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Pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina now restricted to "once in a lifetime"
Sunday, April 15th 2012,
The Centre has now restricted the number of pilgrimages to Mecca and Madina to "once in a lifetime," instead of the former policy of "once every five years." The MEA said the new changes were created to ensure that every Haji will be able to go at least once in their lifetime, as well as to combat the rising numbers of pilgrims and related costs.
Bringing about a major change in its Haj policy, the Centre has decided to restrict the number of pilgrimages to the holy towns of Mecca and Madina to “once in a lifetime”, as opposed to the existing policy of “once in five years”. The rule will apply for pilgrims who go through the Haj Committee of India (HCOI).
Inquiring the Supreme Court about the change, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said in an affidavit that the new guidelines were framed to ensure that a Haji benefits from government subsidy only once in his or her lifetime.
The apex court was hearing the MEA’s appeal against a Bombay high court order, which had last year directed the government to allot additional quota to private tour operators organizing the pilgrimage. Though the SC provided the government with interim relief, it also decided to examine the MEA’s Haj pilgrimage policy.
“This is a major change that has been introduced for the first time. [We will] restrict the number of pilgrimages to a Haj applicant through the HCOI to ‘once in a lifetime’ as against the existing ‘once in five years’. This will ensure that the Haji will benefit from government subsidy only once in his/her lifetime. It will also ensure that priority is given to applicants who have never performed Haj,” read the MEA affidavit filed through counsel Haris Beeran.
According to the affidavit, the number of pilgrims had increased from 21,035 in 1994 to 2.5 million in 2011. The subsidy amount per pilgrim had also shot up. While the per pilgrim government subsidy was almost $100 in 1994, it had risen to over $750 last year.
According to the MEA, this year it would give priority to applicants above the age of 70, and those who had failed to make it to the subsidy list despite trying for the last three years.
The Justice Ministry will soon make an announcement to establish the age of consent for Saudi women to marry, local daily Al-Madinah reported yesterday quoting an official source at the ministry.
Director of the Department of Marriage at the ministry Muhammad Al-Babtain said a decision on the issue would soon be announced following the agreement of departments in the ministry involved on deciding on an age of consent.
"The project was discussed by a number of government departments concerned. The ministry deemed it appropriate to decide a certain age for the marriage of the underage girls taking into account its social and psychological aspects," he said.
Al-Babtain declined to reveal the age of consent for marriage, but said the issue was still being discussed.
He said fixing an age for the marriage of young girls is commensurate with Shariah rules and the culture of the society. "Underage marriages are permissible under Islamic law," he explained.
Al-Babtain pointed out the ministry had prepared a Shariah-based study that confirmed that marrying young girls was not against Shariah rules.
He refuted allegations, however, that the ministry had abstained from fixing a definite age for the marriage of young girls and said the ministry had maintained a solid stand on the issue and would support any move aimed at organizing such marriages to ensure the safety and security of young girls.
Al-Babtain made it clear that it was not only the ministry which would take a decision on the issues but the matter was of concern to many other government departments.
Al-Madinah also quoted another official as saying the Ministry of Justice is planning to make it compulsory for all Saudi men and women intending to get married for the first time to go through rigorous training on married life.
The official said the ministry decided to take the step after noticing a remarkable rise in divorces among newly married couples. According to official statistics, about 66 percent of divorces in Saudi Arabia took place during the first year of marriage.
A complete medical checkup for hereditary diseases and HIV are a must for Saudis and foreigners in the Kingdom in order to have their marriages officially certified.
Before marriages are conducted, a certificate of training on the culture of married life and a medical certificate should now be presented by the two people intending to tie the knot.
The ministry has also established marriage reconciliation offices attached to courts to settle matrimonial differences before they reach the judges. "These offices have succeeded in settling about 80 percent of the cases," the official revealed.
There are about 37 marriage reconciliation offices attached to courts in various regions of the Kingdom. The offices consider marital differences with a view to settling them before the married couples stand before the judge.
He added that based on the success of the experiment, the ministry was making plans to shift these offices outside courts making them autonomous entities and equipping them with sufficient qualified staff.
According to the source, the marriage reconciliation office in Bisha has settled about 90.76 percent of marriage differences before they were presented to the judge. In Buraidah 79.1 percent and in Belqarin 83.33 percent were reconciled.
A conference on family problems recently organized by the ministry had discussed the issue of subjecting young couples intending to get married to training on conjugal life.
As a result of the recommendations of the conference, the ministry was planning to make enlightenment about married life a must before any marriage contract was signed.
Presidency of the Two Holy Affairs
denies intention to eventually expand the Mataf
رئاسة شؤون الحرمين تنفي نيتها في توسعة المطاف
20 أبريل, 2012 إرسال التعليق تكبير تصغير
نفت الرئاسة العامة لشؤون الحرمين على لسان مدير المشاريع والدراسات بها ،عبد المحسن بن حميد، أن تكون قد شرعت في توسعة الطواف، كما رفض الافصاح عن زمن معين للانطلاق في المشروع قائلا "قد نبدأ في الغد أو بعد عام" .
واكد عبد المحسن بن حميد في تصريح لـ"الشرق الاوسط" ، أنه سيتم رسميا الاعلان عن الانطلاق في المشروع عبر وسائل الاعلام فور تحديد تاريخه، مفندا بذلك كل المزاعم التي ذهبت إليه بعض وسائل الإعلام التي أفادت بأنه قد تم البدء في الأساسيات من خلال عمليات مبدئية للجزء الواقع بين بابي الصفا والفتح، وتكسير الجزء الأعلى لمنطقة بئر زمزم القديمة.
