Churches in Saudi Arabia

While Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow people of religions other than Islam to practice their faiths publicly here, the land of the Kingdom could be the home of one of the oldest churches in the region.

The Assyrian International News Agency website recently published some photos of what they called the Jubail Church, of which its ruins were accidentally unearthed in the 1980’s by a group of people attempting to dig their vehicle out of the sand. The website claims that the government has acknowledged the existence of this church but will not issue permits to visit it.

My friend Bandar Raffah has previously written about the Jeddah Church and took some photos of the building, which unlike the one in Jubail remains unfenced. He was also able to get an official confirmation that it is indeed a church although no information are available on its history.

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56 thoughts on “Churches in Saudi Arabia

  1. Very interesting! So it might have been there as early as the time of the prophet? I have always wondered if the prophet might not have known christians at close hand, and about the christian church, as some rules in Islam seem to be designed to avoid the mistakes christians made in early christianity.
    Anyway, this is something I’ve been wondering about.

    I loved Bandar’s photos.

  2. “I have always wondered if the prophet might not have known christians at close hand”

    The prophet knew both Christians and Jews since they both lived in madina.

  3. Your website is inaccurate when it says that no faith other than Islam is permitted to be practiced in Saudi Arabia. In fact, even forms of Islam that the Saudi ulemaa views as heterodox are also forbidden in the Kingdom — Ahmadiyya Muslims, for example.

  4. Salaam,

    Interesting.

    @Bandar: Actually, I forget what the building is but as we drive from the north of Riyadh to Grenada shopping mall we go past a building on our right with a strange aerial type thing and as you approach it, it looks exactly like a cross on top of the building… maybe this is in fact Riyadh’s first church! I should photograph it. ;)

  5. “Ahmadiyya Muslims, for example.”

    Virtually all other Muslims consider Ahmadiyya “muslims” to be deviated. Their case of religious persecution is not representative of just Saudi arabia.

  6. Nice post. I am a Christian and I am aware that it is forbidden to practice our religion here in the Kingdom. But, I do believe that this should not be the case since the “God” that we believe in is the same “God” you Muslims believe in also, just a different name.

  7. Interesting post. I’ve known about that church in Jeddah for quite a while. In fact its very near to where I used live in Baghdadiyah Gharbeyah.

    The abandoned church is in a large empty area between Baghdadiyah and the Balad district of Jeddah.

  8. If there were Christians, Jews, etc. in Saudi side by side with Mohammed (pbuh) and he did not destroy their churches / synagogues, why are their none in the kingdom today?

    Why go further than the prophet (pbuh) own’s practice?

    Isn’t their “no compulsion in religion?”

    Just curious

  9. “If there were Christians, Jews, etc. in Saudi side by side with Mohammed (pbuh) and he did not destroy their churches / synagogues, why are their none in the kingdom today”

    are you ignorant of history? you seem to be

  10. “Virtually all other Muslims consider Ahmadiyya “muslims” to be deviated. Their case of religious persecution is not representative of just Saudi arabia [sic].”

    True. This points to the whole problem of a Kingdom that on one hand espouses the doctrine that “there is no compulsion in religion” and on the other hand deprives individuals of their freedom of personal belief.

    What distinguishes the Kingdom from the other countries that do so is that Saudi Arabia claims that its entire legal system is based on the Holy Quran.

    Other nations make no such claim.

    Any non-Moslem or Moslem with a sense of intellectual honesty who examines the reality of the Kingdom is likely to draw adverse conclusions regarding Islam if the Kingdom is taken to be the example of Islamic law in action.

    Indeed, such negative views regarding Saudi Arabia are widespread throughout the entire world, and also regrettably common regarding Islam.

  11. I’ve gone by that ruin many times and wondered because it’s very church-like. But this also sounds like an urban myth, too. Now I want to go check it out more closely.

