Frontier Scan Arabia and Hajj

This article will help you understand Islam in Arabia and the Hajj (pilgimage).

Frontier Scan, March 1998

Condensed from the March 1998 issue of the Global Prayer Digest Pray for a Church for Every People in the Arabian Peninsula.

  • "We apply the Laws of Allah and don't pay attention to whoever says anything about that," said Saudi Arabia's interior minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdu-Aziz. Three years ago, this was his answer to complaints from Amnesty International about the rising number of beheading in Saudi Arabia. The high numbers of executions continues today. And the streets of Saudi Arabia are among the safest in the world, although that is beginning to change. 
  • To the Saudi Arabs, the Koranic Law is the perfect law given to man by the Almighty Creator. In accordance with the Koran, those who smuggle drugs, kill, or rape must be executed. Their government is the guardian of the Islamic faith. They are also the guardians of Mecca, the pilgrimage site that is visited by faithful Muslims during their hajj. 
  • No religion except Islam is tolerated in this land where Islam first emerged. There are almost half a million Christians in Saudi Arabia among the foreign "guest workers." But Saudi religious police regularly roam the streets seeking out secret worship services. Pray that the message of mercy in Christ, which triumphs over judgment, will soon be understood by the Arabs of Saudi Arabia and the devout Muslims who come there on the hajj.

Historical background

In the summer of AD633, the tribes were at peace. Mohammed commanded that Muslims should not war against each other. How long could this last? Something must be done to unify the tribes.

In A Short History of The Arab Peoples, Sir John Glubb says it is difficult to say whether the first caliph, Abu Bekr, appreciated this problem and devised the idea of launching the tribes on a career of conquest. On the Persian front, hostilities were already brewing. Persia and Byzantium (Greece) completed their 26-year war in AD628. Anarchy set in after Chosroes Parwiz and all male heirs to the throne had been massacred. Nine claimants ascended the throne, only to be deposed. Finally, Yezdegird stepped to the front, after supposedly hiding during the massacres. He was 15 and too young to wield authority. The Arab tribes seized the opportunity. After five years of war, the Arabs forced this weakened empire to surrender.

But most Arab tribal leaders were much more interested in Syria than Persia because bounty from India and China shipped to Yemen was unloaded and packed to Syria. Mecca and Medina made their living off these caravans. Damascus fell for the first time in 635 and Syria fell completely in 636.

On the western front, Arabs conquered Spain and portions of France starting in the year 711. They marched on Vienna, sieged Constantinople, ruled Bukhara and Samarkand in Central Asia, ruled Afghanistan, and even sent a letter demanding tribute from the Chinese emperor. Every region that the Arab tribes subjugated meant another set of peoples that came under their influence: Berbers, Frenchmen and Spaniards in Morocco and Algeria, Central Africans in Egypt and Sudan, and Persia with her many peoples. Many of these groups now speak Arabic and follow the religion of Mohammed.

Once the marauding tribes conquered the armies, they had to administrate their new subjects. They enticed many converts to Islam by saying, "Become a Muslim and you won't have to pay a protection tax each year." What a tax deal!

Sir John Glubb says the Arabic empire lasted until 861AD when Turkish mercenaries killed the caliph Mutawakkil at the behest of a disinherited prince. Within four years, Turkish commanders completely monopolized power and hand-selected caliphs. Unending tribal warfare between fiercely independent clans and people brought the Arab empire down. Great things were still done in the name of Allah, but the Empire was dead.

The Arab's religion is a powerful rival for the hearts of today's unreached peoples. But it also introduces concepts like adherence to one God to peoples that once were polytheistic. Isa (Jesus) is considered to be a Prophet in the Koran. Could it be that the Lord will some day use Islam to draw entire nations to Christ? Let's pray that He will!

The Meaning of the Hajj

I stand up for thy service, O God! I stand up! I stand up! There is no partner with Thee! I stand up! Verily thine is the Praise, the Blessing and the Kingdom! There is no partner with Thee!

