As a cardinal rule, it is a requirement for all Muslims to live in a Muslim land. This is because it is only in such lands that the laws of Allah can be practiced as prescribed. However, failure to believe in such a clan, believers who live in non-Muslim countries must perceive their stay as temporary while doing their best to live in accordance with the requirements of the Islamic religion. If all the alternatives fail, they have the right and duty to seize the power of seceding by establishing an Islamic territory governed by the principles of Islam (El and Ravane 713). The actions by the Muslim minorities in different countries are often determined by the perceived threat of the majority host culture. In China, Muslims are part of the minority and they are dispersed in different regions within China. The seeming co-existence between Muslims and other cultures has made it possible for Muslims to practice their religious belief with little or no inhibitions. The spread and institutionalization of Islam in China was facilitated by, among other factors, frequent interactions between Arab traders and Chinese merchants (Berlie 2). The commercial relations also facilitated the process of intermarriage and the establishment of infrastructures, such as mosques and the introduction of Muslim leaders in these religious institutions to help in increasing the Muslim population.
The main objective of this paper will be to engage in an in-depth research initiative to develop an understanding on the Islamization of China and the essence of the sacred mountains in the propagation of the Islamic faith within the country.
Islamization of China
As early as the 8th century, during the Tang period, the first Muslim settlers were largely composed of Arab and Persian Merchants who arrived in China. Their arrival was through different sea routes around India and within the Chinese coastal areas. The better remunerations that they got from trading with the Chinese provided enough reasons for their permanent stay (El and Ravena 713). The initial years of their stay in the Chinese coastal cities were characterized by the decision by the ruling dynasties to accord them separate quarters. This allowed them to preserve the Muslim mode of life that they had imported with them. The Muslim settlers through the extra-territorial rights that they enjoyed were able to engage in the successful preservation of their Arabic and Persian names, their language, and mode of dressing. In addition, they were also planning to conduct their religious and social life activities independent of the Chinese (Berlie 2).
The Chronicles of Kwangtung give an elaborate recount of the first Muslims to come to China by describing them as strangers who came from different countries within Asia and abroad. They worshipped an almighty God and were not in possession of any idols in their places of worship (El and Ravane 714). Furthermore, the description provided also entails details on how the Muslims did not consumer more or take wine and they regarded any animal flesh not killed by them as unclean. According to Chinese and Muslim historians, an entourage under the leadership of Sad Ibn Abi Waqqas, an uncle to Propjet Muhammad came into China and was received by the emperor of the Tang dynasty; in their honor, a memorial mosque was constructed (Berlie 3). The Muslim population imported their way of life and cultural practices. They were also famous for their skills in matters related to trade. The willingness of the ruling dynasty to accept them was an indication that the population of Muslim s was bound to increase due to immigration and other cultural practices between the native community and the migrant population (El and Ravena 715).
One way by which the Muslim settlers were able to spread the Islamic faith among the Chinese was through marrying Chinese women. In some situations, they were able to purchase Chinese children, especially during famine. This allowed them to play a contributory role to the numerical growth of the Chinese population. In addition, it also helped in the process of injecting into their midst, the first seed of their crucial ethnic assimilation (Berlie 3).
The spread of Islam in China was also facilitated by the invitation of Muslim faithful’s into China by the different emperors. During the Song period, the Song emperor invited more than 5000 Arabs to settle in China. This was because these Arabs had helped the emperor in his war with the Liao Empire in northeastern China (El and Ravena 715). Frequent invitations and trade relations between the Chinese and the Arab population led to an increase in the interactions between the Chinese and the Muslim Arabs. Furthermore, intermarriages also made these Muslims an important local element in China. Their interactions also helped in the spread and the establishment of different institutions and systems of authority that were not only favorable to the Islamic population but also helped in the development of a mutual relationship among the Muslims and the Chinese locals (Luo 200). The Tang dynasty also played an influential role in the spread of Islam in China. This was by forming diplomatic relations with the Persians. The first contact between the Tang emperor and the Muslim population was through diplomatic relations with Tang Emperor. Through these relations, it was possible for the Tang Empire to open up its capital to more trade relations with the Persians (Luo 200). Throughout their interactions and the subsequent stay of Persian diplomats in the Tang dynasty, there were calls for the Chinese to embrace the new Islamic faith as a way of enhancing their relations. The recognition of the possible mutual relationship in terms of trade and their strategic location helped in the development of an effective, though minority, Muslim population (El and Ravena 716).
Mongol conquest of China carried with it the Islamic religion in different regions of the country led to forced migration of Muslims from Persia, Arabs, and Turks. The main intention of this migration was to provide the Muslim population with a platform of creating their government and using their skills in the expansion of the empire (Berlie 4). An influx of different members of the population included artisans, architects, medical doctors, and astronomers. The migrant population also included prisoners and soldiers who permanently settled in the country to develop proliferating and flourishing communities (El and Ravane 717).
