New Hajj System and Rules – New Hajj portal “Motawif”
Due to strict Covid-19 precautions in 2021, the annual pilgrimage was more of a predominantly domestic affair as the majority of pilgrims consisted of Saudi residents and nationals. However, this year for Hajj 2022, the Saudi Arabian government has allocated a quota of one million slots for both local and international pilgrims.
The concern doesn’t end here as the plan to participate in Hajj this year suddenly changes things for thousands of western Muslims as the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announces new hajj system/rules just weeks before the start of Dhul Hijjah.
So, what does this mean for pilgrims this year? Here is everything you need to know about the new hajj system/rules.
What Is the New Hajj System That Has Been Put into Place?
Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam. It is an obligation on all financially and physically stable Muslims to perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime. This year, Hajj 2022 is expected to fall between 7-12 July 2022 (1443 AH).
On 7th June 2022, almost twenty-five days before Hajj, the Saudi Arabian Government has announced new Hajj rules and regulations that oblige the citizens of the UK, US, Europe, and Australia to register for the annual pilgrimage via a government website, Motawif. This online portal has been designed to give western Muslims visas based on the results of an automated lottery system.
With the declaration of the new pilgrimage rules and regulations, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has taken away the authority from travel agents and asked them to give a full refund to all Hajj seekers.
Motawif being a direct-to-consumer booking process has made the Hajj registration system simpler as once your application is approved (randomly selected via the lottery system), all you need to do is book your hotel and flights directly with the Saudi Government.
Moreover, according to the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, for the year 2022, priority will be given to pilgrims who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, are under the age of 65 years, and have never performed Hajj before.
In order to ensure regulation of Hajj without any hindrance, the KSA authorities have strictly stated that only those with Umrah and Hajj permits will be allowed to enter Makkah. This means that no Saudi Arabia pilgrims (nationals, expatriate residents, or visitors) will be permitted entry into the premises of the holy city until after the completion of Hajj.
When Was This Announced?
Just a few weeks before Hajj, on 7th June 2022, the Saudi Arabian government announced the new hajj system/rules, which means that prospective travellers from western countries must now register for Hajj through the newly created global online portal “Motawif” rather than booking through travel agencies.
Why Has the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah Done This?
It is believed that the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has introduced this new system in order to centralise all tourist and travel operations. Data collected through registration on Motawif will give them complete control and make the system fairer. Moreover, it will be the Saudi officials who will allow people to perform Hajj based on specific criteria:
- Must be vaccinated for Covid-19
- Is performing Hajj for the first time
- Must be 65 years old or younger
What Does This Mean for Hajj Pilgrims from around the World?
Announced three weeks before Hajj by the Saudi Government, the new hajj system/rules have caused chaos all over the world. With the launch of the web portal (Motawif), the people planning to go to Hajj this year are notified to cancel their bookings and start again by registering for the e-lottery on Motawif.
This last-minute announcement hasn’t only disrupted the plans of thousands of pilgrims but has also taken away the main source of income from travel agents and tour operators. People believe they can no longer trust the system as the lottery system is purely based on luck.
Furthermore, western Muslims who are over 50 have criticised the system by stating that travel agents made the process easier as registering through an online portal for Hajj will be very difficult for older people.
Also to note is the fact that the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah hasn’t announced when the draw for the e-Hajj lottery will take place. However, they have requested prospective pilgrims to request refunds from their travel agents and tour operators in case they have already registered for Hajj 2022.
Where Can Pilgrims Go and Register for Hajj?
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has recently launched “Motawif,” an online Hajj portal through which people planning to go on pilgrimage (for Hajj 2022 and future years to come) from Australia, America, Europe, and the UK have to now register electronically.
The web portal is mainly developed to facilitate the online issuance of visas for Hajj and various Hajj and Umrah registration services, including a 24/7 multilingual communication centre, support services, and all kinds of Hajj and Umrah packages.
Click here to access the e-Hajj portal. However, please note that the online Hajj registration portal for the pilgrims from the UK, US, Australia, and Europe has now been closed.