  12. Andrew, it is not just Arabia (I don’t like to even mention the name of a certain family that owns that country), it is ALL Islamic societies. They restrict and openly discrimnate against non-Muslims. It is only a matter of degree. Muslims, even the so-called moderates, are not honest about this. So, therefore, negative views of islam are perfectly logical if we consider what Muslims do to others where they dominate. I see no reason for any non-Muslim to respect islam or Muslims until they change their ways. Besides, take my word for it, most Muslims don’t even know their own scriptures.

    Kactuz

  13. Yes, once upon a time we had a few churches in Najran as well, so what? That does not mean that the Christians have the right to claim them or reopen them.

    I lived in the west, went to many countries there and saw or read about so many churches that are being sold, closed or converted into night clubs or bars all over America and Europe. Some were turned into Masjids (mosques). It did not seem to bother the folks there.

    But I know where The Assyrian International News Agency website is going with this “news” article. For the past 10 yrs, I have been a researcher on Christian Evangelism. In all of Arabia, I have been the only student of late sheikh Ahmed Deedat, may Allah have mercy on him and bless his soul. And those Assyrians know me too well. I run the biggest and the largest Arabic blog dedicated to exposing Evangelicals and their hidden agenda (http://deedat.wordpress.com). I wrote about them and what they do in Iraq under the cover of the American occupation since 2003 and till today.

    Here is an open challenge – since they were saying that SAUDI JEANS is making such claims, when the fellow Saudi blogger only tried to make us aware of what the evangelical website is saying: I dare those few Iraqi Christians to come to a public debate about this issue and let’s see if they have a legal right to claim those long lost churches.

    Not unless they want Hindus to have a temple in Mecca because some of the Hindu deities and idols were worshiped in pre-Islamic Mecca right around the Kabah. Does this give Hindus any right or legal access to Mecca? By the logic of those fanatic Iraqi Christians, Hindus may have a stronger claim than theirs, along with all other pagans of the world, because Mecca was turned into the capital of pagan worship in Arabia when the Arabs moved further away from the true teachings of their fathers; Ibraheem (Abraham) and Ismael (Ishmael). But no, Hindus and Pagans do not have a single legal or religious claim on our soil.

    So what makes abandoned churches any better? And why now? Why Saudi Arabia? We shall see. But for now I would like to say this: Christians have no right to worship in public in what is called today Saudi Arabia neither do they have the right to claim those churches or build a new one.

    Should they want to talk openly to me about it, I sure welcome the invitation. And I will prove my case from their own Bible, insha-Allah. Be well versed when you come to debate this matter.

    As for the “church in Jeddah”, it’s said that it was built during the British occupation of major Arabian ports. No church built by force and invasion on our soil is to be recognized. That so-called church was brought to our shores by gun powder and aggression. Those who call themselves “true Christians” should be so ashamed to even talk about it since they say that the true message of Jesus Christ was all about love. They need to be more true to what they preach first. Don’t we all?

    Best wishes and regards to Saudi Jeans and readers of this blog.

    Esam Mudeer

    • You have an obligation to respect. That much you owe all cultures. In S.A. faiths, ethnic groups and opinions are neither respected, nor tolerated. I live here – I know!

  14. my 2 cents,

    The church belonged to the British when the region was owned by the Ottoman empire. Of course it was built outside Jeddah at the time. I also read somewhere that the land is owned by some church and some say the land is owned by the Vatican (they own land almost everywhere). Now, why has it not been demolished? its because the land and the building are owned by someone. Why has it not been restored? well, do u think the municipality will issue a permit for restoration?

    These are mostly rumors I’ve heard and some things I read about a while ago.

    If someone knows someone in the municipality of Jeddah, maybe they can find the deeds to the land and give us some closure on the subject… not that it is an important subject… but, u know…

  15. i came across your blog by accident
    and i was really…. surprised.. to say the least
    man it’s such a great blog and i’ll do my best to spread the word
    keep it up! :)

  16. i was really amazed hen i read your post! i am living in jeddah more than 24 years ago and i dont know about this Churche.
    Its great.

