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Sects And Legal Schools Represented By Muslims In China

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Chinese Muslims have been influenced by both indigenous and transnational trends in religious thought and practice. The sections below discuss major legal schools, sects, and trends of interpretation including: Qadeem, Men Huan (Sufi), Ikhwani, and Salafi.

Sunni & Shi’i
Most Chinese Muslims are descendents of Arabs and Turks who follow Sunni Islam and emphasize principles of Ash’arismand Maturidism.  Chinese Sunni Muslims typically follow the Hanafi School of thought in jurisprudence. Hanafi jurist primers, including Sharha Wiqayah and Shami (and particularly the latter) are taught widely in religious schools. With the appearance of the Salafism (see below) in China in the mid-twentieth century, some mainstream Hanafis have been exhibited a slight tendency for the Salafi approach of mixing precedents of all four schools of Sunni legal thought, with a preference for the Hanbali school.

Although some Chinese Muslims came from Persian origin, Shi’i influence is not prominent. Small Shi’i communities are found in northwestern China among the Tajik people who live in Tashkurgan County of southern Xinjiang Province on the China-Afghanistan bonder. Among this population, it is believed that the Ismaili doctrine was first introduced in the 17th century by an Iranian named Syyid Shali Khan (dates unknown). In the 20th century, these communities follow the Agha Khan. Another small Shi’i community is found in Shache of Xinjiang province and following the Imamate doctrine of Shi’ah. They hold their origins to be Kashmiri, and are said to have migrated to Shache in the 17th century from the Panjab region of India (current day Pakistan).

Qadeem/Old School
Qadeem is the earliest school of Islam in China following Hanfi school of Sunni tradition, to some extent influenced by Chinese culture. Qadeem was shaped by native Chinese Muslims who claimed to maintain Islam as transmitted down through generations form their Arab and Persian ancestors without forming any sect and faction. Qadeem took shape as a distinct orientation when the Sufism was introduced into Chinese speaking areas, notably Gansu and Qinghai province.  Qadeem was a reaction to Sufi sects headed by indigenous Chinese Sufi masters in the Qianlong era (1736-1796) of the Qing Dynasty.

As Sufi orders represented new teachings to Chinese Muslims, it was termed “Xin Jiao” (lit. new doctrine) and those who followed it were know as “Xin Pai” (lit. new sect). Those who maintained their old tradition were given a name of “Lao Jiao” (lit. old doctrine) or “Lao Pai” (lit. old sect). Eventually the name of “Qadeem” (lit. old in Arabic) became popular to designate traditional Muslims. Today, most Chinese Muslims remain identified as Qadeem in vast areas of China other than Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai and Ningxia, although there are numbers of Qadeem in these provinces as well. Qadeem are more influenced by Chinese culture and more tolerant to it than others. They many appreciate Sufi principles without fully supporting the full range of its practices.

Men Huan / Sufi
Men Huan is not a unified sect of Islamic thought in China but a common name given to the more than thirty Sufi sub-sects. The name “Men Huan” is the name that Chinese Sufis called themselves as early as the 18th century.  In the 1730s a Chinese Sufi saint Ma Laichi (Abul Futuh, 1681—1766) begin rapidly spreading the Naqshbandi order among Muslims in Hezhou (today’s Linxia of Gansu province) as well as the Xunhua of Qinghai province. A community grew around him, later known as Huasi Men Huan. Ma Laichi was followed a decade later by another Chinese Sufi master Ma Mingxin (1719--1781) after his return from Yemen with teachings of the Naqshbandi Sufi order later known as Jahriyya. In time, all Sufi teachings, regardless of their origin or distinguishing characteristics were referred to as Men Huan. Men Huan in China today can be broadly divided into three orders e.g. Naqshbandiyya, Qadiriyya, Kubriyya:

The Naqshbandi order in China has different origins and divided into various branches. The largest group is Khufiya which means secret or silent and indicates their way of performing dhikir (remembrance of God) in a silence state. The core of the Khufiya was Huasi Men Huan brought by Ma Laichi from Makkah. Other branches of Khufiya are Bijiachang, Lintao Men Huan, Mufti, Hong Men, Liu Men, Beizhuang, Ding Men. These Men Huans were originated from Xinjiang either preached by Khawja Hidayatuall Afaq or branches of Khanqas in Xinjiang. Among Khufiya, Fa Men was originated from Makkah while Hu Men was initiated by a Chinese Sufi. Another important group of Naqshbandi order in China is Jahriyya which means loud or open and indicates their way of performing dhikir (remembrance of God) in loudness. It was founded by Ma Mingxin (1719--1781) after his return from Yemen in 1744. Now it has split into five branches: Beishan, Shagou, Xindianzi, Nanchuan, and Banqiao.

The Qadiriyya is believed to be preached by Khawja Abdullah in 1673 in Gansu and Ningxia and other regions.  It has many branches and sub-branches including: Dagongbai, Lingmingtang, Mingyuetang, Houhezi, Xiangyuantang, Amen, Qimen, Wenquantang, Tonggui Menhuan, Zhaogaojia, Aitou, Sala, Xian Men, Qiucaiping.

