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Monday, March 18, 2013

Islam in Australia

The Makassans



Well before 1788, Makassan fishermen from the east-Indonesian archipelago, fishing for trepang (sea-slugs), began annual voyages to our northern shores. It is thought that the fishermen of Makassar had been visiting the north coast of Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland from as early as the 16th century. Aboriginal cave paintings also depict the traditional Makassan sailing vessel or 'prau' and a number of Makassan artifacts have been found in Aboriginal settlements on the west and northern coast of Australia.

In 1803, Matthew Flinders recorded the sighting of 6 praus off the east of Arnhem Land. Some inter-marriages between Aborigines and Makassans took place and Makassan grave sites exist along the coastline.

These early Muslim traders were among the first visitors to establish an economic enterprise, founding Australia�s first �modern industry�. Unlike later European settlement, Makassan enterprise encroached little on the Aboriginal way of life. More lasting is their place in Aboriginal history and culture.

They came intermittently as visitors, revealing only a part of Islam. While day-to-day contact would have made Aborigines aware of prayer times and burial practices, Islam as a way of life had little impact on Australia.

The First Fleet



In 1770 Captain Cook landed at Botany Bay and in 1788, the First Fleet sailed into Australian waters. Ali Williams, a Member of the Fellowship of the First Fleeters, when investigating his own family history, found that according to Government records, the Musters of 1802, 1811, 1822, and the Census of 1828, had listed a number of Mohammedans, the term used for Muslims at the time. Thus, the first Muslims settled in NSW only 13 years after the colony was formed.
He found that a person by the name of Rhamut, aged 23, came free on the ship "Favourite" in 1801. He was later listed as a land-owner residing at Evan, near the Nepean River in NSW. Satim, aged 25, and Marnie, aged 23, both came free on the "Louisa" in 1828 and were employed by John Maughan as servants, residing at George Street, Sydney.

Malay divers



Long before the last Makassan prau had sailed from Australian waters in 1907, Malay divers were employed in the pearling grounds off Western Australia and the Northern Territory. By the 1870s, Australian pearlers were actively recruiting Asian divers for the pearling industry, acknowledged as being of primary importance to Australia�s fledgling economy.

In 1875, it was estimated that there were 1,800 Malays working in Western Australian waters. They were mainly recruited from Koepang under an agreement with the Dutch colonial authorities.

Later, Japanese were preferred and Malays were forced into other areas of employment. In 1921, only 14 were recorded as employers, while 131 worked on their own account and 1,207 were wage-earners. The number of Malays decreased significantly over the following decades. In the 1930s, the Malays built a mosque in Broome.

The Afghan camel drivers



Another group of Muslims to settle in Australia was the Afghan camel drivers. They came between 1867 and about 1910 when the use of the camel as a means of transportation was at its peak.

Every school-aged child in Australia probably knows something about the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition in the central outback in 1860. Camels were imported specifically for that expedition, as it was correctly considered that camels would be more suited to exploration in this arid and waterless land than either horses or bullocks. What seems to have escaped most history textbooks is the fact that those expeditionary camels were accompanied by two Muslim Afghan cameleers, Dost Mahomet and Esan Khan. Both of these men survived the ordeal due to the resilience of their camels. However, Dost Mohamet died shortly after his return to Menindie, South Australia, where he suffered an injury to his arm from one of the camels. He was buried at Menindie, the first Afghan to die on Australian soil.

From then on, the immense value of the camel was acknowledged and thousands of them were imported to assist in exploration and freight haulage by rich pastoralists like Thomas Elder. Elder was knighted in 1876 for his importation of camels and his services to exploration, unlike his faithful Afghan retainers, and even unlike his active partner, Samuel Stuckey. Stuckey had gone to India in 1862 and again in 1865, and eventually landed over 120 camels at Port Augusta, along with 31 Afghan handlers. Included among them were two brothers, Faiz and Tagh Mahomet, who were to go on to become perhaps the most successful and enterprising Afghans in Australia, with huge businesses and camel studs.