This song is not from an ancient Christian or Jewish hymn but is the text from the Talbijah, the Muslim song pilgrims sing on their way to Mecca. Understanding the rituals and beliefs of the Muslim peoples is the first step in praying for the people and against the spirit that binds them. Dr. Ali Shariati, a leading Muslim apologist martyred in pre-Revolution Iran, stresses that the enemies of Islam see the hajj, or the pilgrimage to Mecca, as empty ritualism. He says, "Hajj is man's evolution toward Allah." It is one of the five pillars of the Muslim religion. The hajj is a play with many actors, the most important actor being the pilgrim himself. The pilgrim acts as if he was Adam, Abraham, and Hagar in the confrontation between Allah and Satan.

Just as Christians fall into empty ritual, so Dr. Shariati sees the Muslim falling into an empty ritual forgetting the meaning behind the form. The pilgrimage taken by Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the Los Angeles Lakers great; Malcolm X; and Ayhan, the Istanbul taxi cab driver, are very similar in nature. The hajj is to be done by everyone who is financially and otherwise capable of performing it. He may perform it by proxy, appointing a relative or friend to go on the pilgrimage for him.

The hajj is part of the Muslim's desire to seek Allah. Mohammed set the pattern for the pilgrimage in the last year of his life, AD 632. There have been variations in the past according to the desires of the ruling leadership. Ib'n Saud, a Saudi Arabian king, reestablished the pattern set by Mohammed in the early 20th Century.

The pilgrim endeavors to conform with the practice of the Prophet Mohammed in accordance with the example set by him on his only pilgrimage.

Ayhan, our Istanbul taxi driver, is a typical pilgrim. He begins the hajj by praying twice and then divesting himself of his clothes, assuming the ihram, the pilgrim's sacred robe. The ihram is composed of two white seamless sheets or towels, one of which is wrapped around the waist with the other draped over the shoulder. The head remains uncovered. Ayhan then faces Mecca making the intention, a prayer of resolution. As he travels he recites or sings with a loud voice along with the other pilgrims, hymns like the one printed earlier. Upon arrival he washes himself in the sacred mosque and he encounters the Ka'bah. He has dreamed of seeing this since he was a child.

Just as Christians and Jews have deep connections with Jerusalem, so Muslims have a connection with Mecca. Mecca is 45 miles to the east of Jiddah, which lies on the Red Sea. The route between the two cities follows the ancient camel tracks leading into Alamain, or two pillars, marking the beginning of the sacred territory of Mecca. No non-Muslim is allowed beyond this point. Mecca lies about halfway up the trade route that ran along the Red Sea coast from the southern tip of Arabia to the Mediterranean. Commonly, caravans carried frankincense and myrrh. Mecca is the home of 658,000 inhabitants. This population swells dramatically during the pilgrimage. Truly Mecca has extended its influence throughout the world.

A Christian apologist of the eighth century called the Muslim faith a heretical form of Christianity. Mohammed integrated many of the beliefs of both the Christian and the Jew with pagan beliefs to build this great movement on the foundations of Mecca and the Ka'bah. Muslims sincerely want to serve Allah. They need to understand that their prayers and rituals are not the way to the True God.

PRAY FOR MUSLIMS DURING THEIR HAJJ :

  • For God to call millions of Christians around the world into united, focusedprayer, countering the spiritual forces behind Islam, crying out to Godfor the revelation of Jesus to spring forth among Muslim people as theygo on the hajj.
  • For cooperation between denominations, churches, and parachurch groupsin unified times of prayer for the Muslims.
  • Pray that the Christians of the Arab world will actively take Christ totheir Muslim neighbors.
  • For "Daniels" and "Esthers" to rise up in places of influence throughoutthe Muslim world.
  • For the enemy's plans against the gospel to be thwarted.
  • Islam means "submission to God." Pray for Muslims to become fully submittedTo God in Christ

Copyright 1998 by the U.S. Center for World Mission. May be used freely for educational and promotional purposes. The FrontierScan is a monthly summary of the Global Prayer Digest, both of which are published monthly by the U.S. Center for World Mission.

Muslims are normal sincere people who need the Lord Jesus. Please take the time to pray for them.