Over the past few years, I have been quite interested in Chinese Islamic practices. Part of it comes from my own Chinese ancestry, which is often clouded by strong Mexican traditions and marital institutions. Although today my mother’s family acknowledges that my great-great-grandfather was Chinese, a few decades back, no one was thrilled to admit that my great-great-grandmother engaged in an extra-marital affair with a man who “used to bow to pray,” as my great-grandaunt says.
Although I will probably never know if my great-great grandfather was Muslim, the shadow of this sea merchant (that’s as much as we know about him) who randomly happened to make a stop in Mexico and produce two kids within two years, has followed my family around for generations. Years later, after my conversion to Islam, I started wondering if the “bowing prayers” were part of the Islamic salah?
Chinese Islam is, in comparison to others, rarely discussed in the media. It does not appear as often in articles or blogs, and when it does it tends to be treated as completely different from other forms of Islam.
Hui people are a distinct, predominantly Muslim, group in China (although not the only mainly-Muslim ethnic group in the country). They are concentrated in China’s western provinces (Gansu, Quinghai and Ningxia), and they are officially recognized as one of the 56 ethnic minorities of the People’s Republic of China. Many Hui people are also descents of Arab and Persian traders that followed the Silk Road.
One of the features that is often highlighted in the media about Hui Islam is the existence of only-female mosques. [Read more...]