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Hashim Amla exudes such warmth and laughs so easily that he sounds serene as he describes his tumultuous cricketing journey.
The Death of the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam)
COMPLETION OF HIS TASK:
When Islam reached the pinnacle of perfection, these words were sent down by Allah:
'Today ! have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing on you, and I have approved Islam for your religion.'(5: 3) The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah had conveyed the message truthfully, he had fulfilled the trust placed in him and had striven for Allah as he should. Allah had delighted His Prophet when people entered Islam in throngs. At this stage, Allah gave His Prophet permission to leave this world and the hour of meeting drew near. Allah announced:
When comes the help of Allah and victory and you see people entering into the religion of Allah in throngs, then glorify the praise of your Lord and ask His forgiveness. He is Ever-turning. (110: 1-3)
THE PROPHET'S ILLNESS:
The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah was taken ill shortly before the end of Safar. During the night he had been to Baqi' al-Gharqad, a cemetery in Madinah now called al-Baqi', to pray for the dead. The following morning he became ill.
A'ishah, Umm al-Mu'minin (may Allah be pleased with her) said, 'The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah returned from al-Baqi' and found me suffering from a headache. I was saying, "O my head!" He said, "Rather, by Allah, A'ishah, my head!" '
His pain increased. Then, in the house of Maymunah, he called his wives and asked them to permit him to be nursed in A'ishah's house. All of them agreed. He came out walking between two men of his family, Fadl ibn Abbas and Ali ibn Abi Talib. His head was bandaged and his feet were dragging as he entered A'ishah's house.
A'ishah said that during his final illness, he told her, 'A'ishah, I still feel pain from the food I ate at Khaybar. I feel my aorta being cut because of that poison.'
THE LAST EXPEDITION:
The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah had ordered Usamah ibn Zayd ibn Harithah to lead an expedition to Syria, commanding him to take the cavalry to the borders of al-Balqa' and ad-Darun in Palestine.
Many of the leading Muhajirun and Ansar were in his army, the most eminent being Umar ibn al-Khattab. The Prophet's illness took a serious turn when the army was at the border of al-Jurf. After his death, Abu Bakr(R.A.) sent forward the army under Usamah(R.A.) in order to carry out the Prophet's last wishes and to fulfil what he had wanted.
During his illness, the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah told the Muslims to offer hospitality to the delegations in the way that he had and to be generous with their gifts to them. They should not allow two religions to co-exist but should expel the idol-worshippers from the Arabian peninsula.
One day while he was ill, a group of Muslims gathered in A'ishah's house. The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah welcomed them and prayed for their guidance on the right path, their victory and their success. He said, 'I advise you to fear Allah and I pray for Allah to watch over you. I am a clear warner to you from Him. Do not be arrogant where Allah's servants and habitations are concerned. Allah has said to me and to you, "That is the Last Abode; We appoint it for those who desire not exorbitance in the earth, nor corruption. The ultimate issue is to the God-fearing. "(28: 83) and "is there not in Jahannam a lodging for those who are proud!" (39: 60)'
A'ishah said that the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah said during his final illness, A'ishah, what have you done with the gold!' When she brought a few coins to him, he began to turn them over in his hand and said, 'What could Muhammad say to his Lord if he were to meet Him with these! Give them away!'
CONCERN FOR THE PRAYER:
The pain was hard for the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah to bear. He asked, 'Have the people prayed? Those with him answered, 'No, they are waiting for you, Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah.'
He said, 'Pour some water into a basin for me.'
When they took it to him, he washed and tried to get up, but he fainted. When he regained consciousness, he asked,
'Have the people prayed?'
'No, they are waiting for you, Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah.
'Pour some water into a basin for me.
He washed again and tried to get up, but once again he fainted. When he regained consciousness, he asked,
'Have the people prayed?'
Once more he was told, 'No, they are waiting for you, Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah.
He again said, 'Pour some water into a basin for me.
