Pray for the Shia of Saudi Arabia

The distinction between Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims is felt keenly in the nation of Saudi Arabia. These two Islamic sects share many of the same beliefs and practices, but they also have significant differences which cause conflict.

The Sunnis are “Ahl al-Sunnah” or “People of the Tradition.” They believe it is essential to practice Islam in the same way that the Prophet Muhammad did, as recorded in the Sunnah.

The Shia, however, believe that they can also be guided by the teaching and example of the descendants Muhammad had through his son-in-law and cousin, Ali. The “Shiat

Ali” or “Party of Ali” argued that Ali should take the role of leader (imam) of the Muslim community after the death of Muhammad. In practice, the Shia are more reliant on their religious leaders (ayatollahs) for guidance, while Sunnis rely on the Sunnah.

Saudi Arabia’s royal family follow a fundamentalist form of Islam which does not consider Shias to be true Muslims. About 2 715 000 Shias live in Saudi Arabia, mostly in the Eastern Province. They are discriminated against at work, are limited in their access to political participation and have an uneasy relationship with the ruling powers. As a result, they tend to be poorer, and experience harassment and violence for their religious practices.

This causes the community to be disenfranchised, with some forming activist groups to demand equality with their fellow citizens. This results in further oppression as such activists are suspected of conspiring with the Shia communities in neighbouring Iraq for political purposes.

How to Pray

  • There are no known believers in the Shia communities of Saudi Arabia and no known efforts to plant churches there. Pray for the Holy Spirit to find a way to reveal God’s love to them. (John 3:5-8)
  • Saudi Arabia has some of the harshest restrictions on religious freedom in the world. Pray for more openness. (John 8:36)
  • Pray for this community to be guided by the Spirit of Truth. (John 14:26)

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