Introduction / History The traditional homeland of the Bedouin is the Arabian Desert; however, some groups have migrated into northern Africa. Today, a significant number of Bedouin live in Libya, and virtually all are Sunni Malikite Muslims of the Malakite school. Although Bedouin groups are scattered throughout Libya, the Sirtican Bedouin live primarily along the Mediterranean coast, an area also known as Tripolitania.
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. The fellahin lead a more settled life on the edge of the desert. In contrast, the "true" Bedouin have been known for raiding any caravans that cross their paths while journeying across barren deserts. They move into the desert during the rainy winter seasons and back to the desert's edge during the hot, dry summers. Most of the Sirtican Bedouin are of the fellahin type. They speak Badawi (Bedouin Arabic).
What are their lives like? Despite being more settled than the nomadic Bedouin, the Sirtican 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.
Dairy products are the main food source for the Bedouin. Milk from camels and goats is made into yogurt and a type of butter called ghee. Most of their meals consist of a bowl of milk, yogurt, or rice covered with ghee. Round loaves of unleavened bread are also 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. It is designed to cover the entire body except the head, hands, and feet.
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 all Bedouin in Libya are Sunni Muslims of the Malakite 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 an obligatory percentage (very similar to tithes) on an annual basis. (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? Evangelization efforts among the Bedouin are challenging due to the harsh and unsettled nature of their lifestyle. There is a great need for a strong Christian witness among the Sirtican Bedouin.
Prayer Points * 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 Sirtican Bedouin.
* Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the few Sirtican 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 Bedouin towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Sirtican Bedouin. * Pray for completion of Bible translation in this people group's primary language.