Saturday, November 20, 2010

CHINA MUSLIM SILATURRAHIM (bonding or close ties)

Silaturrahim is an Arabic word meaning bonding or close ties. Silaturrahim Tour is therefore not just an ordinary tour where one takes in the sights and scenes of the country, but it also helps  to promote  cultural and educational interaction. In this way a closer bond is established.
Pioneer of Silaturrahim Tour
Brother Jaafar Mah, a Chinese Muslim living in Singapore whose ancestors were Muslims from China conceived the idea of Silaturrahim Tour in 1994. As there are many  Malay Muslims in Singapore who are still unaware of the fact that Islam existed in China as early as the 8th century, a trip to China would be an eye-opener. In fact there exist in China many historical and cultural sites and relics of Islamic interest as well as madrasahs and mosques which were built hundreds of years ago. The oldest mosque is the one in Kwantung, known as the Luminous Tower Mosque -- the first mosque in the world to be built outside Medina. 
As Brother Jaafar has always maintained close contact with the Muslim community in China, he has made arrangements with the relevant Muslim authorities and tour agents there to facilitate the Silaturrahim Tour and to ensure that those who go on the tour will get genuine Halal food.
In 1995, the first Silaturrahim Tour was launched for members of the Muslim Converts Association of Singapore (Darul Arqam) and Brother Jaafar led this pioneer group. Since then such tours have been organised regularly throughout the year for the convenience of Muslims who wish to visit China.
As the tours gradually became popular among the Muslims in Singapore, commercial tour agencies began to ride on the idea as they realise that there is a potential market for China Muslim tours. But our Silaturrahim Tour is non-profit based as they are organised as a community service project. Proceeds from the tours are channeled to sponsor poor and  needy children to have an opportunity to pursue an education , to set up  child-care centers cum kindergartens and to help build sanitary facilities in poor rural areas. We hope that Muslims from all over the world will help in our charity effort by participating in our Silaturrahim Tour.
History - Early Muslim Ties with China
Islam was introduced to China as early as the 7thcentury (during the Tang Dynasty) when merchants from Arabia and Persia came to China to trade via the Silk Road. In AD.651, the third Caliph Uthman Ibn Affan, sent an envoy to call on the reigning Tang Emperor Gao Zong, and since then Islam began to be found in many parts of China.
In the midst of trade and cultural exchanges across the Asia-Europe continent for the next few centuries, streams of Muslim immigrants from central Asia settled permanently in China. They had contacts with local Chinese Muslim converts. They carried on their faith, built mosques and cemeteries and gradually created a unique social unit of their own.
However all these exchanges gradually diminished during the Ming and Qing(Manchu) Dynasties and they came to a stop with the establishment of the Communist government. It was only in the 1980’s under the leadership of Deng Xiaopeng that China slowly open up to tourists from all over the world.
Muslims in the present day era
Today China has ten Muslim nationalities, numbering more than 30 million Muslims. They are the Hui, Uighur, Kazakh, Dongxiang, Khalkhas, Salar, Tajik, Uzbek, Baoan and Tartar. These nationalities have their own written and spoken languages and cultures and their unique ethnic traditions.
When the Republic of China was formed in 1911 the Muslims were recognised as a Race in China. Now the Communist Government calls all Muslims as the HUI race. The national constitution testified to the freedom of faith. 
Beijing has about 200,000 Muslims, Xian -- 60,000, Shanghai – 100,000 and Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, a modest 30,000.

Madrasah is an Arabic word which means "school". However, in the present context a madrasah means an Islamic Religious school.
Historically, the madrasah started like other forms of Islamic education; the learning of the Quran and Hadith from individual ulama or the studies of Islam conducted in mosques. Its main purpose was to educate an individual on Islamic religion or various aspects of the religion. In many mosques there were space such as halls and annexes which were used for classes as well as residence for students and teachers.
Many madrasahs can be found in China. Below are some of these pictures.
Click on the thumbnails above to see a larger image.
To date there are 35,000 mosques and 40,000 religious staff (including Imam or Ahong) all over China. In the Capital city of Beijing there are 64 mosques and the oldest one is the Niujie (Cattle Street) mosque which was built in 996 C.E. The Niujie Mosque has become a tourist attraction for its historical and architectural value. As well, it plays its major fuction in providing Muslims from overseas of within China for prayer purposes. Similar to mosques in other Muslim nations, mosque are symbol of Islamic identity and the centre of Muslim solidarity, besides performing religious obligations such as congregational prayer, to express respect and fear to the Creator - Allah.
Click on the thumbnails above to see a larger image.
Muslim Educational Institutions has a complete educational system that ranges from Kindergarten to tertiary learning can be found here. For instance, in Linxia and Xining and Ninxia, there are Muslim Kindergartens, Primary schools, Secondary schools and higher learning (Lanzhou Muslim College, Xinjiang Muslim College, Northwest minority College in the Lanzhou and the Ninxia Muslim College) and mosque-based Qur'an study which enable the visitor to obtain a general picture of the Muslim education.
Click on the thumbnails to get a closer look of the photographs.
Read more :

Chinese Religions: China's Islam 

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