The Journey of an Indian Muslim in a Chinese Islamic World

Islam was introduced into China officially in 651 during Tang Dynasty. China is a hub of exporting Halal food and meat to the Islamic countries such as Malaysia and KSA. Every nine restaurants in Chinese cities such as Zhengzhou, Kaifeng, Luoyang, Guangzhou and Guilin, one out of them is Islamic. Some cities such as Xian, Kunming and Xinjiang have populated Muslims street, quarters, and plenty of Halal restaurants.

There are two major groups of Muslims in China. One is the majority, called the Hui i.e. of Chinese descendant. They practice Islam, and their Restaurants are promoted all over China. They sell Halal cookies and food. It is believed that when the Muslim Hui ethnic group was formed in China, Chinese Halal food history started.

On 19 January 2016, I saw a Hui Muslim with a cap on selling some cookies on a cart. I ran around 400-500 meters to get him. I greeted him with As-Salaamo-Alaikum. He was so happy to see a fellow Muslim from YinDu (India). I didn’t hesitate to buy famous Hui food form him.

I thought He’s a poor man so I gave him 100 Yuan Renminbi, but the truth was I am a poor guy. He said, Méiyǒu Méiyǒu (That means no no), Du’a Du’a Du’a. I believe he wished to talk more to me but the language barrier was enormous. Finally we recited Surah Al-Fatiha together and departed with As-Salamo-Alaikum. The majority of Hui are Chinese-speaking practitioners of Islam. They follow Islamic dietary laws and reject the consumption of pork, the most common meat consumed in China. They have given rise to variations of Chinese cuisine as well as Muslim Chinese martial arts.

The second ethnic group of Muslims is the Uyghurs, they are of Turkish origin. The Xinjiang province has a majority of Uyghurs. Uyghur food and restaurants are very famous. Recently, during the Ramadan time, the government suggested them not to close their restaurants during day time as most of the Chinese eat catering/restaurant food.

The Uyghurs are easily to distinguish from the native Chinese people. Their facial features are very different and they are little taller, their appearance is closer to modern Turkish people.  Recently we visited Uyghur Muslim Restaurant. It was delicious. Their famous dish is Da-Pangi, pronounces as Ta-Panji.

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Hui Chinese Muslims generally prefer to eat noodles, just like native Chinese people, but at special occasion they eat Dumplings and dry Lamb meat. Every student canteen in Chinese universities has a special arrangement for Halal food for the Hui minority Muslims. The Taa-Aaamul-Muslemeen is written everywhere in Chinese style Arabic language, that means food for Muslims.

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Since China is not an Islamic country and most of the diners are non-Muslims, it is very common to see wines in Muslims restaurants in big cities, but region with large Muslim populations are very strict on alcohol.

We also visited the Guangzhou Huaisheng Mosque, also known as the “Lighthouse Mosque” built during the Tang Dynasty by one of the companions of  Prophet Muhammad, Saad ibn Abi Waqqas. He is mainly known for his commandership in the conquest of Persia, and diplomatic sojourn to China (GuangZhou).

Ibn Abi Waqqas was one of the ten companions whom the Prophet gave the joyous tidings of Paradise. He got credited by Chinese Muslims when Islam got introduced to China in 650, during the reign of Emperor Gaozong of Tang. The street were full of Muslims and non-Muslims as well.

There is a big strictly Halal market on Friday after the prayer, famous for mainly different types of Pakistani, Hui, and Uyghur food. Note: Ming Tai Tsu (founder of Ming dynasty) was a Muslim. He composed a hundred words of praise to Prophet Muhammad, which may still be found inscribed in the main mosque in Nanking. Ibn Battuta wrote a lot about China during his visits there in the 13th century. In kung-fu the Muslim Hui excelled and contributed the seminal northern styles. Many Kung-fu masters have emerged from among the Hui (Muslim) people, famous not only for their combat skill but also for having created many schools of Wushu which have remained popular until now! Ma Xianda the famous Muslim Wushu master coached the famous fighters and actor Jet Li. Dyanmic art such as Ali’s stick of the swords’ techniques known as ‘Sulaiman’s sword’ and ‘Quran’s sword’ are among the many arts founded by the Chinese Muslims.

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The Li Jing Men Gate of the Ancient Street of Sui and the Tang Dynasties are located in the Luoyang city of China. Clusters of ancient buildings stand solid there, reflecting the flourish of Luoyang in the past. There are many Uyghur and Hui Muslim shops available and they sell all kind of things, like different kinds of Naan, bread, and Halal meat.

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A little tip: If you want to buy something from the general shop, look for the halal sign either in Arabic or in Chinese. The Halal sign in Chinese is written as Qingzhen 清真.

 Kaifeng City is among the historical cultural cities in China and is famous in the world for its profound historical and cultural heritages. Apart from that, it also has a significant Muslim population and is notable for its many women mosques (nusi), including the oldest Women’s Mosque “Wangjia Hutong”, which dates from 1820. At the end of the Ming dynasty and early Qing dynasty, Hui communities had started to cultivate more theological education among women. As a result, a portion of the female Muslims who had experienced a religious education, gradually incorporated Islamic observances into their daily religious activities, and this produced the establishment of separate women’s mosques. The foods of Kaifeng are traditionally Halal. The Kaifeng Muslim Street is called “Ta-aamul-Muslemeen”, which means: food for Muslims,  the street is written in Arabic and can be easily spotted.

 

Written by Faez Iqbal Khan

Faez Iqbal Khan

Dr. Faez Iqbal Khan received the PhD degree in Computational Chemistry and Bioinformatics from Durban University of Technology, South Africa in 2015. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Henan University of Technology, China, in the field of Computational Biology, mainly focuses on
structural and dynamics behavior of protein and enzymes. He spent 8 months in China. He loves to interact with the Muslims of China.