He washed and struggled to get up, but once more he fainted. When he came to he asked, 'Have the people prayed?'
'No, they are waiting for you, Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah.
CONCERN FOR THE IMAMAH OF ABU BAKR:
The people were sitting quietly in the mosque waiting for the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah to lead the 'Isha' prayer. However, he sent for Abu Bakr to lead it instead. Abu Bakr, a tender-hearted man, said, "Umar, you lead the prayer!'
Umar replied, 'You are more qualified to do it.' So Abu Bakr led the people in prayer during that period.
When the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah felt better he went out for the Zuhr prayer supported by two men, al-Abbas and Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with them). When Abu Bakr saw him arrive, he began to move back but the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah motioned to him not to move. He asked al-Abbas and Ali to seat him by Abu Bakr who prayed standing while the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah prayed sitting.
THE FAREWELL ADDRESS:
Sitting on the mimbar with his head bandaged the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah said, 'Allah gave one of His slaves the choice between this world or that which is with Him. His Slave chose that which is with Allah.' Abu Bakr realised that the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah was referring to himself and broke into tears, saying, 'We will ransom you with ourselves and our sons.
A LAST LOOK:
Abu Bakr led the Muslims in prayer until the Monday morning. While the Muslims performed the Fair prayer, the Prophet lifted up the curtain of A'ishah's door and gazed at them standing before their Lord. He saw the fruits of his efforts to call people to Islam and jihad and Allah knew how happy he was. His face was beaming with joy.
The Companions Said, 'He lifted the curtain of A'ishah's room and stared at us while he was standing there. It was as if his face was an open page of the Qur'an; he smiled and we were put to the test by getting carried away with our delight. We thought he might be coming out to the prayer but he indicated to us to finish it. He then pulled the curtain down. That was the day on which he died.'
One of the last pronouncements of the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah was, 'May Allah fight the Jews and Christians! They turned the graves of their Prophets into places of worship. Two religions should not remain in the land of the Arabs.'
A'ishah and Ibn Abbas said, 'When the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah was ill, he drew up his cloak over his face. When he was distressed, he uncovered his face and while he was like that, he said, "May Allah curse the Jews and the Christians who turned the graves of their Prophets into places of worship." He was warning the Muslims against that practice.'
THE FINAL INSTRUCTIONS:
When the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah was close to death, he repeated, 'Be careful of prayer and those in your charge.' Then his breast began to heave and his speech became inaudible.
Ali said, 'The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah commended the prayer and zakat to Muslims and to be generous to those in their charge.'
A'ishah said: 'When he had his fatal illness I started reciting al-Mu'awwidhatayn as he used to do when he was ill. He raised his eyes to the Heaven and said: "With the Highest Companion, with the Highest Companion".'
She added: 'just at that moment, Abdur-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr came in with a small, green, freshly-cut twig in his hand. The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah looked at it and I thought that he wanted to use it as a miswak. I took it and chewed it to make it soft and pliable, then I handed it to him. He rubbed his teeth with it thoroughly. Then just as he tried to hand it back to me it fell from his hand.'
She also said, 'In front of him was a small pot of water. He dipped his hand into it and wiped his face, saying, "There is no god but Allah. Verily there are pangs of death." Then he raised his forefinger and began to say, "The Highest Companion, the Highest Companion!" until he died and his hand slipped into the water.'
A'ishah described his last moments: 'The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah was ill and his head rested on my thigh. He fainted and then regained consciousness and looked up at the ceiling. He said, "O Allah, the Highest Companion." Those were the last words that the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah spoke.'
LEAVING THIS WORLD:
When the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah left this world, he controlled the entire Arabian peninsula and kings feared him. Yet he left not a dinar or dirham, not a male or female slave, nothing except his white mule, some weapons and a piece of land he had already given away as sadaqah, charity.
His armour had been pawned with a Jew for thirty sa's of barley. He had been unable to find anything with which to redeem it before he died.
