Because Saudi Arabia is the custodian and epicentre of Islam, and I have spent a large part of the last two years studying to origins of Islam, today’s blog will be a little longer than usual. Many of the links below are to my website and relevant essays on Islam.
Saudi Arabia is the heart and soul of Islam. Islamic tradition (but not the evidence) says that this is where Islam started and this is where Muhammad lived. Arabic is the heart language of Islam and Mecca is, well, the Mecca of all Islamic worship! This privileged position sets Saudi Arabia apart from all other Islamic countries. If Islam falls here, it falls everywhere.
Saudi Arabia is mentioned in the Bible several times and is always associated with the Ishmaelites, Qedarites, the wildernesses of Shur and Paran, and the Midianites (1 Chronicles 1:29, Isaiah 21:13, 16, Ezekiel 27:21, Jeremiah 49:28). In fact the Arab people have throughout history been more often called Ishmaelites and Hagarites than Arabs due to their ancestral ties to Abraham’s first born son, Ishmael. There were Arabs present at the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10) and Paul spent time in Arabia (Galatians 1:17). The Arab ancestral claims to Abraham run very, very deep and to this day are the source of much of the tension between the Muslims/Arabs on one side, and Jews/Christians on the other side.
The church took off in the Arabian Peninsula just as much as most other places in the New Testament era. However, with the Nabataean Empire being the centre of Arab wealth, culture and language, Christianity always competed with the traditional Arab worship of cubes, meteorites and sacred pilgrimage sites. These traditions eventually all found their way into Islam.
During this era the Christian Arab Ghassanid and the pagan Arab Lakhmid tribes moved north into Syria to work for the Byzantines, and to the Euphrates to work for the Persians. They both grew rich and powerful under their respective patronages. With the collapse of the Sassanian Persian Empire in 622 at the hands of the Byzantines, the entire Fertile Crescent was theirs for the two Arab tribes to claim in the name of the particular type of Christianity they had adopted. They literally fell into an empire; it had nothing to do with the fabled conquests of Islamic tradition of which we can find no significant evidence.
Sadly, the Arian theology of these believers, with its belief in the unity of God instead of the Trinity, and subsequent belief that Jesus was a servant of God and not God incarnate, clashed with the theologies of the Byzantines. In fact the Council of Nicaea was called to deal Arius’s theological threats and it from this event that we can begin the countdown to the rise of Islam.
Thus the scene was set for the seemingly eternal theological and civilizational war between Islam and European Christendom that still rages today globally. Because the Arabs were initially winning their wars against what they saw as the heretical Byzantines (and with the Byzantine Catholic worship of Mary, saints and the incorporation of so many Greek traditions, rightly so), the Arabs became convinced God was on their side. They were not yet Muslims in the modern sense but about to become so under the guidance of their leader Abd al Malik and his sons of the Umayyad dynasty and then after 750AD, the astute Abbasid legal scholars of Baghdad. In this period mosques turned from Petra to Mecca, the Nabataean sacred cube and meteorite was moved from Petra to the new pilgrimage site of Mecca and the Qur’an began to be codified.
Between 750 and 1,000AD clever Islamic scholars working from modern day Baghdad back-dated and rewrote their entire Arab history with a great flush of imperial and religious hubris via the fictitious Sunnah and Hadith literature. Mecca was established as a pilgrimage site, the term Muhammad changed from being a title of Christ to a fictitious warrior prophet from the then imaginary city of Mecca, the concept of Islam (originally meaning submission to our way, not the Byzantine way) was invented and the Qur’an was written up from a collection of scripts circulating at the time. (The book is actually two books in one. The first is an adaptation of older Christian literature, and the other is a more recent exhortation to follow the new religion. The first is poetry and the second is prose.).
Thus was born the idea that the Arab Empire, now known as Imperial Islam, was divinely destined to conquer the whole world. Islam then became the big stick that Satan used to reclaim the Middle East from Jesus and try to force Christianity out of Europe. Its claim to have been divinely ordained in an isolated region of the world cut off from all other religions collapses in light of the fact that every single theological concept is not only borrowed from Syriac/Arian Christianity but the very words are also.
In the Middle Ages the Crusaders tried to retake their lost Christian Holy Lands of the Middle East but failed. However, they brought back precious Greek manuscripts that had been preserved by the Muslims. This accident began that great wave of innovation and learning that resulted in European Christendom pulling ahead of the rest of the world. Toward the end of this era it was European technology that enabled its seafaring explorers to discover new routes to India and China, thus avoiding the Muslim/Arab stranglehold on the spice trade. From that point on the Middle East slid into economic obscurity.