  17. Where I come from, a few years ago there was political change in the country and altho muslims were able to practice their religion without too many restrictions in the past, the change in the country gave them a chance to expand and move to different areas. Its amazing that suddenly so many churches and synagogues were converted into masaajid, even the one I used to attend when I lived close by.
    I travel a lot and when I do, I love visiting places of religion and spirituality, whether churches, temples or masaajid.
    The saddest visit was to Cordoba, to be in a place that once was a masjid, and then every evidence of Islam was chipped away.
    Still we need to be tolerant of others and appreciate the history that is left behind. I hope the church won’t be destroyed or hidden like so many historical places in Saudi Arabia have already been.

  18. I don’t know what is the point of this subjct ?

    because when someone say “itis intersting” that doesn’t lead us to end or opnion

    we don’t have forgot , what is our imams said about this issue ?

  19. @ Jay Kactuz

    I read a bit in your blog. You claim you support whatever you say about Islam with Quran and Hadith. Fact is, most of what your using as proof isn’t translated correctly by you or whomever you got it from. Remember translating an Arabic sentence literally doesnt always keep the original meaning.
    Jay, even you don’t know what you’re talking about. You just take what you want and manipulate in a way to show that Islam is wrong.

    Bottom line, another Islam hater. Don’t bother with his opinions. They aren’t worth al jazmah ilee fe rejlee wento bkraamah.

    • i think ur right imean look at us we are muslims and we love islam we dont even like to hear any one say any doubtful stuff about islam .
      where christians are always cursing their own god drinking commiting adultry

  20. I find it interesting how the Saudi government tells muslims how to live their lives but have perverted the interpretation of this great religion. the profit let churches and sinigogues be and allowed everyone to practice as they pleased (though there were some limits) he neve put as many limits on other religions has this crazy saudi government.

    they give us muslims a bad name. :(

  21. A point that is missed is that the Kingdom harms itself, and by association Islam, when it engages in actions that limit the ability of individuals to engage in freely make their own decisions of faith or conscience.

    Saudi Arabia and its actions create distrust throughout the world when it professes abroad that “there is no compulsion in religion” and yet engages in compulsive religious activity within the Kingdom.

    Surely it must be better if those who can expose the fallacies and distortions of Evangelicals do so through logic and reason, rather than through violence.

  22. As someone interested in the pre-Islamic history of the Arabian peninsula, this is very interesting. I wish the government would open up it’s records on both sites and let archaeologists have access. It would be seen as gesture of goodwill and put some weight behind the interfaith dialogue policy. It would boost the academic credentials of the Kingdom’s educational institutions if they could get involved in effective research and conservation.

  23. @ a

    Actually, the one who said that only one religion is allowed in Arabia was Ibin Abbas, not prophet Muhammad peace be upon him.
    I think it was something like: two qiblas can never exist in Arabia
    If prophet Muhammad was intolerant, he wouldn’t have allowed the Jews to live in Madinah. the only reason why Muslims fought them during the reign of prophet Muhammad was because Jews kept on bothering Muslims. They even tried killing prophet Muhammad

    my comment on the topic as a whole: I think people of other religions have the right to build their own temples. we Muslims build Mosques abroad. it’s only fair that they get to build their own temples in KSA
    after all, refusing this would make Islam seem intolerant of other religions.

  24. I wander when I seen this comment . Most of them are happy to found church in Jeddah . What is the benefit of church in KSA .We are already destroyed islamic historic relic such as Ajiad castle in mecca and Othmani railway .

    I wanna say al7mdullah 3la n3mat alislam……..

