More than four years after Singapore appealed for an increase in its official Haj quota, Saudi Arabia has agreed to the request, raising the number of places from 680 to 800.
The news, which will be welcomed by the Muslim community here, was announced by Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Dr Yaacob Ibrahim on Friday (Feb 17).
He noted that Singapore had appealed for an increase from 680 since 2012, in light of the reduction in quota for domestic and foreign pilgrims, due to the major development and upgrading projects taking place in the vicinity of the Holy Mosque in Mecca.
Thanking Saudi Arabia for the increase in the Haj quota, Dr Yaacob said the Saudi authorities would also consider Singapore’s requests for additional Haj visas for this year.
Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister for Communications and Information, was speaking on the sidelines of a visit to Al-Khair Mosque at Teck Whye Crescent.
Upgrading works at the mosque are due to be completed by the second quarter of this year, and will result in an increase of 500 new prayer spaces, he said.
Singapore’s current Haj quota is based on a 1987 formula by the Organisation of Islamic Conference, which set it at 0.1 per cent of the Muslim population here.
Since then, the Muslim community here has grown by about 20 per cent, but the quota for the Haj, the fifth pillar of Islam, has remained unchanged. Currently, there are about 800,000 Muslims in Singapore.
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore will contact eligible Haj registrants regarding the additional vacancies available.
Hari Raya Haji will be celebrated on Sept 1 in Singapore this year, and pilgrims tend to leave for the Haj about a month before in order to perform the necessary rituals in Mecca.