During the rule of the Mongols in China, many Muslims held important positions within the government and this means that they had an influential role in contributing to the spread of Islam within China. Even after the defeat of Mongols and by the Ming Dynasty, the emperor continued with his trade relations with Muslim leaders in other counties (Luo 201).
Military expansion among the Arab population and the Mongols was an essential contributor in the spread of Islam in China. This is evidenced from numerous wars between the tenth and the twelfth century that the Arabs conducted in Asia. Through these wars and constant interaction with the Arab population that serves an overwhelming acceptance of the Islamic faith by the Chinese who lived along the northwestern borders and North of the Tianshan Mountains (El and Ravane 718). At the end of the reign of the first Yuan emperor, the Mongols were engaged in additional fights, west of Central Asia. Various ethnic groups within central Asia, Persian, and Arabs formed a group of soldiers and artisans and formed a group called Hui (Luo 201). The group gradually spread over China and they settled in different locations within the country. They engaged in intercultural relations with the Chinese natives marrying their women and adopting Chinese children, they however retained Muslim traditions that were often characterized by the building of mosques, which were the centers where they conducted their cultural and religious practices (Berlie 2). In addition, they were also engaged in the formation of religious residential neighborhoods within China. The warfare conducted by Mongols was therefore a major contributor to the development of Hui nationality in China (El and Ravane 718).
The development of Islam in China was also evidenced even after the Yuan dynasty. By the end of the seventeenth century there were about ten ethnic Chinese nationalities had converted to Islam. These included the Kazakh, Hui, Tajik, Dongxiang, Tartar, Bao’an, Uyghur, and Sala (Luo 203). Their conversion was because Islam had some association with the traditional life, customs, and culture of these ethnic nationalities. Islamic scholars such as the imams played an essential role in the Islamization of China especially in the reign of the Ming and the Qing dynasties (El and Ravane 719). This was because that was major players in the promotion of religious education in mosques and their ability to ensure consistency in spreading Islamic culture and learning. In addition, they were also major contributors in spreading the history and the teachings of Islamic faith by engaging in the translation and publishing of Arabic and Persian language books. In the contemporary society, most Chinese of the Islamic faith belong to the Sunni sect. this is despite the emergence of many other Islamic sects in China during the spread of the religion (Luo 203).
In the subsequent dynasties and kingdoms in China, Muslims in the country was viewed as an essential part of the community. This is because they were allowed to engage in their worship. This is evidenced from the understanding that it was possible for the Muslims to engage in the construction of mosques within the capital and in rural China (Luo 203). Muslim s in China lived peacefully until the reign of Manchu dynasty in the 17th century. The Muslim population was oppressed and in 1648, there was an Isaamic revolt in China, which continued until the 19th century. During this period, the revolt caused an enormous interference in the relationship between the Chinese emperor and the Muslims (El and Ravane 722). In late 18th century, the desire to reconstruct the soared relationship led the Chinese emperor Yun Chen to give a declaration that the Muslim population was to be allowed to engage in their religious and cultural practices. Their practices were however to coincide with the traditions and the laws that governed the Chinese population. The main objective of this edict was to ensure the comfort of the native Chinese and the immigrant or converted Chinese Muslim population. This was considered as the only approach that could guarantee peaceful co-existence between the two conflicting traditional and religious beliefs (Luo 205).
Mosque, their construction and essence in the spread of Islam in China
Among the Chinese as in other Muslim countries, most form an essential platform in term of the incorporation of Islamic traditions and the propagation of Quranic education. Being a place of worship, mosques are often close to residential and business areas to make it easier for the faithful to seek divine intervention are make it easier for the Muslims to locate these places of worship (Berlie 12). During the spread of Islam in China, mosques were considered as a symbol that the Muslims had already established their authority among the Chinese. The most ancient mosques are Guangzhou and the Xian. These ancient and remaining mosques have ties to the Yang and Tang dynasties (Berlie 12). The period of the Yuan rule was essential during the Mongol period considering its ability to open the country to western trade routes. Furthermore, it was also a period when the essence of Islam religion had some connection to trade and the need to minimize warfare within the Asian region. The older mosques constructed during the Yuan and the Tang periods were considered as essential reflections of their identity as a community. Furthermore, it was also a reflection of their wealth and taste in society. Mosques do have a uniform design in terms of their functional requirements (Berlie 13).
