Did you know that during the 3rd Islamic Caliphate, Sayiddina Uthman ibn Affan appointed Saad ibn Waqqas to spread the teaching of Islam in China?
It happened in 651 AD, less than 20 years after the passing of Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him) when the highly revered Muslim sage came into contact with the Tang Dynasty. Ever since Tang Emperor Gaozong allowed the religious practice of Islam in China, it has been present in the country for more than 1,300 years. Interestingly, the official ethnic minority Hui Muslims rose from this relationship of Islam in China.
1. They learn through the Han Kitab
As nationalism progressed in China, many Hui Muslims began to delve into their Confucian education to better understand Islamic religion. This prominent phenomenon has captured the attention of the many Hui Muslims as Islam gained deep appreciation within China. In time, the Han Kitab was produced by numerous scholars and contributors to provide an understanding of Islam through the lens of Confucianism.
Notably, the most celebrated scholar of the Han Kitab was Liu Zhi who became one of China’s most renowned Muslim thinkers and is considered a 'wali', or a Sufi saint. His mausoleum is located in a place of deep historical and religious importance to Muslims across China; outside of the southern gate of Nanjiang.
A Sufi Hui (photo source)
The Dao of Muhammad documents the Islamic-Confucian school of scholarship that was popular mostly in the Yangzi Delta during the 1600s and 1700s. The Dao of Muhammad draws on previously unstudied materials and reconstructs the network of Muslim scholars responsible for the creation and circulation of the Han Kitab.
2. The Hui are the Largest Muslim Ethnic Group in China
What is interesting about Hui Muslims is that their ancestry traces back to the soldiers from Islamic Persia and Central Asia from the 7th to the 13th centuries. This came into being when the Arabs that came and settled down in China brought along their knowledge, skills and culture, giving way to inter-cultural marriages.
Today, Hui Muslims live mainly in the western region of China and in the provinces of Xinjiang, Ningxia, Gansu, Qinghai, Henan, Hebei, Shandong, and Yunnan. They speak Mandarin Chinese as a first language.
While Islam is more prominent in Southeast Asia and in the middle east, its influence in China cannot be dismissed. Often forgotten – both consciously and unconsciously – Islam has been thriving in China for almost as long as the religion itself, and the works of Liu Zhi are but one example of how fascinating and beautifully mystical Islam really is through the lens of East Asian philosophy.