New Lottery System
Acting as a one-stop-shop for pilgrims, the new web Hajj portal system named “Motawif” has monopolised Hajj to only one provider. From booking their visas to selecting the desired Hajj package to accommodation, the lottery-style system of Motawif has you covered.
However, this means that if you are living in Australia, the US, Europe, or the UK and are planning to go to Hajj this year, your request is no longer applicable as you will be required to register through the “Motawif” and wait for the lottery results to see if you have and your family have been selected or not.
Even though the new lottery system has been developed to provide ease as it brings everything regarding the entire Hajj process under one roof, because it was announced only 25 days before Hajj, it has caused more distress and chaos than anything else.
Because Saudi Arabia cancels all bookings via travel agents, Pilgrims are now forced to ask for refunds from their travel agents and formally re-apply through the portal once again, and that too with minimum chances of their Hajj application getting accepted. This is because, in the end, the new lottery system is all about luck!
Will This Affect the Price of Hajj 2022 and Beyond?
The price of performing Hajj 2022 and the years to follow are expected to reduce in the wake of the establishment of the new Hajj system as you will not be paying any external mediator (travel agent). According to Motawif, the official Hajj website, western pilgrims will be offered three different packages to choose from Platinum, Gold, and Silver. These packages will include the visa fee, cost of accommodation, and travel costs.
What Does This Mean for Hajj Travel Agencies in the UK?
Every year, around 25,000 British Muslims visit Makkah, Saudi Arabia, to perform Hajj. Following the announcement of the new Hajj system by the Saudi Arabia Government, the Hajj industry in the UK (which is worth £175m) is on the brink of collapse. No longer permitted to book Hajj for citizens of the UK, travel agents and tour operators are at risk of losing their jobs and the main source of their annual income. Travel agencies are obliged to refund those who have already registered and paid for Hajj 2022 packages.
Hajj 2022 from the UK
Based on the new Hajj system, British Muslims must register for Hajj via Motawif and pray for their name to be randomly selected in the draw. Note that this is the only way as travel agents aren’t authorised to register anyone for Hajj. The estimated cost of the Silver Package is £4,952.76, whereas the Gold Package costs £5,209, and the Platinum costs £8,096.84.
Hajj 2022 from the US
Similar to the UK, the US Muslims must also register for Hajj 2022 by signing up on Motawif, the Hajj e-lottery system. Starting from the most basic, the Silver Package costs $5,986, the Gold Package costs $6,296, and the Platinum Package costs $9,768.
Hajj 2022 from Pakistan
Per the regulations of the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, around 81,132 pilgrims from Pakistan will be allowed to perform Hajj this year. Note that the new Hajj system doesn’t yet apply to Pakistani pilgrims, meaning they can book Hajj via travel agents, lucky draws, and even by applying to the Government Hajj Scheme.
Being the most convenient and basic of the three packages, the Silver Package starts at Rs.12,34,382.04, whereas the Gold Package costs Rs.12,98,307.60, and the Platinum one costs Rs.16,69,488.30.
Hajj 2022 from India
For pilgrims coming from India, the Silver Package costs ₹4,67,090.57, whereas the Gold Package costs ₹4,91,280.03, and the Platinum Package costs ₹7,63,606.47. Because the new Hajj system rules are only for western countries, Indian Muslims can easily apply for Hajj by registering at the Hajj Committee of India.
Summary – New Hajj System and Rules
Hajj is one of the largest religious gatherings in the world. Every year, millions of able Muslims travel to Makkah, Saudi Arabia, to perform the annual pilgrimage. Even this year, thousands of Western Muslims had already booked their tickets and were excited to go on the peaceful journey and visit the House of Allah SWT.
However, all of their plans turned to rubble when the government of Saudi Arabia announced a new hajj system/rules. According to the latest Saudi Arabia rules, people planning to perform Hajj from America, Europe, the UK, and Australia must now register through a new e-lottery-based online portal called Motawif.
Note that in case you have already registered for Hajj 2022 via a travel agent, kindly request them to provide you with a refund as booking through travel agencies/operators is no longer permitted by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.