Going on Hajj pilgrimage is one of the pillars of a good Muslim. In a country of over 80 million professed Muslims, it is not surprising that tens of thousands of Nigerians perform this religious observation every year, including some wealthy individuals who have cultivated the habit of performing Hajj every year as a proof of their dedication to their religion.
However, some people are faced with different challenges when preparing to embark on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Sometimes, this is due to insufficient information or guide they can use to avoid some problems that usually signify the end of their pilgrimage dream. To help people avoid such problems, I have written this article with the most important information you will need if you ever want to embark on a pilgrimage to Mecca. First, what are the Visa requirements?
Mecca Visa Requirements
One of the first steps you will take towards making your dream of participating in a pilgrimage come true is procuring a visa. Without getting a visa, making the trip is impossible.
Unfortunately, most people are not aware of the basic requirements for procuring a visa. Therefore, these are what you need to obtain a visa:
- As an applicant, you are expected to have a valid passport with about 6 month’s validity. The passport should be acceptable to enter Saudi and move to other destinations during the hajj. This implies that the passport should contain a minimum of two visa pages that are empty and beside each other for use.
- You must also submit a passport-size color photograph with a white background. As a prerequisite for approval, the photograph should reveal your full face by facing the camera directly. If you present a photograph with angled or side view, your application will be rejected. Some travel agencies do not accept one color photo but accept two for group identification card and visa application.
- You are also expected to submit an application form that is duly filled with a black pen. Otherwise, you can submit the printed copy of the form if you fill it online. Any authorized travel agency should sign and stamp the form before submitting it to the right source for processing.
- If you are a man and traveling with the members of your family, you should write all the necessary information about your family members that are going on the hajj pilgrimage with you. Copies of the birth certificates of your children and your marriage certificate should be presented for verification before you visa application can be approved.
- If you are a woman and below 45 years of age, you should travel with a Mahram. For your application to be approved, you shouldn’t forget to include the proof of your relationship with the Mahram. You must submit both items with your application form for proper verification. A woman who is above 45 years of age may travel without a company. There is a condition attached to this concession: she must travel with an organized group with the approval of her Mahram. The approval should be put down in writing and fully signed by him for credibility purpose. The letter should also be fully notarized before it can be approved.
- As an applicant, you must have a roundtrip ticket to Mecca with the reservations confirmed. Note that the roundtrip ticket is non-refundable.
- It is mandatory for applications to take vaccination for ACYW135 and meningitis. If you have taken them, you should provide a proof of the vaccinations from a recognized clinic or hospital where you take the vaccination. For children who are below 15 years of age, they are required to take vaccination or polio in addition to that of meningitis. For kids over 15 years old, they have to meet similar health conditions as stipulated for adults before they can be approved for the hajj. As a rule, the certificate confirming the vaccination should not be more than 3 years old but should be more than 10 days before embarking on the pilgrimage.
- You should also submit two cashier checks or certified checks that are payable to the Unified Agents Office when you get to Jeddah for all the services that will be offered to you including accommodation, transportation, guides, and the rest. Important information to be included in the checks includes your passport number, name, the date, and place where the checks are issued. The appropriate fee for each check must be paid in advance before the submission of both checks. You can also submit a single check containing both payments if you desire. If you have kids between the ages of 7 and 15, half of the adult fee should be paid for them. Kids that are below 7 years of age are exempted from paying this fee. If you are in doubt of what you need to do here, consult the Saudi Consulate for more clarification on the payment.
- Under no condition will a prospective pilgrim under the age of 18 be granted a visa without being accompanied by his or her parents.
- For converted Muslims, they must present an Islamic certificate that is duly notarized by the appropriate Islamic center.
If you meet all these requirements, there are chances that your application for a visa will not be rejected. However, make sure that you go through the guidelines when applying for the visa to know whether there are new changes you need to abide by. Otherwise, you can meet all the requirements if you take into heart the information in this guide and follow them strictly.
The Hajj Commission in Nigeria has a comprehensive registration procedure that all intending hajj pilgrims must strictly adhere to. The procedure lists the conditions for eligibility for making the pilgrimage. This is the list of the basic requirements:
- All intending pilgrim must be Muslims.
- The pilgrim must have a valid travel document from Nigeria with a clear identity.
- He or she must also provide a reputable guarantor with a proven evidence of credibility.
- The intending pilgrim must be physically, mentally, and emotionally fit to embark on the journey. This should be certified by a government-certified clinic, hospital, or health center.
- He must have the fundamental knowledge of Islam and be conscious of the hajj rites that must be observed.
- The person’s particulars must be valid and properly document. For instance, the guarantor from must be endorsed by a credible guarantor that has the approval of the SMPWB/C/A and his or her medical record form must be the endorsement of a qualified medical practitioner from a government-owned hospital.
