Islam in China

Friday, January 28th, 2011, 06:26 WIB
Islam in China

Book Title :  Islam in China

Author :  Mi Shojiang & You Jia

Translator :  Min Chang

Publisher :  China Intercontinental Press. 2004.


At the preface it is written that Islam was introduced into China early in the middle of the 7th century. It was spread and developed for 1300 years, going through the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dunasties and the Republic Period (618-1949 A.D.). It is also written that Islam has developed more than 20 millions followers in China. It was called by different names in different historic periods; such as in Tang Dynasty (918-907 A.D.), Islam was called "Dashi Jiao" (religion of Dashi (Arabs)), in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.) it was called "Tianfang Jiao" (religion of Arabia) or "Hui Hui Jiao" (religion of various ethnic), at the end of the Ming Dynasty and the beginning of the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911 A.D.) it was called "Qingzhen Jiao" (pure and true religion), and after New China was founded in 1949 it was simply called Islam. It is mentioned too that among the 56 ethnic groups in China there are 10 that take Islam as their national faith.

The book has 5 chapters; in chapter 1 "Spread and Development of Islam in China"; the book discusses advent of Islam, its extensive spread, its religious system, and the development of mosques and its concentration and dispersion in the Chinese inland. It is written that "the third Caliph of Arabia Othman (644-656 A.D.) dispatched diplomatic envoys to Chang'an, the capital city of Tang, to pay an official call to Emperor Gaozong, introducing to him the Caliphate, their customs and Islam. For historic purposes most of scholars have acknowledged this year as the symbol of Islam's advent into China. Then it is written that "it was an indication of the acknowledgement and encouragement given to Islam by the authority of the Yuan Dynasty that a good number of mosques were built as sites for Muslims' religious activities. The mosques became a place where Muslims of various identities could come together to perform religious services and engage in various social activities. Hence, Islam became an important medium to foster and strengthen national ties, eventually leading to the birth of Hui Huis as an ethnic group.

In chapter 2 "Nationalization of Islam in China"; the book explores the ten minority groups, the birth and growth of sects and Menhuans, mosques education and initiation of nationalization of Islam, movements of translating and writing scriptures in Chinese, and the combination of Islma with traditional Chinese culture. It is mentioned here that after the middle of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.) fundamental changes took place to the conditions for Islam to spread and develop. "First of all the Hui Huis' political status changed, reduced to that of being ruled from that of being second highest class in the Yuan Dynasty. Secondly, the Ming rulers pursued a policy of favoring agriculture and restricting trade, so the Hui Huis lost their advantage on trading, and it led to the decline of their economy and social status. Thirdly, the distribution structure of the Hui Huis' population characterized by "big dispersion and small concentration" obstructed the contacts among the communities in different places. Fourthly Jiao Fangs (Muslim settlement) that appeared as Islam developed in China began to play an important role at that time. They gathered the dispersed Hui Huis into groups with similar, and by Islamic belief and tradition made them a new national community which had common values, ethics, and customs".

In chapter 3 "Islam in the Republic of China Period"; the book explores the rise of new Islamic schools and Muslim organization, publishing institutions and Islamic publications, translation and publication of the Holy Qur'an, Chinese Muslims' active participation in the war of resistance against Japan, striving against insults and discrimination, and the situation of Islam in Xinjiang during the republic period. It may be concluded that the Qing Dynasty was overthrown in the revolution of 1911, and China stepped into the republic period with gigantic changes. Chinese Muslims, motivated by revolutionary thought, walked out of a blocked situation, and recovered and built up their national consciousness. As a result, a new Islamic cultural movement was initiated by the Muslim scholars who were both well versed in religion and had a modern mind.

In chapter 4 "Islam in the Initial Period of New China"; it discusses how Islam is being active in the construction of New China, the formation of Islamic organizations and their activities, and the democratic reform to religious systems of Chinese Islam. In the last chapter "Chinese Islam in New Times"; the book discusses the following subtitles: implementing policy on religion and restoring religious organization, setting up regulations and systems to strengthen mosque democratic administration, developing Islamic education and studies, participating actively in the socialist construction of "Two Civilization", and actively developing foreign friendly contacts.

For further reading, "Cheng Ho and Islam in Southeast Asia" might be helpful in completing the historical context. (Saber)