The journals, diaries and reports of early European explorers speak very highly of the Afghans - their strict adherence to the code of Islam (especially in regard to their daily prayers and the eating of halal meat and the avoidance of alcohol), and their excellent character, reliability, stamina and live-saving skills. Many of the explorers gladly acknowledge the debt owed to their camel-handlers in saving their lives in difficult and dangerous situations. The very success of most of these important expeditions was due to the Afghans themselves, and their ability to manage their camels.

But no public recognition or reward was ever given to the Afghans. The best that happened for some was to have a landmark named after them - for example, "Allanah's Hill", "Bejah's Hill" and "Kamran's Well". In all probability, the first non-Aboriginal to stand on top of Uluru (Ayer's Rock) was not the European explorer, Gosse, but his Afghan guide and companion, Kamran. Gosse's diary states that on 20 July 1873, after reaching the summit, he envied Kamran's tough feet: "He seemed to enjoy the walking about with bare feet, while mine were all in blisters, and it was as much as I could do to stand."

The only public reminder of the Afghans is to be found in the "Ghan", the name of the famous train that runs from Port Augusta in South Australia to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.

In 1887 the NSW railways reached Broken Hill and Bourke, and these towns too became gathering points for the Afghans. At each of these railheads the Afghans constructed their shanty "Ghantowns", attempted to raise families and built ramshackle, corrugated-iron mosques. Their role in transport, supply, discovery and camel breeding was indispensable to Australia's economic growth and development.

But what happened to the Afghans? Why are there to be found no resilient, thriving communities descended from them, at least in some of those inland towns? The answer to that question lies in a number of factors. Racism and religious intolerance were always prevalent. The Afghans were always "aliens" in a foreign land, never allowed to become its citizens, even after Federation in 1901 and having lived here for two generations. They were "non-whites", considered as culturally inferior as the Aborigines, but more feared, because of their reputation as rugged fighters in the two Anglo-Afghan Wars of the 1840s and 1870s.

The death-knell really came with the advent of modern road transport. Cars and trucks finally ended the reign of the camel as undisputed master of the inland. Many were shot by the Authorities as a "public nuisance"; they were taxed so heavily by a burdensome licensing system that many Afghans simply could not pay and preferred to release them into the wild than see them destroyed. This is why Australia has the only feral camels in the world, roaming among the saltbush scrub and gibber plains. They are free, in robust health and excellent physical condition, and now highly-prized as an export commodity and as tourist attractions. It's a pity the same cannot be said for the men who introduced them and bred them here.

The years of decline (1900-40)



In 1903 the Naturalisation Act excluded most non-Europeans from the right to apply for naturalisation; nor were they permitted to bring their families into the country. The �White Australia Policy� had significant implications on the Australian Muslim community. Many Muslims chose to return to their homelands. By 1921 there were fewer than 3,000 Muslims living in Australia.
Amid the decline was a second wave of emigrants from Albania who worked as casual labourers in Western Australia, Queensland, and Victoria throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The Albanians, not of Asian descent, were not subjected to the �White Australia Policy�.

The Post-War years



After the Second World War, the need for better security and a larger population became important. The government was compelled to widen its criteria on what constituted an acceptable Australian. The first intake of Muslims were displaced persons from Europe (Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Poland, Hungary and Russia).
Liberalisation of Australia�s immigration policies was further underpinned by an economy which grew strongly over the next two decades. The key event in Australia�s immigration history was the official abandoning of the �White Australia Policy� in 1972. Between 1967 and 1971 more than 10,000 emigrated from Turkey under an agreement signed in 1967 for large-scale assisted immigration.

Following the Arab-Israeli war in 1967 and continuing civil war in Lebanon, Lebanese Muslim immigration to Australia also increased dramatically. By 1981, Australia had received around 16,500 Lebanese-born Muslims.

