MAKKAH – The Saudi government has announced on June 28 that it would impose a $13-thousand fine and six-month imprisonment on Umrah pilgrims staying beyond their designated schedule, The Express Tribune reported.
According to officials of Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, the Saudi General Directorate of Passport has warned that pilgrims should adhere to their travel schedules.
“Any pilgrim failing to pay the designated fine will face an additional imprisonment,” the Saudi passports division clarified and added that “those visiting the country on Umrah visas aren’t allowed to travel outside Makkah, Jeddah and Madinah.”
It also warned the citizens and residents against transporting, employing, sheltering or hiding those with expired Umrah visas.
The Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the Hajj which occurs in the 12th month of the Hijri calendar.
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The Umrah rituals include circumambulating the Kabah, and walking between Safa and Marwah, both after assuming Ihram.
Read Also: 5 Questions About Hajj and `Umrah
It’s sometimes called the ‘minor pilgrimage’ or ‘lesser pilgrimage’, the Hajj being the ‘major’ pilgrimage which is compulsory for every Muslim who can afford it. The Umrah is not compulsory but highly recommended according to some Muslim scholars.
This new Saudi regulation comes after a couple of days from designating the Hajj biometric verification system as a mandatory task for every pilgrim visiting Saudi Arabia for Hajj, starting from August 2018.
The new biometric system intensifies the security precautions by the country which receives about 15 million visitors annually for Hajj and Umrah. Moreover, it’s said that the new system shall facilitate and easen the documentation procedures for pilgrims in Saudi airports.