Hyderabad: 120 Umrah passengers turned back from airport

These comprised pilgrims from the state and Andhra Pradesh.

Hyderabad: More than 120 Umrah passengers who had taken up the Ihram (the state of pilgrim sanctity) and were waiting at the Shamshabad airport for their flight to embark on the Umrah pilgrimage were forced to turn back on Thursday after Saudi Arabia cancelled the pilgrimage.

These comprised pilgrims from the state and Andhra Pradesh. The pilgrims who have proclaimed the niyat (intention) are in distress as without paying the dam (expiation) they can’t release themselves from ihram.

The expiation for removing the ihram garments is slaughtering an animal and fast three days. In the Hanafi school of thought, it is obligatory to slaughter the animal within the limits of haram (jurisdiction of the Ka’aba).

Ms Sumayya, who was to travel to Saudi Arabia, said “I am heartbroken and disappointed. I am waiting for revoking of the ban at the earliest so that I can fulfill my wish to see the Ka’aba.”

Mr Syed Sajid, a teacher, said “Our family planned to stay in the holy cities on Shab-e-Meraj. I appeal to our government to convince the authorities to allow the Indians to were already issued visas to visit the holy cities,”

Mr Mohammed Najeeb, another intending pilgrim, said “We spend holidays every year in Macca and Madina paying an additional visa fee. We are about to leave this time. I have asked my friend who lives in Macca to slaughter five animals on out behalf as dam and inform me, so that we can remove our Ihram garments.”

In the state, about 200 travel agencies provide Umrah services. More than three lakh Muslims from Hyderabad perform the Umrah every year.

Travel agents are working to find solutions for their customers after the unprecedented decision of Saudi Arabia to cancel the Umrah and visit visas, a few days before the peak pilgrimage season starts. They are urging pilgrims to be patient and not to panic.

The school holidays in March, which coincides with the Shab-e-Meraj (the night when the Prophet ascended to heaven) this year, is a popular period for Muslims to go on the Umrah.

Travel agencies charge `60,000 to `85,000 for air travel, accommodation, food and transport in Macca and Madina for each pilgrim. There price depends on the facilities.

Managing director of Supreme Air Travel Services Mohammed Tayyab Wasif said many travel agents had already paid the 25 per cent advance towards the air ticket and booked hotels. “It is very difficult to convince our customers. Our agents from Saudi Arabia who work with us have assured that the restrictions will not be in place for long,” he said.

Mr Habeeb Abdul Quadar of Bismillah Travels confirmed that seven pilgrims from his group returned back on Thursday due to ban on travel to Saudi. He said it is a big loss for them as they had paid visa processing fee to the Saudi Embassy, air tickets and accommodation charges.

Mr Habeeb said he has written into hotels and airlines asking if his customers’ reservations can be put on hold without deduction. “I hope they consider our situation and waive the cancellation fee,” he hoped.

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