The Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs
The Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs is the government authority responsible for ensuring that all areas of modern life comply with the principals of Islam, and are consistent with the teachings of the Prophet (PBUH). It was established in 1993 under Law No 9.
Since its inception, the Ministry has sought to communicate the messages of Islam and promote its values as widely as possible. To achieve these goals, the Ministry has undertaken several initiatives over recent years. These include the construction and management of mosques and the creation of the Islamic Cultural Center, which offers courses in Sharia Law, Islamic arts and calligraphy.
Additionally, the Ministry has established a department to supervise the Hajj and Umrah Affairs, which coordinates with a number of government bodies every year to process applications for Qatari pilgrims and residents.
The Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs has sought to ease the rush of people seeking to perform the annual pilgrimage through the introduction of an online application called the Hajj Project.
The project is part of the digital services that government entities are launching under the Qatar Digital Government (QDG) umbrella. The Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs Department of Hajj and Umrah, who oversee the Hajj Project, enable this facilitation of services by coordinating with the Ministry of Interior, the Hajj operators and pilgrims.
Administration of the Hajj applications posed a challenge to the Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs due to the complicated nature of the process, which involves the management of thousands of applicants each year. It also requires close coordination and interaction with several government authorities to select those eligible, issue visas, and ensure that all pilgrims receive the technical, health and safety support they require throughout their journey.
Before the launch of online registration in 2010, applications were managed electronically. However, as the number of submissions increased, this created issues as the process was time consuming, and applicants were reliant on campaign operators to both submit requests and keep them updated on progress.
In an effort to address these challenges, the IT Department at the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs launched the Hajj Project, which contributes to the comfort of pilgrims by aiding them in applying to perform the Hajj rituals in a clear and concise manner. The project also facilitates coordination between the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs, the Ministry of Interior, Hajj operators and pilgrims to streamline the process of selecting eligible applicants, issuing visas and providing support for pilgrims.
To ensure that the needs of both Government and non-Government entities were met, the department coordinated with representatives from all relevant organisations to define their requirements, review the data process and provide any additional clarification.
Also, the Hajj Project’s online application was made available to campaign operators and owners, as well as their employees, before the system went live on the Ministry’s website. This allowed them time to train and become fully familiar with the services, thereby ensuring a smooth transition from the old electronic system.
The project comprises three main modules, namely Pilgrim Registration, Hajj Management and Pilgrim Campaigns, all of which were implemented in 2012. Allowing more than 15,000 individuals to submit their Hajj requests online, the system also enables applicants to check the status of their applications through the website of the Department of Hajj and Umrah. The applicants also have the option of choosing their Hajj operator, who are assigned quotas for each campaign.
Once an online application is successfully completed, the applicant receives a text message from the Department of Hajj and Umrah. A second message will be sent if the applicant is selected for the pilgrimage. Once all procedures are completed, pilgrims will get a third text message that specifies their identification number.
Conditions and instructions for the registration process are available on the website, along with a list of the required documentation, educational brochures on the Hajj rituals, the specifications of the services provided to pilgrims by air and land contractors, and bulletins on disease prevention, safety and risks. The department also provides pilgrims with support via online and hotline services.
By minimizing paperwork, and the exchange of physical administrative files between the organisations involved, this project helps the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs, as well as the Qatari government, to organize and manage pilgrim campaigns more efficiently.
The Hajj Project also speeds up the Hajj application management process by allowing applicants to go directly to the campaign operators for submissions and application status updates, thereby saving time. Other benefits of the system include a shorter approval process time, enhanced transparency with applicants, and closer coordination amongst different entities and organisations.
The Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs’ adoption of digital services supports Qatar’s aim to accelerate digital government initiatives by having all e-government services available online, creating more awareness of the key services available, and allowing faster and more secure access to all users.
Success story in numbers
Over 86,940 applications have been processed in the four years since the launch of the online services.