During his illness, the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah set free forty slaves. He asked A'ishah to give away as sadaqah the six or seven dinars she was keeping for him.
A'ishah has related, 'When the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah died, there was nothing in the house that a living creature could eat except a little barley on a shelf. It lasted for a long time until I weighed it and then it finished.'
The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah died on Monday, 12 Rabi' al-Awwal, 11 A.H. in the heat of the afternoon. He was sixty-three years old. It was the darkest, hardest and most difficult day for the Muslims and an affliction for mankind just as his birth had been the happiest day on which the sun ever rose.
Anas and Abu Sa'id al-Khudri said, 'The day on which the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah came to Madinah was the most radiant ever known but the day on which he died was the darkest ever.'
When people saw Umm Ayman weeping they asked why. She answered, 'l knew that the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah would die, but I weep for the revelation from heaven which has been taken from us.'
NEWS OF HIS DEATH:
News of the death of the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah descended on the Companions like a thunderbolt. They were stunned because of their intense love for him. They had become used to his loving care for them just as children are assured of the protection of their parents, but even more so. Of his concern Allah Almighty says, 'Now there has come to you a Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) from among yourselves: grievous to him is your suticering: anxious is he over you, gentle to the believers, compassionate.' (9: 128)
Every one of his Companions reckoned that he was more gracious and considerate to him than to any other Companion. Some of them could hardly believe the news of his death. Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) rebuked the person who told him and then he went to the mosque and addressed the people, saying, 'The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, will not die until Allah annihilates the hypocrites.'
Abu Bakr(R.A.), a man of determination and courage, was needed at this difficult hour. He rushed out from his house when the news reached him. At the door of the mosque he stopped briefly and heard Umar addressing the people. Then he went straight to A'ishah's room where the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah lay covered with a cloak. He uncovered his face and kissed him, saving, 'You are dearer to me than my father and mother. You have tasted the death which Allah has decreed for you. A second death will never overtake you.' He replaced the cloak over the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah's face and returned to the mosque. He found Umar still speaking to the people. He called softly, 'Umar, be quiet.'
Umar was too excited to listen and went on talking. Abu Bakr realised that Umar was not in a mood to pay attention, so he stepped forward to speak. When the people heard his voice, they came over to him, leaving Umar. Abu Bakr praised Allah and then said, 'O people! If anyone worships Muhammad, tell him that Muhammad is dead. But if anyone worships Allah, then Allah is alive and does not die.'
Then he recited this verse: 'Muhammad is only a Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam). Messengers have passed away before him. Why, if he should die or is slain, will you turn about on your heels? If any man should turn about on his heels, he will not harm God in any way; and God will recompense the thankful.' (3: 144)
One man who witnessed the scene in the mosque, commented, 'By Allah, it was as if the people did not know that this verse had been sent down until Abu Bakr recited it on that day. They listened to it and from then on it was always on their lips.'
Umar Said, 'By Allah, when I heard Abu Bakr recite the verse, I was dumbfounded. I fell down as if my legs would not hold me up. I knew that the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was dead.'
ABU BAKR(R.A.) IS PAID HOMAGE AS CALIPH:
In the Hall of Banu Sa'idah, the Muslims paid homage to Abu Bakr as the successor to the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah. They were anxious to prevent devilish intrigues from destroying their unity. They were determined that the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah would leave this world with the Muslims unified and under a strong leader who could take charge of their affairs.
FAREWELL TO THE MESSENGER(SALLALLAHU ALAIYHI WASSALLAM) OF ALLAH:
The initial shock and grief experienced by the community were replaced by tranquillity and confidence. They concentrated on the task for which the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah had trained them, beginning with the preparations for his burial.
After members of his family had finished washing and shrouding his body, they placed it in a bier in his house. Abu Bakr told them that he had heard the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah say, 'No Prophet dies but that he is buried where he dies.'
The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah's bed, in which he had died, was removed and a grave dug beneath it by Abu Talhah al-Ansari.
