Created on: July 11, 2011 Last Updated: July 12, 2011
Islam (which literally means "Submission to God") is a monotheistic religion. It is practiced by more than one billion people all over the world. The followers of Islam consider the Quran (religious text) to be the verbatim word of God. Shia and Sunni are the two main sub-groups of Islam.
A Hadith says, "Seek knowledge even unto China". According to Chinese historian Chen Yuan, Islam was brought to China by Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas (Prophet Muhammad's uncle) in the year 651 AD. This was during the reign of the Tang dynasty. The first mosque in China was constructed in the Guangdong Province. Muslims like Zheng He, An Lushan, Wang Daiyu, Liu Zhi, Yusuf Ma Dexin, Bai Chongxi and Muhammad Ma Jian have played a significant role in shaping Chinese history.
Islam was a well established religion by the time Song Dynasty came to power (10th century). The Niu Jie Mosque was built in Beijing in the year 996 AD. Muslims who had taken permanent residence in China during this period were called Zhu Tang (foreigners living in China). Their descendants who married Chinese women were called Fan Ke. They started adapting Chinese sounding names like Mo, Mai, Mu, Ha and Hu.
The Islam culture of accepting slaves played an important role in increasing the number of Muslims in China. Under Islamic law, a loyal slave is eligible to receive a part of his master's wealth. Land reclamation by the feudal elite was rampant in the 11th century. These circumstances prompted many poor Chinese tenant farmers to seek employment under rich Muslim traders. They were more than willing to convert to Islam if that meant getting employment.
During the rule of Genghis Khan, a powerful Mongol emperor, Islam as a religion gained great respect among the Chinese. They also enjoyed many tax benefits during this period. Many mosques (like the Dongsi Mosque in Beijing) were built in China under the patronage of the Yuan dynasty. Many Mongols converted to Islam during this period.
In the subsequent years, many Muslims passed Imperial examinations and held high positions in the society. They made significant contributions to scientific progress. The Yuan dynasty respected the scientific talent of the Huis (Chinese speaking Muslims). Muslims scientists were treated with great respect by the people of China. Special departments were set up to help Huis serve the society.
The Chinese Muslims performed the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) for the first time in the 14 century when the Ming dynasty ruled China. Muslims faced a tough time when the Ching dynasty ruled China from 1644 AD to 1911 AD. They had to endure more than five wars during this period.
Muslims suffered under Mao Zedong's rule. Many Islamic communities had to endure the impact of the "Cultural Revolution" (1966 AD to 1976 AD). Many Muslims were attacked by the Red Guards. Even mosques were not spared. Chinese authorities banned the Hajj ritual in the year 1985. The ban was subsequently lifted. Muslims are an integral part of today's People's Republic of China.
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