Religious Groups



Between 1981 and 1991 Muslims increased from 0.5 per cent to 0.9 per cent of the Australian population. The two largest groups, Catholics and Anglicans, still account for over 50 per cent of the population. Immigration has accounted for the vast majority of the growth of Muslims. The second reason for the growth is the higher fertility rate. In the 1986 Census, Muslims had the highest rate of marriage, the lowest rate of divorce, the lowest proportion of women with no children, and the lowest rate of religious intermarriage. [At the time of writing, the 1996 Census data had not been analysed]

Countries of origin



According to the 1986 Census, two-thirds of Muslims were born overseas. Very important, is the fact that one-third of Australian Muslims were born in Australia. The bulk of Muslims in Australia have come from Turkey, Lebanon, Yugoslavia and Cyprus (more than 50 per cent). According to the 1991 Census, 17.4 per cent were born in Lebanon and 15.5 per cent in Turkey. The largest group of Muslims were the Australian-born, 35 per cent. This percentage is likely to increase as births grow more than immigration. Muslims have settled predominantly in Sydney (50 per cent) and Melbourne (32 per cent). Only 4.3 per cent live outside one of Australia�s major cities.
The Muslim community will continue to grow. The growth rate will be determined by the Muslim population�s high birth rate, low rate of religious outmarriage, conversions, and immigration.

Mosques in Australia



There are more than 60 mosques. The first city mosque to be built in Australia still serves the Muslim community in Adelaide, South Australia. It was built between 1888 and the early 1890s by the Afghan cameleers. The first mosque in NSW was built in 1891 at Broken Hill. The Broken Hill mosque, now a museum, is presently maintained by the Broken Hill Historical Society. The second city mosque was built in Perth in 1905. The first mosque established in Sydney in the late 1960s was in Lakemba (Imam Ali Mosque). The King Faisal mosque in Surry Hills was built shortly thereafter. The largest mosques in NSW are in Lakemba and Auburn. The largest mosques in Victoria are in Preston and Broadmeadows.

The future of Islam in Australia



Islam is here to stay and Muslims are going to play a significant role in Australia�s future. The Muslims have already put religion back on the agenda with secularism versus religion the debating point.
The mosque remains the most vital social structure in Islam and our association with it must be increased. Secondly, we must ensure that the benefits that we as Muslims receive from Islam are also communicated to the wider non-Muslim community. We should be ambassadors of Islam and promote Islamically-based systems and alternatives as potential solutions to the problems faced by the wider community, such as: abstention to combat alcoholism; having a life-mission to prevent suicide, shared equity and rental instead of usury, etc.

Equipped with good will, hard work, increased faith, wisdom and dedication, Muslims in Australia will indeed ensure a brighter future for themselves and for Australia as a whole.

"You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind, you enjoin what is good and forbid what is bad, and you believe in Allah."
[surah ali-Imran; 3:110]




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The Forgotten Islamic Roots of American Slaves

Muslims represent one-fifth of humanity. Many Americans are unaware of this simple fact. But there is another statistic of which most Americans are also unaware: More than one fifth of all "slaves" brought to these shores during the horrific period of transatlantic slave trading were also people of the Islamic faith.

While this has been known by some in the African-American community for many decades, little serious academic research was done on the subject until recently. Alan Austin, a retired professor of history from Massachusetts, did much of the original research that culminated in his book "African Muslims in Antebellum America: Transatlantic Stories and Spiritual Struggles." Since then, many other prominent researchers have expanded on his groundbreaking research.

Despite the sound basis of his work, Austin's research was largely ignored in the academic community. Sylviane Diouf's book -- "Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas" -- is another well-written, academic work now in it its second printing, but it too has not received the attention it deserves.

Those who want more information on this subject will find the information fascinating. Many of these Muslims were highly educated in their African homeland, and they considered America to be barbaric compared to their own civilized communities in Africa.

The stories of these people are moving, to say the least. Some, in fact, sound like ready-made screenplays for a Hollywood film. One is that of Prince Abdar Rahman, who was born a prince in his homeland of Mali and, because of his aristocratic breeding, intimidated many of the Southern whites who crossed his path. Some of these men became lecturers and toured the country giving speeches about their lives and experiences, and some even made it back to their homelands through diplomatic and business ties.