The people came to pay their respects and to say the funeral prayer over him. They came in groups. First the men entered, then the women and lastly the children. No one acted as Imam for his funeral prayer.
A SAD DAY:
The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah's death heralded a sad day in Madinah. When Bilal gave the adhan for Fajr, he could not mention the Prophet without breaking down. Hearing his sobs increased the Muslims' sorrow. They were used to listening to the adhan while the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah was in this world. Umm Salamah, the Umm al-Mu'minin, said, "What an affliction it was! No distress which befell us after that could compare with our loss of him, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.'
The Prophet had once said, 'O people! Whoever of the people - or believers - has any affliction, they should take comfort by remembering their loss of me. None of my community will ever suffer a greater loss than my death.'
The Year of Delegations
After Makkah had been conquered and the Prophet had returned victorious from Tabuk, Arab delegations began to pour into the heart land of Islam. They learned about Islam, saw the character of the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah, and the life-style of his Companions. Tents were erected for them in the courtyard of the mosque; they heard the Qur'an recited; watched the Muslims praying and asked the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah to explain the faith to them. He impressed them with his eloquence and wisdom, and he constantly quoted verses from the Qur'an. They believed what they heard and were well satisfied. They returned to their homes full of zeal, calling on their people to accept Islam and decrying paganism and its negative effects.
Dimam ibn Tha'labah came to Madinah representing the Banu Sa'd ibn Bakr. He was a Muslim when he returned to his people and he was determined to invite them to Islam.
The first thing he said to them was, 'Al-Lat and al-Uzza are evil!'
They answered in alarm, 'Stop, Dimam! Beware of leprosy. Beware of elephantiasis! Beware of madness!'
He said, 'Confoundedly you ! By Allah, they can neither hurt nor heal. Allah has sent a Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) and given a Book to him through which He seeks to deliver you from your sorry state. I testify that there is no god but Allah without and associate and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam). I have brought you what He has commanded you to do and what He has forbidden you.
Before that night was over there was not a man or a woman in his tribe who had not become a Muslim. Adi the son of Hatim, whose generosity was well-known, came to Madinah. He became a Muslim after witnessing the character and humility of the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah.
'By Allah!' he said, this has nothing to do with the way all the kings behave.
The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah sent Mu'adh ibn Jabal and Abu Musa to Yemen to invite the people to Islam and he advised them, 'Make things easy and not difficult. Cheer them up and do not make them afraid.'
The Tabuk Expedition
THE TABUK EXPEDITION:
The Arabs had never thought of fighting or attacking the Romans. They probably considered themselves to be not strong enough for that task.
The Romans, however, remembered the Mu'tah expedition and were still a threat. The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah decided to lead a Muslim army into Roman territory before the Roman armies crossed the Arab borders and threatened the heart of Islam.
The Tabuk expedition took place in Rajab, 9 A.H. The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah led the expedition in intense heat, when the dates were ripe and the shade of the trees was pleasant. It was a long journey through arid deserts towards a vast enemy army. He had made the position clear to the Muslims in advance so that they could make preparations for the journey. It was a difficult time because the Muslims were experiencing a severe drought.
The hypocrites made various excuses not to accompany the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah. They said they feared the enemy or the intense heat. They were reluctant to perform jihad and had doubts about the truth. Allah Almighty said of them: 'Those who were left behind rejoiced in tarrying behind the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah and were averse to struggling with their possessions and their selves in the way of Allah. They said, "Go not Forth in the heat." Say. "The Fire of Jahannam is hotter did they but understand!" '(9: 81)
THE COMPANIONS' RESPONSE TO JIHAD:
In preparing for the expedition, the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah had encouraged the wealthy to spend in the way of Allah. Some provided mounts for those who had neither provision nor mount, expecting a reward from Allah.
Uthman ibn Affan spent one thousand dinars on the 'Army of Distress' and the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah prayed for him.