The Kubriyya in China is believed to be brought by one called Muhyinddin , claiming to be descendents of the Prophet Muhammad, in Qianlong era (1736-1796) of the Qing Dynasty. Muhyinddin came to Dawantou and settled there and adopted Zhang as his surname. He preached Kubriyya among local people and formed Kubriyya sect known as Zhang Men or Dawantou Men Huan. Now it has some branches with two centers, one in Kangle County of Gansu province and another in Dongxiang County of the same province.  Even before this spread of Naqshibandi teachings, Xinjiang had long been a center for Sufism in Central Asia and China since early the 14th century. It is believed that Sufism entered Tarim Basin (contemporary Xinjiang) through traders of Central Asia. The current Naqshbandi teachings were brought to the region in the 16th century by descendents of a great influential Sufi master of the Central Asia, Ahmad Kasani (1461-1542) known as Makhdum A’zam. In the 16th century, Ishaq Wali (d. 1599), himself a descendent of Makhdum, came to Xinjiang and started his mission in the new region. His mission was so successful that attracted large number of the people including the Mongol elite. He was given patronage and high esteem that enabled him to make the Naqshbandi teachings take hold among the Turkish speaking populations and the rulers in Yarkand and its surrounding areas. His mission was known as Ishaqiyya or Heishan Pai.

Later, another master from the same family, Muhammad Yusuf (d.1653), a grandson of Makhdum, followed his uncle to seek a stronghold in China. At first, he joined the mission of the family which was held in high esteem in the region. At the time of Muhammad Yusuf’s arrival, sometime before the mid. 17th century, the Ishaqiyya had gained such power over Mongol rulers that the latter began to think of replacing it. With the appearance of Muhammad Yusuf as a different branch of the family the rulers turned to support him and made him separate from the Ishaqiyya, for Muhammad Yusuf’s claim was so strong that he was the son of Makhdum’s eldest son.  Muhammad Yusuf attained much support from the rulers that he made several successful journeys across the region and acquired disciples everywhere. His success led to jealousy among the Ishaqiyya and touched off a split in the family that ultimately caused the death of Muhammad Yusuf. The family divided into two rival factions. After the death of Muhammad Yusuf, his son, Khawja Hidayatullah (d.1694), known as Khawja Afaq, succeeded and formed a separate branch of the Naqshbandi, known as Afaqiyya, Baishan Pai, orIshaniyya. Khawjia Afaq preached the teachings of the Naqshbandi order as far as Gansu, Qinghai and Ningxia.

Today Muslims in Xinjiang loosely follow either Ishaqiyya (Heishan Pai) or Afaqiyya (Baishan Pai). However, with influence of Saudi Wahabism (see below) in Xinjiang, a minority has begun to cast off the Sufi affiliation and a new sect is forming among them.

Ikhwan usually refers to a reform sect since it started by launching a campaign against shrine worship (Sufi masters grave worship) and Murshid worship and tried to eliminate all Chinese influences to Islam and radically opposed adopting Chinese customs in religious practice and in Muslim daily life. Ikhwani based on the principle of “to follow the book and eliminate customs”. Ikhwan strictly follows Hanafi school of thought and emphasizes on Ash'arism and Maturidism. The sect was founded by a Dongxiang Imam Ma Wanfu (1849–1934) from the village of Guoyuan in Hezhou in the 19th century after his return in 1892 from Makkah where he studied several years and was inspired by the Wahabi movement. Allied with a group of ten religious scholars, he started his reform movement. Though he was inspired by the Wahabi movement yet his reform was in no way a continuation of Wahabism or a branch of it for its Hanafi standpoint in jurisprudence and Ash'ari-Maturidism position in doctrine were, contrary to the Wahabism, very strong and uncompromising. Ikhwani in principle does not oppose Sufism but reject the excessive veneration to sufi masters and to their graves. It does not only reject some sufi practices but also oppose Qadeem's tradition which was influenced by Chinese culture without evidence from jurist books. The sect is mainly in Qinghai, Ningxia and Gansu but distributed in Shanghai, Henan, Shandong,Hebei, Xinjiang and some other areas.

Salafiyya represent a continuation of the Wahabi movement in China and form a distinctive sect among Hui people. The Salafiyya (also known as San Tai, lit. “three-rise” after the practice of raising their hands three times in each unit of a prayer) was first brought to China by Ma Debao (1867-1977) in the 1950s. When Ma Debao performed Hajj he was influenced by the Wahabi ideology and movement in Mecca. Upon his return to China he began to preach the Wahabi trends in Hezhou (today's Linxia city). Salafism in China simply duplicates the Wahabi ideology and approach predominant in Saudi Arabia and even imitates Saudi customs in dress. It fiercely criticizes Sufism and the influences of Chinese culture.  in religious practices as it opposes to follow any sort of school of thought in jurisprudence and doctrine. They reject claim of Hanbali school of thought though they strictly follow Ibn Taymiyya. The sect was mainly found in Hezhou of Gansu province but now spread in many places notably Ningxia, Qinghai, Yunnan, Tianjing with support of Saudi religious organizations.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 November 2012 13:59