Islamic Heritage of Muslims in China
by Prof. Li Hua Ying, Published in Al-Nahdah Magazine
Since Islam reached China in the middle of the 17th century, many Chinese have embraced Islam due to the simple nature of Aqidah, for its high regard in tolerance and high moral principles.
Besides surging toward well-being in this world and the hereafter, with utmost regard in ensuring the practice of Allah's commandments, the Chinese steadfastly proceeded to acquire knowledge and traditions of their own motherland. They also benefitted from good values induced from their cultural heritage.
The Muslims, together with the Han tribe and others, helped develop China during times of joy and agonyu. They were responsible to a great extent for restoring peace to the border states, improving the economy and developing religious knowledge.
Just as Islam was thought to be the religion of the peasants, so too was it considered only to be taught in the mosque. There was no support from the authorities, past or present, when it came to Islam. Therefore, the development of Islam in the provinjces inhabited by Muslims was basically through individual families. It was difficult for Islam to gain a footing in provinces where there were no Muslims. This led to research into the reasons for the ignorance about Islam.
This meant that no alim took the task to acquire knowledge of Chinese traditions and culture in the provinces around the Yangtze river and the Yuan region as a means of disseminating Islamic teachings and hasting its spread throughout China. Only after the 17th Century was this importance realised.
Islamic books in the classical Han language about linguistics, philosophy, fiqh, akhlaq, history and Chinese thought and traditions were published. Writers such as Ma Chu (1640-1711), Leo Tse (1660-1730) and Chang Chung (1584-1670) were respnsible for producing their own works and not merely translating from Arabic and Persian. A number of these books clearly synchronised with the teachings and philosophies of Confucius.
The first attempt at translating the Quran took place in the 19th century. Ma Pu Shu completed 5 juz, and though it was incomplete, it did serve to bring a measure of knowledge to the common people.
The 20th century saw successful attempts by numerous scholars to achieve this goal. One of the most distinctive was Shaikh Wang Jing Chai (1879-1949). Forty Hadith by Imam Nawawi was translated by Yang Shi Chian.
Philosophy and social sciences also benefitted from Chinese Muslim scholars. Works by Wang Dai Yu and Liu Tsi during the Ming and Chend Dynasties were hgihly regarded. They not only became the basis of Chinese Islamic philosophy, but also helped in the enrichment of thought in Chinese philosophy.
Ties were restored through multilateral trade between China and many foreign countries during the 17th century. Thsi resulted in closer relations between Chinese Muslims and other Muslims countries. More scholars from China were able to gain access to Islamic educational institutions abroad. Presently there have been greater interaction between Muslims in China and abroad. As Muslims we all continue to remain under the banner of a single brotherhood. (We Care, 4:11).