These stories should be written in every textbook of American history. Americans should realize that Islam is not an alien faith new to this land but has been here from the first arrivals of Europeans to these shores, and perhaps even before that.

This information is a powerful tool that can be used to dispel false beliefs about the ignorance of Africans and their lack of culture and civilization. It can enable young people as well as old to see the rich tapestry that makes up the continent of Africa and how much of that richness came to and embellished these shores.

Surely, we owe it to the men and women who suffered so greatly to at least find out who they were and to read and hear about the powerful responses they gave to the awesome tribulations and hardships they faced.



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Islam in Malaysia

The recognition of Islam in this part of the world has been a fact since C.E. 674 (forty-two years after the death of Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam)) when the Umayyad ruler Muawiyah was in power at Damascus. Two hundred years later in C.E. 878 Islam was embraced by people along the coast of Peninsular Malaysia including the port of Kelang which was a well-known trading centre.

Before the coming of Islam, the indigenous Malays embraced an ancient religion with various forms of belief with some of the population belonging to the Hindu/Buddha religion. Life was structured and arranged in ways that showed the influence of more than one religion. This can be seen not only in the Malay's cultural patterns but is also part of the 'power' structure of state dignitaries and princes.

At the political level, the royal ruler and the head of state in most communities in the Malay world embraced the Islamic religion. The people were impressed and attracted by the provision in the Qur'an and the Hadith that mankind should be ranked on a basis of interpersonal equality.

Those who for so long had been considered of low caste saw how the different strata of Islamic society were laid before them. They were no longer imprisoned within a religious caste system and the notion of living in "classes". In Islam there was no discrimination, or division on the basis of colour, class tribal affiliation, race, homeland and birthplace, all of which gave rise to problems. Equal rights seemed the right human solution, which in practice meant the acceptance of rights and obligation as a member of the Islamic Community. The pious person achieved sublimity and nearness to God.

The local population saw that Islam could extricate them from this bondage and provide the means for the extirpation of social evils. The new religion gave the small man a sense of this individual worth - the dignity of man - as a member of an Islamic community.

The efforts of the ulama' in implementing Islamic teachings gradually reached rulers, officials, community leaders and the ordinary people. Their efforts left its mark in such places as Banten (formerly Bantam), East Java, Macassar, Kalimantan, the Southern Philippines, Southern Thailand, Malacca, Trengganu and elsewhere. The ulama' also played a part in the administration, and some of the powerful sultans held firmly to the teachings of Islam.

Spread of Islam

After the initial introduction of Islam, the religion was spread by local Muslim scholars or ulama' from one district to another. Their normal practice was to open a religious training centre called "pondok" or hut from the small sleeping quarters constructed for the students.

In addition to giving lectures in houses, prayer houses, or mosques, they also performed tasks such as working in padi fields, gardening and craftwork and other jobs according to each individual's capabilities. The role of these ulama' was not merely that of a teacher but also that of advisor for the village families and communities. The role they played was fairly broad one by reason of their expertise and capability in more than one field of human activity. After graduating, the pupils would go back to their homeland, often in some remote corner of the country, forming a link in the chain between one ulama' and another.

Islam in the Malay Archipelago in general and Malaysia in particular follows the Shafi Madhab (school of thought). However there are many Muslims in Malaysia who do not follow any particular school. In Perlis, the state constitution specifies that Perlis follows the Qur'an and Sunnah and not a particular madhab. Many Muslims in Perlis therefore do not follow any madhab, as is the case with the followers and members of the Muhammadiyah Organisation in Indonesia.


One noteworthy feature in the religious education scene is the close relationship between the Pondok schools, the teachers and even the pupils although the distance between them may be quite considerable as from Kubang Pasir for example, or Kedah to Achen, Java, Kalimantan, Kelantan and Terengganu.

The unifying factor that makes strong ties among them is the uniformity of the system of instruction, for not only are the Holy book and the language used the same but also the socio-political problems, even though in Indonesia the Dutch were the colonial power and in Malaysia (or Malaya) the British. The colonisers whether Portuguese, Dutch or British attempted Christionisation by various means, in particular through their educational systems.