تجدر الاشارة الى أن خادم الحرمين الشريفين الملك عبد الله بن عبد العزيز، أمر بأكبر توسعة للمسجد الحرام وذلك تسهيلا لأداء مناسك الحج، حيث من المنتظر ان تسهم هذه العملية في رفع الطاقة الاستيعابية إلى ما يتجاوز 130 ألف طائف في الساعة، في حين انها تقدر حاليا بـ 50 ألفا في الساعة اي ارتفاع بنسبة 250 بالمائة .
The General Presidency for the Holy Mosque, Abdul Mohsen Bin Humaid, has denied that they had started the expansion of the Tawaf area, and he refused to disclose the specific time for the start of the project, saying, "We may start in the morning or after a year."
MAKKAH - Work on the expansion of the Mataf area and a tunnel to the Zamzam well is taking place at a rapid pace and will be completed soon.
A tour of the Grand Mosque on Friday by Okaz/Saudi Gazette revealed that major progress has been made without much inconvenience to worshippers.
Workers are working around-the-clock to complete development projects in the Grand Mosque's courtyards before the middle of Shaban when all work has to stop to prepare the Grand Mosque for Ramadan.
The movement of worshippers in the Mataf area has not been disrupted despite the fact that the number of Umrah pilgrims has increased by 20 percent this year.
Sources said that the tallest crane in the world (200 meters high) will be used in the east courtyards of the Grand Mosque, right in front of the rest rooms. This crane, manufactured in Germany, will transport construction materials from the courtyards to the Grand Mosque without disrupting the movement of Umrah pilgrims and visitors.
Around 5,000 workers are racing to complete all the projects on time.
MAKKAH - Although banned, the sale of bottled Zamzam water on streets and in public places goes on uninterrupted in the holy city and its environs. To put an end to this phenomenon, an environmental specialist has called on authorities to set up sales outlets on expressways and main roads, especially at the entry and exit points of Makkah, according to a report in a local Arabic daily.
Dr. Fahd Turkistani,associateprofessoratUmm Al-QuraUniversityand environmental arbitrator at the Gulf Cooperation Council, stressed the need to set up kiosks for the sale of Zamzam along expressways and main roads. This task should be undertaken by the Makkah Municipality, with the supervision of the Environmental Health Department and the Civil Defense. "Zamzam distribution outlets should be compliant with health and environment standardsand specifications,and forthis, supervision by these agencies is essential," he said.
According to Dr. Turkistani, the Environmental Health Department and the Civil Defense must have a role in choosing an appropriate site to set up these kiosks. "These kiosks should be arranged in such a way that prevents exposure to the rays of the sun or high temperatures that could result in the contamination of Zamzam.It isessentialthatsitesof kiosks are protected from exposure to the sun as much as possible," he said.
The expert noted that current practices in the sale of Zamzam on the streets are uncivilizedand do not reflect thebeauty of Makkah.
"Millions of Umrah pilgrims and visitors to Islam's holiest shrine are eager to buy Zamzam, and some of them are forced to buy it from street vendors due to the rush at the distribution center on the premises of the bottling plant," he said. Dr. Turkistani highlighted thesignificanceof setting up official kiosksfor selling Zamzam.
"It is essential to ensure that only the Zamzam water bottled from the King Abdullah Bottling Plant is soldattheseoutlets. Bottles filled by hand should not be allowed to be sold," hesaid.Healso called forstringentpunitive measures such as imposing fines, closing kiosks or canceling the licenses of those violating theregulations.
The expert wonders why the bottling plant authorities are not fulfilling their promise in this regard. "These officials earlierannounced that bottled Zamzam water from the plant would be made availableforsaleat commercial centers and grocery stores. They also disclosed that there would be sales outlets at the entry and exit points of the holy city," he added.
Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Emir of Makkah region, had earlier directed the concerned departments to prevent the sale of Zamzam along main roads and streets. He also instructed officials to deal firmly with street vendors who sell ordinary water as Zamzam.
Makkah Clock 2,000,000 LEDs shining on the world's largest clock
No fewer than 1,000 high-efficiency DIN-rail power supplies have been supplied by German power supply manufacturer Puls to light 2,000,000 LEDs on the world's largest clock.
The Mecca Royal Hotel clock in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia - the tallest hotel, with the world and the world's largest clock face- boasts four faces, each a staggering 46 metres in diameter and 200 metres high.
The clock is illuminatedby two million LEDs, said to bevisiblefrom 25 kilometres, while a further 21,000 white and green coloured lights, representing the Saudi Flag, flash fivetimesa day to call worshipers to prayer.
The 1,000 PULS XT 40 DIN-rail power supplieseach deliver1,000W,providing the 1,000,000W needed to supply theenormous complex.
Puls UK's managing director Harry Moore claims high f efficiency achieved (up to 95%), meaning less energy wasted and less heat generated - and important factor in a country where ambient temperatures of 40░C are not uncommon.
MAKKAH - Over 400 Ministry of Haj staff in Makkah, Madina and Jeddah are demanding that the ministry pay them their salaries for last month (Jumada I). Some are also demanding they get paid their Haj allowances from last year.
One of the employees said: "I don't understand why we have not been paid so far even though we're now on the ministry's payroll list. When we were working temporarily for the ministry, we got paid on time."
Khalid Al-Salimi, director of personnel affairs, from the ministry's Makkah branch, attributed the delay in salaries to the fact that the employees signed permanent contracts in mid-Jumada I (April 1) and it was difficult to pay salaries at the end of the same month.
"The payments go through certain regulations that take time. However, the ministry has already sent the employees' papers to the Ministry of Finance."
Al-Salimi told employees that they will be paid their salaries next week, adding that the complaint over a one month delay was unnecessary. As for Haj allowances, Al-Salimi said that all employees were paid their allowances on time. Those who have not been paid should go to the personnel department and enquire about the reason for the delay.