  25. It isn’t a secret that there were Christians in Arabia at the time of Muhammad. There is a good deal of writing about it. One very good book by Hugh Goddard is “A History of Muslim-Christian Relations”. It goes all the way through at least the Middle Ages but it has some good stuff on early Christians in Arabia. There were several Christian communities in Arabia at the time of the Prophet. The largest and best documented in Najran, you can find information on it in encyclopedias and scholarly journals. Arabia had some contact with Christianity because it was on the border of the Byzantine Empire and had interactions with that empire (which was largely, maybe even officially, Christian). There are also stories of Muhammad meeting and being blessed by a Christian monk in Arabia. Most Christianity in Arabia was Monophysite Christianity, which was considered heretical by the main/Chalcedon Christian community. I believe Muhammad also had some relation, I think maybe a brother-in-law, that was Christian as well. He obviously had a good bit of knowledge of both Christianity and Judaism because he believed himself to be in the line of the Judaic prophets. He also mentions both Jews and Christians in the Qur’an. I think his ideas of some of their theology may have been skewed though because he probably learned of those religions through oral reports about them, since the Bible was not translated into Arabic until about 80 years after Muhammad (who, it is said, was illiterate anyways). Hope this information is interesting to some of you. There is a good bit about most of this written in books and scholarly journals online.

  26. I am very glad to have discovered this post and these comments, thank you.

    The ruins of these 2 churches form part of the cultural patrimony of Arabia and may reveal in their architecture, artistry and inscriptions more about the people and culture of the time. In that sense they are historic monuments from which all may benefit . I hope their potential is being fully realised by the Saudi Arabian archeological community.

    The Prophet learned about Christianity and Judaism not only from their adherents locally among Arabian tribes, but in his travels for trade. His followers were protected by Al-Najashi of Abyssinia (1st hijrah). Christians are addressed in the Qur’an, especially 5:14-19; 64-65; 69 and 82.

    St Paul travelled to Arabia in the 1st century CE, writing about it in Galatians (1:15-17) and many Arab tribes (including Nabateans, and Ghassanids) converted to Christianity (from paganism) from the 1st century on.
    Najran apparently had the first major Christian community in Arabia, and Christianity spread further from there during the 4th and 5th centuries. Jewish communities especially in Najran opposed the new religion, and Najranite Christians were massacred in 524 by the Jewish Yemenite King.

    14 Najran Bishops travelled to Medina in 10 hijrah and were allowed by the Prophet Mohamed to conduct their prayers in the mosque. Both the Prophet and Abu Bakr had treaties with the Najran Christians to exempt them from the usual payment of the jizya owed by non-Muslims. Though later there was an expulsion of Jews and Christians from Najran itself (to Iraq and Syria), Christians remained in the vicinity through the 9th and 10th centuries. Old Christian Najran is now called Al-Ukhdood.

    For all these reasons I think it is wonderful to find ruins of the places of worship in Arabia of one of the Peoples of the Book, and to preserve them for all.

  27. For those Who ask why we Can’t Build Churches on Mecca and Madina …why None can Build also Churches on Vatican ?

    christian are free To Build on other Countery islamic Countery ( egypte , Morocco , Jordan ……….. ) But Mecca and Medina are Holy place as the vatican is a Holy Place
    That is all

    why Christians use Double Strandard when it comes to this Matter

    • No religion is tolerated inside the Kingdom of S.A. Period.
      There is no respect. Is this the law of a loving God? No! The law of hatred is the law of SATAN.

  28. Well.. well.. keep it going… As a person living in Saudi Arabia for almost a decade…

    Don’t issue threats against each other but get knowledge and reach the light. Not everyone is perfect and there wont be peace on Earth soon.

    There is a mosque near Vatican in Rome, will there be a Church in Saudi Arabia 100 miles south of Mecca?

  29. praise the lord.
    My self Renjith working in jeddah .here iam searching any pentecostal church un furtunatly i can’t find any one. can u help me if ur know some where have any pentecostal churches.

  30. There are many christian who say they are but when you hear their hatred against other religion you
    will not feel that really they are.
    Jesus christ taught us to love our enemy and pray to these who cursed us. Many will persecute you because of my name and these who believe in me shall not perish and will have eternal life this wonderful gift is remain hidden to these who dont believe and distort the teaching of jesus. Brother & sister refrain from any religious debate for no one will win instead believe in jesus as the christ of the living God for our time is short. amen.

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