Thursday, October 17, 2013

( 12 ) " Islam and China. "

By Sodium

There are 20 million Muslims in China. Yes, you have just read it correctly: 20 million.

It is amazing and amusing to read that China has 20 million, Russia has another 20 million Muslims and India has 178 million Muslims. Why the " amazing " and " amusing " ?

Well, the " amazing " is due to the fact that none of these important countries is a member in any important and internationally recognized Islamic organizations. The " amusing " is stemmed from the fact that the Muslim population of Russia or China or India is much greater than the Muslim populations in most Arab countries. At least, 14 Arab countries of a total of 22-23 Arab States have less Muslim population, in each, than either Russia or China, let alone India. When one considers that Islam was originated from that part of the world, specifically from what is currently known as Saudi Arabia, the intensity of one's " amusement " will turn into a response to those proactive Islamophobes who endlessly claim that " Islam was spread by the sword." Hence, I wish to know what kind of an Arab sword that has ever reached Russia or China, let alone Indonesia which has the largest Muslim population, ( more than 200 million Muslims ), in the world. It seems to me that the " amazing " and " amusing " have become more appropriate to hold, as one realizes that the Muslim Arabs have ended up a minority in the Islamic World. Therefore, the Islamophobes' allegation has become a joke, as far as far as the writer of this review is concerned; and he is not a Muslim. Yes, yes, there were battles fought by the Muslim Arabs, but not to " spread Islam by the sword ", at all. It was simply an Arab desire to conquer and dominate. In short, it was an Arab  imperialism, just like the Greek imperialism as manifested by Alexander the Great, or the Persian empire, Roman empire, Ottoman empire, French empire, British empire, Soviet Russian empire, and currently, the American empire which has more than 700 military bases across the globe. Nothing has changed in the human nature to conquer and dominate others, since time immemorial.

As I reviewed the chapter of the book, " A World Without Islam," for this topic ( 12 ) Islam and China, I could not overcome some critical thoughts that engulfed me in an overwhelming way and felt I should raise:

 At present time, a great country like China has hardly any serious problems with its 20 million Muslims while all Western European countries have much less Muslim population, and yet Western Europe has serious problems with its Muslim population. The question is " why " ?

In order to reach an acceptable or rather rational answer to the above " why, " I will quote Graham Fuller, author of the book, " A World Without Islam," and other knowledgeable persons provide some answers to the " why " raised in the foregoing:

Quotation One, As Expressed By Graham Fuller:
   " The popular image of  " propagation of Islam by the sword "is once again erroneous in the Chines case. According to Muslim accounts, Islam reached China surprisingly early in 651 CE, some eighteen years after the Prophet's death, brought by sea to Canton by an envoy of the Caliph Umar. There is a well known saying of the Prophet, " Seek knowledge, even in China." According to Muslim tradition, the Tang Dynasty emperor ordered a mosque to be built in Canton, the first in China, which still stands today. The emperor believed Islam to be compatible with the teaching of Confucianism and granted rights to Arab and Persian merchants to establish the first Muslim settlement in the area. Early Chinese encounters with Islam in Canton were therefore peaceful and productive, and Muslims were granted a place in Chinese society, where their mercantile skills and contacts were known from pre-Islamic Arab traders. China quickly recognized the great seafaring capabilities of the Muslims and the potential benefits to China in expanding its influence and reach. "

Quotation Two, As Expressed By Graham Fuller:
" As in Russia and India, Islam in China reached some fascinating accommodation with ambient Chinese culture. And in China, as else where in the world, periodic Islamic renewal movements cropped up, designed to scrub the faith, remove the accretions of non-Islamic thought and practice, and maintain a sharp focus on the essentials of Islam. Both of these contradictory trends-absorption of new ideas versus a rejection of innovation-affected Islam in China."

Quotation Three, As Expressed By Anwar Ibrahim, Islamic Thinker:
   " There are a number of striking similarities between Islam and Confucianism, both in ideals and historical experience, in their refusal to detach religion, ethics and morality from the public sphere. The Islamic argument against secularism, that is the separation of politics and other societal concerns from religion and morality, is not dissimilar to the Confucianist perspective presented by Professor Tu Wei-ming in his admirable book Way, Learning and Politics. A Muslim would have no difficulty identifying with the Confucian project to restore trust in government and to transform society into a moral community. "

Quotation Four, As Expressed By Jonathan Lipman, Historian:
   " The influence and permeation of Chinese Islam by Confucian thinking seems to have given late Ming and Qing Islam, which was tending toward decline, a transfusion of fresh, new blood, a new vitality .... A group of Sino-Islamicits sprang forth. They used Confucian language and Confucian ideas systematically to study, arrange, and summarize Islamic religious doctrine; they constructed a complete Chinese Islamic intellectual system, writing a set of Chinese-language Islamic works with a uniquely Chinese style. These works are called by the Muslims in China the Han Kitab-that is, the Chinese canon-and they had a definite influence in Sino-Muslim society. "

Quotation Five, As Expressed By Graham Fuller:
   " Muslim gravitation toward Confucianism might at first glance seem unusual, given the latter's essentially " secular "and ethical orientation, verging on philosophy rather than transcendental religious emphasis. Yet precisely because Confucianism primarily provides an ethical and moral framework, it was less challenging to Islam on a theological level. "

It seems to the writer of this review that one may be able to extract an answer to the " why " that has been raised above, from some of the quotations quoted in the foregoing. I leave it up to the interested readers to do their own extractions, since I may deal with this " why " again in the conclusions, at the very end of this series of topics, meaning conclusions that would be based on the entire series of the topics covered.




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