THE ARMY TRAVELS TO TABUK:
The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah set out for Tabuk with 30,000 men from Madinah. It was the largest Muslim army ever to set forth on an expedition.
When they reached al-Hijr, the land of Thamud, he told the Companions that it was a country of those who were being punished for their sins.
'If you enter the houses of those who did wrong, enter tearfully, fearing that what befell them might also befall you.' He added that they must not drink any of al-Hijr's water nor use it for ablutions. Because the soldiers had no water they complained to the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah. He prayed to Allah and a dark cloud brought rain so that everyone could quench their thirst and store sufficient water for their needs.
THE MESSENGER(SALLALLAHU ALAIYHI WASSALLAM) OF ALLAH RETURNS TO MADINAH:
When the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah reached Tabuk, the Arab amirs on the herders called on him and made treaties of peace. They also paid to him the jizyah tax. The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah guaranteed their borders, the security of their territories and their caravans and ships travelling by land and sea. Letters to this effect were delivered to all parties.
Then came the news that the Romans had withdrawn from the border towns. They had decided not to encroach on Muslim land. The Prophet could see no reason to pursue them into their own territory as his goal had already been achieved.
He stayed at Tabuk for about two weeks and then travelled back to Madinah.
THE TRIAL OF KA'B IBN MALIK:
Among those who had stayed behind at the time of this expedition were Ka'b ibn Malik, Murarah ibn ar-Rabi' and Hilal ibn Umayyah. They were among the first Muslims and had been thoroughly tested in Islam. Murarah ibn ar-Rabi' and Hilal ibn Umayyah had been present at Badr and it was not their nature to not take part in the battle. The situation was only part of the Divine wisdom, so they would really examine themselves and be a lesson for all Muslims in the future. Such failings are usually because of procrastination, weak will and over-reliance on means.
The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah forbade anyone to speak to them. All the Muslims obeyed him and people avoided them. They had to endure that trial for fifty days. Ka'b ibn Malik would attend prayers with the Muslims and visit the markets but everyone ignored him. But his suffering only increased his faith in Islam.
The wives of these three were also affected by the measures and no one was allowed to go near them either.
A further test came when the influential King of Ghassan heard what was happening in Madinah. He invited Ka'b ibn Malik to his court in order to honour him and lure him from Islam. But when the King's messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) delivered the invitation to Ka'b he threw it into the fire. Allah's examination was over and none of the three had failed the test. A revelation came from Allah to illustrate how their example would hold for all time. They had not deserted their faith but had found refuge and safety with Allah. The Qur'an says:
Allah has turned towards the Prophet and the Muhajirun and the Ansar who followed him in the hour of difficulty, after the hearts of a party of them almost swerved aside; then He turned towards them; surely He is Gentle to them, and he turned to the three who remained behind, until, when the earth became straitened for them, for all its breadth, and their souls became straitened for them, and they thought that there was no shelter from Allah except in Him, then He turned towards them, that they might also turn; surely Allah turns, and is Compassionate. (9: 117-18)
TABUK: THE LAST EXPEDITION
The expedition to Tabuk, in Rajab 9 A.H., was the last in the Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah's campaign. In all, the Muslims had fought in twenty-seven battles and taken part in sixty forays and expeditions. No conqueror had ever achieved such success with so little loss of life. Throughout the campaign a total of only one thousand and eighteen from both sides had been killed. Only Allah knows the number of those whose lives were spared in gaining security for the Arabian peninsula. Eventually it was so safe that a woman pilgrim could travel all the way from Hirah to Makkah without fearing anyone except Allah.
Islam in China
Yusuf Abdul Rahman
Although it may come as some surprise, Islam has survived in China for over 1300  years. It has done so despite such upheavals as the Cultural Revolution as well as regimes hostile to it.
