Muslim World > Saudi Arabia
The Birthplace of Islam
Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was born in the city of Makkah, which is located in the western deserts of modern-day Saudi Arabia. He later immigrated to the city of Madinah, located about 450km north of Makkah, and established the first Muslim community. From Madinah, Islam spread throughout the Arabian peninsula among the Arab tribes, and then quickly expanded to reach China in the east and Spain in the west. Today, the number of Muslims world wide approaches 2 billion, which represents around 1 out of every 4 human beings on Earth. And it all started in the heart of modern-day Saudi Arabia!
Modern Saudi Arabia
Today, Saudi Arabia is a modern country with a population of over 35 million. The local Saudi population is mostly Muslim, although many expatriates live in Saudi Arabia from almost every country in the world. These expatriates come to Saudi Arabia to work, and they bring with them a rich diversity of cultures, languages, and religions. Saudis are very generous and welcoming hosts, and have lived in harmony with expatriate residents for decades. The discovery of oil in the early twentieth century brought many expatriate workers to Saudi Arabia, but the diversity of the population living in the country dates back to many centuries. As a land that has the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, Saudi Arabia has long attracted visitors, traders, and worshipers from all across the world.
Over the past few decades, Saudi Arabia has rapidly advanced its society and economy, aided by the huge oil wealth that the country possesses. Modern Saudi Arabian cities are more similar to cities in Europe or North America than many people think. While the people look different, and have different local customs, dress, and food, life in a Saudi Arabian city is surprisingly familiar. Modern highways connect people to their school or work. The skyscrapers of downtown Riyadh look similar to what you may see in any modern capital. Shopping malls, museums, restaurants, beach fronts, and parks offer great living amenities to the people of Saudi Arabia. Saudi universities are some of the highest ranked in their region, and are quickly modernizing their facilities and educational methods to compete with the best universities globally in research and education.
A number of advanced mega projects have been completed in recent years, and many more are in the planning and building phases. The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) was opened in 2009 as a cutting edge research institution just north of Jeddah on the western coastline. The Ithra cultural center in Dhahran was opened in 2016. It's an impressive structure that measures up to the best similar facilities found anywhere in the world. It contains museums, theaters, a library, among other facilities. The Haramain high speed train connects Madinah, Jeddah, and Makkah along a 450 km route at speeds of up to 300 km/h. Several new projects have also been announced that include impressive economic, tourist, and cultural facilities across Saudi Arabia.
Makkah and Madinah
As mentioned previously, the cities of Makkah and Madinah are considered the birthplace of Islam, and they are both located in Saudi Arabia. These ancient cities that date to more than 1400 years ago have been modernized greatly in the past few decades. Millions of pilgrims from around the world visit these cities each year. Modern hotels, transportation systems, shopping centers, and restaurants have been established to accommodate the large number of visitors and provide them with a safe and enjoyable visit. For example, the Makkah Clock Tower is a complex of seven skyscrapers containing hotels, restaurants, shops, and a museum. The central tower is the fourth-tallest building and sixth-tallest freestanding structure in the world!
Politics and Human Rights
Saudi Arabia has made great strides in modernizing its economy and improving the lives of its citizens and residents. However, questions have been raised about the political and human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. It is therefore important to remember that just because a country has a majority Muslim population, this does not mean that it is a perfect representation of Islamic principles. In fact, no country can claim to fully represent Islamic principles, and therefore Islam as a religion must be understood based on its teachings and not based on the conditions in any country or group of countries.
Islamic principles teach us the importance of representative government, justice, honesty, and the application of the rule of law to everyone regardless of their wealth, class, race, or tribe. Islam also teaches us the importance of protecting human rights, freedom of religion, freedom of thought and expression. It also teaches Muslims to be a force of peace and justice in the world. Sadly, many of these ideals have been lost in today's world. We must work to revive these ideals and place them in their right position of being central to the teachings of Islam.