Despite the uniformity, it is often important that they reflect the local design and the building traditions of the natives. This was one way by which the religion was to ensure some form of integration with the members of the society. The design of all mosques includes a prayer hall that is included in the direction of Mecca which lies approximately west in China (Berlie 13). A mosque in China as in other Muslim nationals has a few additional necessary elements and these include broad clean floor space, a stepped throne from which the Imam delivers his sermon during the Friday Midday prayer session. One of the major differences in between Chinese mosques and the mosques in other countries was the dome. The dome was commonly used in dignifying the payer hall (Berlie 13). However, this aspect in mosque building was absent in the Chinese mosque. In the mosques, there were additional elements that signified the difference between mosques and other areas of worship of business. These included decorations of Koranic messages written in Koranic calligraphy and geometric interlaces. It is important to note that an outstanding feature of mosques in ancient China was the absence of figural decorations (Berlie 13).
From a virtual perspective, the entire mosque in China contains different functional elements and decorations. Despite these similarities, the architecture of these mosques has displayed massive variations over the years. One of the oldest remaining mosques in China is the Huaisheng Mosque in Guangzhou. This is believed to have been founded by Prophet Muhammad’s uncle in 627 and is still being used as a place of worship by the Hui community in Guangzhou China. The mosque has been rebuilt frequently (Berlie 14). The Huaisheng Mosque is important in understanding the history and the progression of Islam since it inspired the design of the subsequent mosques within China. The design was inclusive of a series of palace-style courtyards that ran from south to north China. The mosque was mostly Chinese in its design vocabulary and some additional west Asian features as part of its details. In addition, the mosque was also characterized by a Hui variant on the Chinese wooden structural vaulting, which gives the prayer hall its monumentality (Berlie 14).
The other old mosques that were constructed in China during the Islamization of China exhibit a mixture of Chinese urban and architectural elements with unusual features that can be attributed to the design of foreign mosques. Much of the emphasis in these mosques were on their ability to embrace Persian and Arab designs in China. The integration of these designs can be associated with the development of new and efficient mosques, which were familiar to the Chinese (Berlie 14).
Hui Mosques in China
Tang and Song Dynasties were major contributors to the establishment of Islam in China. The Tang and Ming dynasties held Muslims in high value due to their important position as dominants traders across Asia. The great mosque of Xian was founded in 742 in Tang and rebuilt in 1392. The design of the mosque was heavily inclined on the Imperial Buddhist temple design (Berlie 14). This was because of the long axial plan of the courtyard that was leading to the prayer at the far end. From the structural design, the mosque is entirely Chinese with its timber poles construction and hanging roof. Furthermore, the mosque uses an adaptation of the Chinese wooden structure as a way of giving it its monumentality. The mosque is also inclusive of floral ornament, Arabic calligraphy and the Chinese style (Berlie 15). The most also contain the usual tray of hostels, teaching hall, and bath, which are considered to be unique to the Islamic faith. Through the preservation of this mosque, it is possible to argue that the Xian houses and preserves both the Islamic urban context and the great mosque.
The Chinese Muslim population also followed an almost similar design approach in Niu Jie, one of the famous old mosques in Beijing. The mosque was named in reference to the halal dietary practices that included the substitution of beef for pork among the Muslims. The mosque originates from the Song Dynasty as it was constructed as the home and teaching space for prominent Imams (Berlie 15). The current structure can be likened to the Xian mosque considering its ability to embrace the Chinese form of the pagoda gateway proclaims. The style of building was in agreements with the dictates of the Hiu Chinese cultural norms. The man objective of constructing these mosques was to ensure that as the population of Muslims in China continued to develop it would be easier for the new converts to easily access the services of Imams focused on the growth and the development of their faith (Berlie 15).
Mosques in Xinjiang Uighur
In central Asia, religion and trade played an essential role in understanding the development of Islam in the region. The Oasis kingdoms of Tarim Basin have stronger associations with the Arab and Persian trading partners in the west. The Uighur were indigenous Sunni Muslims who had a little sense of community compared to the Hui Chinese. Xinjiang Hui and Uighur operate on different cultural allegiances and therefore they tend to avoid contact with each other as a way of marinating their differences and cultural orientations (Berlie 17). These groups despite being treated harshly in the reign of the Ming dynasty tend to avoids mosques and other places of communal or religious gatherings. The difference between their mosques is in the inscriptions in Chinese in addition to Arabic (Berlie 17).