- A valid passport with nothing less than 6 months validity from the departure date and that the Saudi Arabia government can accept should be presented for the application.
- Such intending pilgrim must be morally upright and have no record of previous criminal activities throughout the Saudi Arabia kingdom.
- He shouldn’t have any restrictions placed on him from traveling by any court of competent jurisdiction or by any law enforcement agency owned by the government.
- If the intending pilgrim is not a first timer, his or her records during the previous Umrah or Hajj should be crime-free.
If you abide by these instructions and meet the specified requirements, rest assured that you can apply successfully for your Hajj pilgrimage without any obstacle. Just log on to the website of the Hajj Commission (www.nigeriahajjcom.gov.ng) and fill out your application form online and submit it for processing after completing the form.
However, some people are prevented from making the Hajj due to a variety of reasons. It is very important that you know the conditions that may disqualify you from being registered by the Hajj registrars. What are these conditions?
REASONS FOR REFUSAL TO REGISTER A PILGRIM
You may be disqualified for one or more of the conditions listed below:
- Any act of misbehavior at the registration center may force the registrar to disapprove your application.
- An intending pilgrim with a questionable attitude will be disqualified.
- If the registration officer has some doubts about the veracity of the information provided by the intending pilgrimage, he or she has the right to refuse the application.
- If the registrar is strongly suspicious of the intending pilgrim of the possibility of absconding after the Hajj, the registrar may reject the applicant’s request.
- An aged or frail application without anybody to accompany him or her cannot be allowed to undertake the journey.
- An intending pilgrim that does not meet up with his or her payment within the allotted time will be disqualified. If he or she has made a deposit, it should be refunded to the pilgrim without delay.
- If he or she is registered by proxy, that is illegal and attracts automatic disqualification.
- An intending pilgrim that is not qualified for any reason cannot be registered for the Hajj.
These are some of the reasons why some people have had their applications rejected. Therefore, before you proceed with any application process, go through this list and check whether you are not guilty of any of the conditions above. If you are, it will be a waste of time to consider going on Hajj. You can correct whatever may disqualify you and prepare for the next Hajj.
After the successful completion and approval of your visa comes the next step: payment for the trip. Here’s what you need to know about payment procedures:
- The only payment mode approved and accepted are a direct cash payment, bank draft, and e-payment. The payment should be into the account designated by the SMPWB/C/A.
- When your payment has been confirmed by the SMPWB/C/A, you will be issued an official receipt as an evidence of your payment. The receipt should be your full name, the amount paid, and the purpose of payment you make. The category of the payment you make should also be reflected on the receipt.
To make payment easy, the organizers allow three installment payments as specified below:
- First installment: This should be 50% of the Hajj fare of the last hajj according to NAHCON.
- Second installment: 35% of the same hajj fare for the last Hajj.
- Final payment: This will be the balance of the new Hajj fare as announced by the organizers, NAHCON.
How to get the right company to handle your Hajj services
Hajj is a serious religious observation that you can’t afford to mess up with. In order to make your trip a fun one without undergoing unnecessary challenges, you can get a government-approved company to handle all your Hajj-related services. For a full list of all the companies that have government approval from The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) for offering such services, kindly click this link. The link contains almost 160 registered companies that are recognized by the government for handling pilgrimage-related services.
These are some tips suggested by NAHCON for intending pilgrimages when transacting with the company of their choice:
- Make sure that all your payments are receipted and the services they want to provide for you should be fully detailed without ambiguity. This will prevent any misunderstanding that may result from services that are not well spelled out.
- The body also advises people from accepting visas that are not fully packaged. To prevent yourself from being short-changed, make sure that the Saudi partners of the company you patronize offer the very service you pay for. If otherwise, you should try another agency because there is nothing you can do to correct the anomaly when you get there.
- Those planning for Hajj pilgrimage are also advised by the Commission to prepare in advance for the trip. You should start processing your visa about a month before embarking on the trip. If you accept such a dubious offer, you are doing so at your own risk.
- If a licensed operator wants to arrange visa or passport from another country for you, you should decline such offer because it is illegal and you may be punished severely if you are caught with such illegal document.
- If you have any genuine complaints or inquiries about the operator, you can present them at any zonal office of the Commission or direct them to the headquarters at:
No. 1, First Avenue, Off Ahmadu Bello Way,
Central Business District,
You can equally send a well-written email to firstname.lastname@example.org to express your grievances or make your inquiries.
If you want the process to be smooth and be convinced of a hitch-free Hajj pilgrimage, you should take all these instruction into practice.