Even though there are only sparse records of the event in Arab history, a brief one in Chinese history, The Ancient Record of the Tang Dynasty describes a landmark visit to China by an emissary from Arabia in the seventh century. Saad ibn Abi Waqqas (ra), one of the companions of Prophet [Muhammad (s)], led the delegation [in 650 C.E.], which brought gifts as well as the belief system of Islam to China. According to the traditions of Chinese Muslims, this event is considered to be the birth of Islam in China.
Although the emperor of the time, Yung-Wei, found Islam to be a bit too restrictive for his taste, he respected its teachings and considered it to be compatible with the teachings of Confucius. For this reason, he gave Saad complete freedom to propagate the faith among his people. To show his admiration for Islam, the emperor ordered the establishment of China's first mosque at Ch'ang-an. The mosque still stands today, after thirteen [fourteen] centuries.
As time passed, relations between the Chinese and the Muslim heartland continued to improve. Many Muslim businessmen, visitors, and traders began to come to China for commercial and religious reasons. [Arabs had already established trade in the area before Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam).] The Umayyads and Abbasids sent six delegations to China, all of which were warmly received by the Chinese.
The Muslims who immigrated to China eventually began to have a great economic impact and influence on the country. They virtually dominated the import/export business by the time of the Sung Dynasty (960 - 1279 CE). Indeed, the office of Director General of Shipping was consistently held by a Muslim during this period.
In spite of the economic successes the Muslims enjoyed during these and later times, they were recognized as being fair, law-abiding, and self-disciplined. Thus, there is no record of appreciable anti-Muslim sentiment on the part of the Han (Chinese) people.
By the beginning of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 CE) Islam had been nourishing in China for 700 years. Up to this time, the Muslims had maintained a separate, alien status which had its own customs, language, and traditions and was never totally integrated with the Han people. Under the Ming Dynasty, generally considered to be the golden age of Islam in China, Muslims gradually became fully integrated into Han society.
An interesting example of this synthesis by Chinese Muslims was the process by which their names changed. Many Muslims who married Han women simply took on the name of the wife. Others took the Chinese surnames of Mo, Mai, and Mu - names adopted by Muslims who had the names Muhammad, Mustafa, and Masoud. Still others who could find no Chinese surname similar to their own adopted the Chinese character that most closely resembled their name - Ha for Hasan, Hu for Hussein, or Sai for Said, and so on.
In addition to names, Muslim customs of dress and food also underwent a synthesis with Chinese culture. The Islamic mode of dress and dietary restrictions were consistently maintained, however, and not compromised. In time, the Muslims began to speak Han dialects and to read in Chinese. Well into the Ming era, the Muslims could not be distinguished from other Chinese other than by their unique religious customs. For this reason, once again, there was little friction between Muslim and non-Muslim Chinese.
The rise of the Ch'ing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 CE), though, changed this. The Ch'ing were Manchu (not Han) and were a minority in China. They employed tactics of divide-and-conquer to keep the Muslims, Han, Tibetans, and Mongolians in struggles against one another. In particular, they were responsible for inciting anti-Muslim sentiment throughout China, and used Han soldiers to suppress the Muslim regions of the country.
When the Manchu Dynasty fell in 1911, the Republic of China was established by Sun Yat Sen, who immediately proclaimed that the country belonged equally to the Han, Hui (Muslim), Man (Manchu), Meng (Mongol), and the Tsang (Tibetan) peoples. His policies led to some improvement in relations among these groups.
After Mao Zedong's revolution in 1948 and the beginning of communist rule in China, the Muslims, as well as other ethnic minorities found themselves once again oppressed. They actively struggled against communists before and after the revolution. In fact, in 1953, the Muslims revolted twice in an effort to establish an independent Islamic state [in regions where Muslims were an overwhelming majority]. These revolts were brutally suppressed by Chinese military force followed by the liberal use of anti-Muslim propaganda.
Today, the Muslims of China number some 20 million, according to unofficial counts. The government census of 1982, however, put the number much lower, at 15 million. These Muslims represent ten distinct ethnic groups. The largest are the Chinese Hui, who comprise over half of China's Muslim population and are scattered throughout all of China. There is also a high concentration of Hui in the province of Ningsha in the north.