An inspiring element that brings out the differences in the architectural design of these building sin in the Turkish identity of the Uighur and Persian cultural norms which are the defining features of the architectural designs embraced by the Uighur in the building of their mosques. The mosques from Persia were bricked and vaulted with large central courtyards and tall cylindrical minarets. Amongst the earliest constructed mosques in China, the stone mosque located in Guangzhou is a representative of the monumental entry faced that characterized the design of the Uighur mosques (Berlie 18). These mosques were a reflation of the architectural designs from central Asia. The mosque in Yarkand, the Idgha mosque, and the Emin Minare mosque have the grand entry pishtag facades, courtyards and low spreading prayer halls. These mosques also had domes, which appeared, over the tombs of revered sheikhs. Having fought the harsh Chinese rule in different centuries, the Uighur were viewed as rebels among the Islamic population due to their desire to embrace a different kind of Islamic sect (Berlie 18). In contemporary society, local Uighur figures have been viewed in relation to the heroic activities of the Muslim sec. Furthermore, over the years, the mosques have been viewed as essential destinations for Uighur pilgrimage.
Mosques in the contemporary Chinese society are crucial places of worship. In addition, these mosques also serve as areas where children attend lessons on Islamic history and education with the objective of developing a community of future Muslims in China. The additional role of these mosques is that they are a symbol of Islam in the Chinese society (Berlie 18). This means that their architectural design embraces the Arabic, Persian and the contemporary designs to ensure that they are in accordance with the necessary requirements in the construction of buildings. Other than their role of important land marks, mosques in the contemporary Chinese society serve as platforms for seeking advice and interpretation of the Koran by the Imams. The Imams not only educate children on the teachings of the Koran but also train future imams on different aspects that are essential in understanding Islam (Berlie 22)
The organization of the pilgrimage to Mecca
In the contemporary Chinese society, the Hui and the Uyghur are the major participants in the pilgrimage to Mecca. There are those who choose to travel alone to Mecca through Pakistan or Thailand. Despite these possible routes, it is a requirement among the Chinese to follow specific preparations requirements in Beijing (Berlie 25). This session provides religious instructions and information concerning the culture, accommodation, and climate in Mecca. In addition, the preparation in Beijing is also perceived as the point acquiring information about the possibility of exchanging financial resources before traveling to mecca (Berlie 25).
Other requirements include shaving of hair and putting on new white cotton clothing after bathing. For women it is required that they dress in white cotton clothing while covering their faces according to the dictates of the hijab. Before leaving Mecca, the Pilgrims have the responsibility of drinking from the well of Zemzem; men are required to run while women walk seven times between Safa and Mount Marwa (Berlie 25).
Importance of Mountains
Mountain played a major role in various religious practices among the Chinese. This was due to the understanding that there were specific mountains within the region that were considered sacred among the Chinese. The sacred nature of these mountains was derived from the understanding that the tallest ones were pillars that separated the earth from the heavens. The sanctity of these mountains was also based on the understanding that they were secluded from the human population and this makes them important places where an individual could seek the interventions of the deity away from human interferences (El and Ravane 730). For the Muslims to establish an in-depth connection with the Chinese population it was important to embrace the sanctity of the Mountains and engaging in cultural pilgrimage. A journey to the mountains in China was to signify the pilgrimage to mecca that was part of the defining features among the Muslims. In addition, the location of Mecca was west. Journey to the mountains among the Muslims and facing the direction of the west was an indication that the Muslims were abiding to the strict requirements of the Islamic law (El and Ravena 734).
Other than the symbolic pilgrimage to Mecca, the mountains were also a platform upon which the Muslims were able to integrate their religious practices with the cultural practices of the native Chinese. This was considered as a technique of ensuring that more Chinese were assimilated to the Islamic tradition while at the same time practicing different aspects of their traditions (El and Ravane 738). Traditional religious and cultural practices among the Chinese were based on the understanding that mountains were the dwelling places of their gods. This means that it was important to engage in the preservation of these mountains to escape the wrath of different gods. For the Islam population embracing the mountains, scared places were also to signify to the native Chinese population that they adored and respected the sanctity of these mountains.
The mountains were used as platform s upon which different members of the Chinese community could seek help on personal problems and complications. For example, women whose daughters could not bear children went to Mount Tai Shan to pray for divine intervention for grandchildren. There were also women who went up the mountain to seek the intervention of different illnesses (El and Ravane 744).
For the Muslim population, the mountain was also considered an essential points of reference when teaching on the powers of the almighty Allah. Through the splendid nature of these mountains was enough evidence that Allah, who controls everything in nature, could provide guidance and safety to his people (El and Ravena 744).
The emergence and the prevalence of Islam in China can be attributed to trade among the Chinese, Persian, and the Arabs in the eight century. It is also possible to attribute it to the diplomatic relations between different dynasties such as the Tang, Song, Qing, and the Ming dynasties. Through their interactions, cultural exchange, immigration, and intermarriage, the Arab and Persian settlers were able to establish their presence in China. This led to the building of different mosques as places of worship. Mountains were viewed as sacred places where men could meet with their deities while seeking divine intervention.
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