their family during their absence from home.

However, other Islamic scholars, including Shaheem, do not see an issue with government sponsorship of hajj pilgrimage.

Shaheem also insisted that no one was shown preferential treatment.

Maldives received 1,000 quotas for this year’s hajj. The last of the Maldivian pilgrims left for Saudi Arabia last weekend.

Government sponsorship of hajj pilgrimage for 1,000 people living below the poverty line was one of President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu’s electoral pledges.