After the Hui, the remainder of the Muslim population belong to Turkic language groups and are racially Turks (except for the Mongol Salars and Aryan Tajiks). The Turkic group is further divided between the Uygurs, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kirgiz, Tatars and Dongshiang. Nearly all of the Turkic Muslims are found in the western provinces of Kansu and Xinjiang. The largest of these Muslim groups are the Uygurs.
The Uygurs are most populous in the province of Xinjiang, where they make up some 60% of the total population. This relatively small percentage is due to the massive influx of non-Muslim Chinese into the province in recent times, a situation that has brought problems of assimilation and raised concerns about the de-Islamization of one of China's predominantly Muslim regions. [Muslims in Central Asia, under the USSR, were subjected to a similar population management, Russification of Central Asia;Muslims, and the Uygur in particular, suffered tremendously under the regime of Mao Zedong and his "Cultural Revolution." During the communist reign of terror, there was a violent campaign to eradicate all traces of Islam and of the ethnic identity of all non-Chinese. The Uygur language, which had for centuries used Arabic script, was forced to adopt the Latin alphabet. The Uygurs, as with most believing Muslims, were subjected to forced labour in the some 30,000 communes set up in the predominantly Muslim provinces. The Imams and akhunds were singled out for humiliating punishments and tortures....[and were forced to] tend to pig farms, which were sometimes kept in government-closed mosques.
Under the pretext of unification of national education, Islamic schools were closed and their students transferred to other schools which taught only Marxism and Maoism. Other outrages included the closing of over 29,000 mosques, the widespread torture of imams, and executions of over 360,000 Muslims.
Since the death of Mao and the end of his hard-line Marxist outlook nearly fifteen years ago, the communist government has greatly liberalized its policies toward Islam and Muslims. And despite the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, Islam has continued to thrive in China.
Today the campaign for assimilation started during the Cultural Revolution has slowed somewhat and the Turkic Muslims have greater freedom to express their cultural identity. The government has, for instance, allowed the reinstatement of the Arabic alphabet for use with the Uygur language. There is, however, continued discrimination against the Turkic Muslims by the immigrant Chinese (favored by the government) who have settled in the far western province of Xinjiang. This immigration has posed a problem as Han Chinese are migrating to Muslim areas at the rate of 200,000 a year. In many places where Muslims once were a majority, they are now a minority.
Since religious freedom was declared in 1978, the Chinese Muslims have not wasted time in expressing their convictions. There are now some 28,000 mosques in the entire People's Republic of China, with 12,000 in the province of Xinjiang. In addition, there is a large number of Imams available to lead the Muslim community (in Xinjiang alone there are over 2,800).
There has been an increased upsurge in Islamic expression in China, and many nationwide Islamic associations have been organized to coordinate inter-ethnic activities among Muslims. Islamic literature can be found quite easily and there are currently some eight different translations of the Qur'an in the Chinese language as well as translations in Uygur and the other Turkic languages. The Muslims of China have also been given almost unrestricted allowance to make the Hajj to Mecca . In 1986 there were some 2,300 Chinese Muslims at Hajj. (Compared to the 30 Soviet Muslims allowed to make the same pilgrimage, this number seems quite generous, considering that the Soviet Muslim population outnumbers China's by nearly four times).
China's Muslims have also been active in the country's internal politics. As always, the Muslims have refused to be silenced. Several large demonstrations have been staged by Muslims to protest intrusions on Muslim life. Last year, for instance, Muslims staged a massive protest rally in Beijing to demand the removal of anti-Islamic literature from China's bookstores. The Turkic [group] Muslims have also held demonstrations for a greater voice in the running of their own affairs and against the continued large-scale immigration of non-Muslims into their provinces. In the news this spring are more reports of demonstrations and struggles by Chinese Muslims to regain their rights. Insha'Allah they will be successful.