How to prepare your accommodation
Since you will be away from home for a couple of weeks, it is advisable that you get yourself a decent accommodation. There are many hotels scattered all over Saudi and Mecca that you can lodge in during your Hajj pilgrimage. However, the Hajj Commission in Nigeria usually provides a list of approved hotels for Nigerian pilgrimages. If you are contemplating going on Hajj, you can visit their official site to see the list of approved hotels for accommodation.
To avoid facing a hard time with accommodation, it is advisable that you book your hotel reservation in advance before the departure day. Since everything can be done online, you can book any hotel of your choice from the comfort of your home with your mobile device, personal computer, or visit a café for that. The earlier you reserve a room for yourself, the better it is for you.
To make sure that pilgrims accommodated in hotels during Hajj are not subjected to inhumane treatment, the Commission gives the following conditions for approval of an accommodation service provider:
- The hotel should be situated very close to both Madinah and Makkah. The distance shouldn’t be more than 1-kilometer radius.
- If the distance is exceeded, the hotel should provide a befitting shuttle bus on a daily basis to ease movement around the place.
- Not more than 6 pilgrims should be allocated one toilet.
- The environment should be suitable and comfortable.
- Both the kitchen and dining facilities should be adequate too.
- Standard bedding facilities with clean pillows, bed sheets, and blankets should be provided.
- Adequate and functional fire extinguishers should be made available to each room and floor to put any fire outbreak under control before it wrecks havoc on people and property.
- Sufficient lifts should be provided. A building should have a minimum of four lifts for users.
- There must be exits and stair cases for emergency uses.
- Drinking and utility water is also needed around the clock.
- Maximum security for people and property.
- There must be adequate and functional air conditioners too.
- First aid kits are necessary.
- Water dispensers should be adequately provided.
These are just a couple of the requirements. This is to ensure that the pilgrimage is performed under an ideal condition that will guarantee your comfort and glory to Allah.
When you have met the requirements above, you are now set for the pilgrimage. That’s commendable. But before you go on the pilgrimage, you do well to consider these practical tips that will be of great value and support when preparing for the pilgrimage:
- Ask Allah for direction and support
Since you are not going on Hajj for pleasure but to seek the face of Allah, you should ask for his assistance and direction to make your pilgrimage a success. To do this, say Bismillah and make supplication (Dua) to Him to assist you to find the needed resources to support your dream. You can also supplicate him to give you the time to perform your Hajj too. This is anchored on the fact that it is only Him that can make it possible.
- Discuss the time with the right people
Hajj usually takes between 3 weeks to a month and you will need the whole period of time off from your work or business. If you are self-employed, it will be absolutely easy to take the time off from your work to go for Hajj. This is quite different if you are an employee. You need to discuss your intention to perform your religion obligation with your employer and ask for leave from work for that period of time to attend to what you want to do. Before approaching those who are concerning for permission to perform the Hajj, know the date so that you can easily intimate them with when you want your leave to fall on.
- Know the legal requirements
Performing Hajj is possible only if you have the right legal documents. For instance, you need a valid visa to visit Saudi Arabia. Find out what the requirements for getting a visa is, the process of getting it, the duration of processing, and other important information that will help you apply for your visa and get it approved without delay. What about your passport? You have to make sure that your passport is still valid and has not expired.
To give you an overview of the requirements, you can put a call across to the Saudi Embassy in Nigeria or ask your travel agency to assist you with the necessary information there.
- Shop around for the best travel agency
When planning a Hajj, you need the services of a competent agency to make your trip relatively easy without much stress. As a result, you should take some time to shop around for the best agency that will meet your needs without burning a big hole in your pocket.
Since these agencies offer different Hajj packages, you should choose an agency based on your preferences and their readiness to be helpful in sorting some issues such as immigration and the likes.
- Have relevant information about Hajj
If you are going for the Hajj, it is important that you have relevant and up-to-date information about your mission in Mecca. The internet or a local library will have enough information about performing Hajj and you can use these resources to update yourself about how to achieve the objective of visiting Mecca for the religious activity.
- Physical fitness is a must
Perform Hajj can be physically demanding, you can ask those who have performed it for confirmation. You have to perform some activities that will involve trekking and other activities that will tax your fitness. As a way of preparing for the rigors of performing those activities, you have to keep yourself in the best physical health. Do whatever you can to keep yourself in good shape. Watch your diet and exercise if you can. Consult your doctor if that is necessary too. Without mincing words, you will enjoy your pilgrimage if you can try to stay in the best health condition.
I have taken the time to write this informative guide for any intending pilgrim to Mecca. If you plan to go on Hajj pilgrimage, accompany yourself with this guide always and you will have no problem in getting your visa approved, making your hajj a possibility.