Perspective of a Chinese Muslima (Part II: Fitting In)

This is the second part in the series Perspective of a Chinese Muslima. If you have any questions then you can post them here or forward them.

If you are minority in a country then it can be difficult to fit in or it can be normal depending upon the wider society and how the majority treats you. This experience is not unique to Muslims living in non-Muslim countries but applies to non-Muslims living in Muslim countries also. My grandparents from both sides of my family were religious people but my parents were not particularly religious people. They were the product of Communist China. Pork was forbidden but the rule on drinking was less enforced. However the good thing was that they gave it by the time I grew up because my parents did not want to influence their child in a negative manner. We also knew Muslims whose Muslimness constituted in not eating pork but who were not aware of the basic tenets of Islam. Similar phenomenon could be observed in Christianity as well. Explaining hijab to other people was next to impossible. It is a tradition that is only followed by older women in my community. Another thing that some non-Muslim Chinese people found puzzling was why we followed a non-Chinese belief system. This usually required explaining why Islam is a universal creed but it was not very helpful. On Eid, my family never took time off from work because we did not want to look “strange.” Even I would sometimes go out of my way to dissociate myself from the “backward” Muslims. In retrospect it was not the best of things to do but this is how many young people react who do not have a sense of direction. We seemed to be caught in trying to fit in and yet also trying to maintain our identity. Then there are some Muslims who do try to adhere to the deen but are too out of sync with the rest of the society. This is the dilemma. Many Muslims who are truly practicing almost shut themselves from the rest of the society and so the opportunities for dawah are rare and consequently for many non-Muslim Chinese Islam appears to be a foreign religion. 😦 However I am hopeful. All that is needed is for Muslims, Chinese and otherwise, to have a cheerful attitude towards the world and many people will understand and respond positively to the dawah.

Next: Marriage

14 responses to “Perspective of a Chinese Muslima (Part II: Fitting In)

  1. Salaams,

    This is a very interesting blog you have here. Sometimes i forget i have brothers and sisters in this part of the world.

    I really need to get out more!

  2. wa’alaikum’as’salam wu tang clan, Welcome to the blog. Yes, its a big world and one can easily forget that Muslims are everywhere. 🙂 There are more Muslims in China as compared to all other Arab countries except Egypt. 🙂 By the way cool nick. I was introduced to the Wu Tang Clan by an African American brother some time ago and has been hooked since then.

  3. excellent post….its strange, because even in Bosnia majority of people are Muslims, still if u practice ur religion, they look at u and consider u strange…my parents also weren’t practicing, product of communist ex Yugoslavia 🙂 we are in the same soup lol 😀

  4. Assalamu alaikum

    Subhan’Allah…it is sad yet comforting to know that there are other Chinese Muslims who share the same issues. I have not came across many Chinese Muslims, although I know there are billions walhamdulillah. I often have a hard time trying to give dawah to my family because the culture is so prevalent in their lives – they live, eat, work, and breathe it. So dissociating away from any part of the culture (interlaced with shirk) is very hard for them to understand or even grasp. They view it as an imbalance in their life. They dont give me a hard time at all Alhamdulillah, but at the same time I am an outcast for abandoning (some) Chinese cultural practices.

    What I find amazing is the similarities in Islamic and Chinese etiquette, which may have been influenced after the exepedition of Saad ibn Abi Waqqas (r), and the influx of Muslims into China. The best way to give dawah is through your actions. And for me, observing Islamic etiquette and manners towards my family just shows them that I am behaving how they have raised me. Actually growing up in America I tended to rebel against these ‘proper mannerisms’ that they raised me with as a teenager. But right before embracing Islam I was brought back to the ‘traditional Chinese mannerisms’ they raised me with, when I got to know a few Muslims who shared the same etiquette. The difference was they were not raised like that because ‘it was proper and traditional’ but because it was for Allah. That appealed to me most at the time and was one of the major deciding factors for me. Not only did I go back to the safe haven and comfort of my childhood teachings, but I embraced it this time, and even better now because it had a purpose. I became Muslim Alhamdulillah and because of how my parents raised me it wasnt hard to follow Islamic etiquette in many cases – I just had to change my intention. Instead of acting a certain way or doing certain things ‘because thats what you’re supposed to do’ I started to do it seeking Allah’s pleasure. Reforming my intention made the acts more meaningful and beautiful.

    My family actually helped me to become a Muslim. This is something I wish my family could see – and the rest of the Chinese population. There is a greater purpose to things than just work and life in general. That’s what makes life here more meaningful because we are living for the afterlife. So I am behaving properly in their eyes, but with the hijab and salat and fasting, I am extreme, and without statues and following good and bad luck days I am an outcast. Ya Allah. However, we should never give up on the dawah, may Allah give us perseverance and wisdom to propogate His message; Ameen. Allah can make anything happen.

  5. as’salam’o’alikum’wa’rahma’tullah’wa’bara’ka’tahu, Thank you for your comments sister. It is greatly appreciated and I hope these will be helpful.

    Regarding the similarities between Chinese and Islamic etiquettes, I think they arose independently. As Muslims we believe that Allah ahs sent his messengers towards other nations and in different nation, perhaps they are based on teachings of earlier prophets. Allah knows best.

    Regarding the point about ‘traditional and proper’, it is one of reasons that many young Chinese are turning their back towards the old traditions in their drive to be modernized. I think this is why Islam should be appealing to many Chinese people but the dawah should be given in the right manner.

    You are right, the best way to give dawah is via actions. So if you nice to your family and a good example to follow then they will also see it insha’Allah.

  6. dear brother , as salamu alikum wa rahamatullah,
    i am interested in reading more about ISLAM in china , and situation of islam in differentb part of china . how we can start the procedure of conveying message of allah & our prophet to these people.
    awaing your reply . yours, g.m. pathan

  7. wa’alaikum’as’salam’wa’rahmatuallahu’wa’bara’katahu, Welcome to the blog brother. insha’Allah I will post something on this subject on this blog some time in the future insha’Allah.

  8. Assalamualikum,

    It,s nice to have friends in china, especially moslem community then i am in indonesia, i just remember the uncle of Rasullullah SAW…Saad ibn waqaz…where is the tomb????could you tell me which part in china….

    we are brothers you should come to indonesia to da’wah for other chinese….



  9. Assalamu’alaikum…
    I am who happened to live in Moslem-majority states was lucky, really need to struggle hard as a minority, but may Allah Swt. be with you.

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