What are the greatest struggles in the Arabian peninsula?
What is Islam like in the Arabian peninsula?
What is god doing in the Arabian peninsula?
The Arabian Peninsula, the largest peninsula in the world, is a vast plateau with huge deserts, bordered by rugged mountains in the west and south. The west and south have enough rain for agriculture, while the coastal region facing the Indian Ocean has a tropical climate.
Otherwise, the climate is extremely hot and arid, with average monthly temperatures in Saudi Arabia ranging from 67 to 109°F.
Before the discovery of oil in the 1930s, the Peninsula was largely empty and inhabited mostly by tent-dwelling Bedouins. Since then, with the exception of Yemen, all of the countries have become fabulously wealthy, almost overnight.
Qatar is the wealthiest, with a per capita GDP of $60,000, rivaling that of the USA. The region is full of growing modern cities with sky scrapers, major highways, heavy traffic, and growing air pollution.
Many well-off locals feel that their lives are meaningless and live for pleasure. Extreme materialism, sexual perversion, drug addiction, and alcoholism are rampant, and so are depression and deep discontent.
Local women are restricted and controlled by men. Few have freedom of thought or religion. The puritanical versions of Islam and autocratic governments in the region create layers of oppression.
Despite extreme wealth from oil and natural gas, most of the residents are very poor. Foreign workers outnumber locals four to one in Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE. Many workers live in dreadful conditions. Extreme injustices are normal, and locals live quite separated from foreign workers.
The one country that is a glaring exception to this pattern of extreme wealth and poverty is Yemen, which has no oil or natural gas. Its people are suffering through a devasting civil war funded by regional and global interests. This war is completely destroying what was already the poorest country in the Peninsula.
The Arabian Peninsula is the birthplace of Islam. The dominant form of Islam is the extremely conservative and puritan Wahhabi sect. Saudis see themselves as the guardians of the two most sacred mosques in the Muslim world in Mecca and Medina. The city of Mecca is strictly off-limits to all non-Muslims.
In Saudi Arabia there is rigid separation between men and women in public and strict control on all religious expressions except the Sunni version of Islam. Though there are as many as 1.5 million Christians and 400,000 Hindus, they are not permitted to practice their faiths in public. Thousands of official and volunteer religious police are constantly on the lookout for deviation from religious norms as they seek to promote virtue and forbid wrong.
This extremely conservative version of Islam that dominates most of the Peninsula contrasts with the materialism that drives the cultures of the Peninsula. This leads to the paradox of an extremely modern society (in its infrastructure and lifestyle) that seeks to preserve what Westerners consider barbaric values (radical Islam) and practices (like public beheadings). There is virtually no freedom of religion, and conversion is dangerous and rare.
In the eastern Gulf states, though the Wahhabi sect is still influential, the rulers have adopted a policy of allowing foreign Christians to build a limited number of church buildings, which are often built on plots of land donated by the government.
It is significant that though there are very, very few national believers, there are tens of thousands of foreign Christians gathering for worship every weekend. Local Muslims have ample opportunity to encounter godly men and women. God is using humble Christian nurses and nannies to profoundly impact local Muslim families, and God knows how many secret believers there may be.
However, in Saudi Arabia no churches are permitted and conversion away from Islam is punishable by death. Yet, many are quietly responding to the Gospel through the work of internet ministries. In Yemen, despite the devastation of war, God is at work raising up growing numbers of Yemeni believers in networks of small house churches.