This led to the Colonial era when Arabia and Islam were thoroughly humiliated by the European powers who easily carved up the Middle East in gentleman’s agreements. Islam’s theology of world conquest was in tatters. From the soul searching that this caused came the Wahhabi teachings with its call back to the pure Islamic Jihad of Muhammad. This theology is the backbone of all modern jihadi movements today who seek to re-establish the ascendency of Islam over Western culture. They are grinding a very big historical axe! The ties between the Wahhabis and the local rulers also gave rise to the House of Saud as the current ruling clan of Arabia.
In 1947 oil was discovered in vast quantities. If it wasn’t for this accident of history Saudi Arabia and most other Gulf States would still be an economic backwater at the level of modern Yemen. Oil money drives the current Wahhabist resurgence of Islam.
Saudi Arabia is today a nation state of 31 million people owned by a single family, the Saud family. It has an average income of just 40% of the USA (very unevenly distributed)and relies on oil for 90% of its national income. It is still a feudal state with perhaps the worst human rights record of any modern country. It sends hundreds of millions of dollars overseas each year to fund Islamic expansion around the world. The country would collapse if not for the massive amount of foreign workers that do most of the menial tasks. Saudi pride results in most locals considering themselves above these jobs. Unemployment and idleness among Saudis is therefore very high, education is not taken very seriously. Women are treated as vassals that rarely work and are legally transferred from family to husband at marriage. Their rights are miniscule. Shiites make up 8% of the population and are actively discriminated against.
The future of Saudi Arabia is very uncertain. It faces great social and economic stress from its disenfranchised and frustrated youth, combined with their access to global ideas via the millions of internet VPN’s active in the country, its total reliance on foreign workers and oil exports, its brittle, hated and inequitable political system with no feedback loops, its constant meddling in regional wars, its reliance on the USA for military covering against Iran, and its Wahhabist conservative clerics. When the kingdom runs out of oil (and Ghawar, the source of over 50% of its oil revenue, is already seventy years old) I predict it will run out of food and international friends and a future. It is now desperately trying to diversify its economy to avoid such a fate.
A society that destroys women’s rights, severely restricts its peoples expression, demands total subservience to the national religion and bullies its way around the world via its toxic ideologies is ripe for a move of God! And the church is definitely growing inside this feudal country.
First up, the nine Christian satellite television stations broadcasting from Lahore in Pakistan are having an impact. I spoke to the owners of one of these stations, Isaac Television, and they said their highest rate of response comes from Saudi Arabia where they link new believers with trusted networks of underground churches.
A couple from the USA have been leading a public church of 1,200 people in Riyadh for the last eight years. They started in their home and it grew into an expatriate congregation of mainly Asian and African believers, with a few westerners tagging along. They asked permission to rent a hall and surprisingly their request was accepted. In 2011 they even held an outdoor evangelistic rally in Riyadh with some 5-8,000 attending, including many of the 200 or so underground churches that litter the city.
An Indian friend of mine who has started over 400 churches has four in Saudi Arabia where expatriate Indians secretly meet. He said they are his strongest churches and services will include some two to three hours of intercession for their employers and the country. They pray for miracles, divine visitations and the opportunity to pray for the sick so the power of Jesus can be seen.
Saudi citizens are some of the highest users of the internet in the world, and they are using this technology to research the truth about their own religion and about Jesus in ways the government is desperately trying to stop. Many Middle Eastern church leaders call the internet the Fifth Gospel. One report says that individual conversions have now morphed into Saudi families coming to Christ. In a nation that has no acceptable social structure outside the state, the mosque and the family, this is a huge break-though.
Sadly though, many new Saudi believers pay a high price for their spiritual liberation. Fatima Al-Matayri became famous for her Christian blogs, until her brother, a member of the religious police found out and hideously tortured and murdered her in front of the whole family. Conversion from Islam is punishable by death throughout Saudi Arabia.
The breakthrough has begun! Please pray for the following:
For Satan’s grip on this country to be destroyed
Social upheaval that destroys the current regime
More families to come to faith. This is the key to winning the nation. Viral networks of believers spread very rapidly in most Islamic countries.
Imam’s and religious leaders coming to faith
For the dreaded control of the religious police to be broken via social upheaval
For dreams, visions and miracles
For continued ministry via the internet.
For this once Christian region to once again lift up the name of Jesus with all its heart
Lord, set this dark nation free!!!!!!!!!