Saudis Pray for Rain; Cleric Blames Sin

By Associated Press

November 13, 2003, 2:34 PM EST

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Saudis on Thursday heeded their king's call and prayed for rainfall, and a leading cleric blamed its scarcity on the sins of the desert state's citizens.

Noting seasonal rains were late, Kind Fahd on Saturday urged fellow Saudis to perform a special prayer for rain this week.

Rain usually starts falling at the start of the winter season in October. When they fail to fall on time, the Saudi king normally calls for rain prayers to be performed.

In the first 10 months of 2003, rainfall in the Gulf state is said to be below the annual average of 6 inches. There have been recorded falls in western Saudi Arabia, most recently this week, but no figures were immediately available.

Saudi's top Muslim cleric, Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul-Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheik, said God was holding back the rain this year because Saudi people had been "immersing in sin and forbidden acts."

"God afflicts people with drought and shortages of rain so that they can move closer to him with good deeds," the cleric said during a sermon in the capital, Riyadh. Most of his sermon was carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

Despite receiving little rain fall, most of Saudi Arabia's 19 million people receive their water needs from deep water wells and water desalination plants.

Copyright © 2003, The Associated Press