The Sanusi Bedouin of Libya
The Sanusi are one of the most unique groups of Bedouin. They have been influenced by both the traditional nomadic lifestyle of the Bedouin and the religious teachings of a prophet known as Sayyid Muhammad ibn' Ali as-Sanusi. This particular Muslim influence has made them one of the more gentle of the Bedouin tribes.
The traditional homeland of the Bedouin is the Arabian Desert; however, some groups have migrated into northern Africa. Today, over 500,000 Sanusi Bedouin live north of the Sahara Desert in eastern Libya. It is a fertile area that runs into the Mediterranean Sea.
The Bedouin fall into two basic social classes. One class is known as the "true" Bedouin, and they live as nomadic shepherds. The other group has embraced farming and is known as the fellahin. Due to the fact that the Sanusi usually settle in villages, most of them are of the fellahin type. They speak Badawi (Bedouin Arabic).
What are their lives like?
Despite being more settled than the nomadic bedouin, the Sanusi Bedouin still have a relatively harsh existence. Those who herd goats and sheep stay close to the desert's edge, and the harsh environment makes farming a difficult task with a poor yield. As in most Bedouin societies, the women do most of the work, while the men tend to socialize and make plans for the group.
The material culture of the Bedouin is limited. Their tents are their main possessions, and animals have become very important for their nomadic lifestyle. Camels are their main means of transportation, while sheep and goats are bought and sold.
Dairy products are the main food source for the Bedouin. Milk from camels and goats is made into yogurt and a type of butter known as ghee. Most of their meals consist of a bowl of milk, yogurt, or rice covered with ghee. Round loaves of unleavened bread are served when available. Dates, which can be found in desert oases, are eaten for dessert. Meat is only served on special occasions such as marriage feasts, ceremonial events, or when guests are present.
To endure the extreme heat of the desert, the Bedouin wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. It is very loose-fitting, allowing for the circulation of air.
Although the Bedouin once considered it degrading to have manual labor jobs, this has changed somewhat in recent years. Due to the need for better health conditions, more money, and better living conditions, some have accepted wage-paying jobs. However, most of them still despise this type of work.
What are their beliefs?
Almost 100% of the Bedouin in Libya are Sunni Muslims of the Malikite school. Islam is based on the teachings of the prophet, Mohammed. The Koran ("holy book" of Islam) was supposedly given to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel.
Islam is a religion of works that is centered on five basic teachings or "pillars." (1) A Muslim must affirm that "there is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet." (2) Five times a day he must pray while facing Mecca. (3) He must give alms generously. (4) He must fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim year. (5) He must try to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca in his lifetime.
Islam has greatly influenced the lives of the Bedouin. For example, to preserve their people, the Bedouin are only allowed to marry those inside their own group. Also, the society is patrilineal, which means that inheritances are passed down through the males.
What are their needs?
According to Islamic law, a Muslim who professes faith in Jesus Christ could be put to death. Perhaps this explains why there are only 50 known Sanusi Bedouin believers in Libya at the present time. Evangelization efforts among them are challenging due to the harsh and unsettled nature of their lifestyle.
- Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to reach out and share the love of Christ with them.
- Pray that God will raise up faithful intercessors who will stand in the gap for the Sanusi Bedouin.
- Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the 50 known Sanusi Bedouin believers living in Libya.
- Pray that their traditional Muslim culture will soften, creating open doors for the Gospel to be preached among them.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to open the hearts of the Sanusi Bedouin towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to these Muslims through dreams and visions.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Sanusi Bedouin by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Sanusi Bedouin
- Country: Libya
- Their language: Barqi (Mashriqi)
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 50
- Scriptures in their own language: Bible
- Jesus Film in their own language: Available
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
- Mission agencies working among this people: 2
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 170,800 (34%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 31,400 (66%)
- Country: Libya
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 16
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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