There were, however, a number of Muslims who felt that the pondok schools could not deal with the challenge of colonial education institutions. In order to overcome the problems, the Madrasatul Mashoor al-Islamiyah was established in Pulau Pinang in the year 1916 using Arabic as the language of instruction. The madrassahs taught Fiqh as well as secular subjects. This institute of learning was not merely intended to enhance the position of Muslims in Penang and northern Malaya but in Southeast Asia as well. This school chose as its inspiration the name of Syed Ahmad Al Mashoor, alternatively known as Ayid Mashoor, a leader of Arab descent on that Island.

After Malaya achieved independence on August 31, 1957, the growth of religious education at government subsidised schools was a result of sustained effort on the part of the Malay community. This can be seen at the Islamic College and the National University of Malaysia.

The best known and reputedly oldest pondok in Malaysia is that of Tok Guru Haji Muhammad Yusof or Tok Kenali, who constructed it himself in Kota Bahru, Kelantan. He received his basic education in Kelantan and then like any other pondok teacher pursued his studies in the Masjid al-Haram (the Great Mosque of Makkah).

The Tok Kenali pondok became a famous centre of learning which led to large numbers of people from different states coming to learn at the pondok, and subsequently other pondok schools were opened by some of the former pupils who in time became community leaders. This teacher-pupil- teacher network spread to Southern Thailand and Indonesia.

Some Malaysian ulama' became teachers at the Masjid al-Haram. At the time of this writing one ulama' from Kedah, Muhammad bin Abdul Kadir, and two from Petani were teachers there. Muhammad's father was also a teacher at the al-Haram Mosque.


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Islam in Spain

When you think of European culture, one of the first things that may come to your mind is the renaissance. Many of the roots of European culture can be traced back to that glorious time of art, science, commerce and architecture. But did you know that long before the renaissance there was a place of humanistic beauty in Muslim Spain? Not only was it artistic, scientific and commercial, but it also exhibited incredible tolerance, imagination and poetry. Muslims, as the Spaniards call the Muslims, populated Spain for nearly 700 years. As you'll see, it was their civilization that enlightened Europe and brought it out of the dark ages to usher in the renaissance. Many of their cultural and intellectual influences still live with us today.

Way back during the eighth century, Europe was still knee-deep in the Medieval period. That's not the only thing they were knee-deep in. In his book, "The Day The Universe Changed," the historian James Burke describes how the typical European townspeople lived:

"The inhabitants threw all their refuse into the drains in the center of the narrow streets. The stench must have been overwhelming, though it appears to have gone virtually unnoticed. Mixed with excrement and urine would be the soiled reeds and straw used to cover the dirt floors. (p. 32)

This squalid society was organized under a feudal system and had little that would resemble a commercial economy. Along with other restrictions, the Catholic Church forbade the lending of money - which didn't help get things booming much. "Anti-Semitism, previously rare, began to increase. Money lending, which was forbidden by the Church, was permitted under Jewish law." (Burke, 1985, p. 32) Jews worked to develop a currency although they were heavily persecuted for it. Medieval Europe was a miserable lot, which ran high in illiteracy, superstition, barbarism and filth.

During this same time, Muslims entered Europe from the South. Abd al-Rahman I, a survivor of a family of caliphs of the Muslim empire, reached Spain in the mid-700's. He became the first Caliph of Al-Andalus, the Muslim part of Spain, which occupied most of the Iberian Peninsula. He also set up the Umayyad Dynasty that ruled Al-Andalus for over three-hundred years. (Grolier, History of Spain). Al Andalus means, "the land of the vandals," from which comes the modern name Andalusia.

At first, the land resembled the rest of Europe in all its squalor. But within two-hundred years the Muslims had turned Al-Andalus into a bastion of culture, commerce and beauty.

"Irrigation systems imported from Syria and Muslimia turned the dry plains... into an agricultural cornucopia. Olives and wheat had always grown there. The Muslims added pomegranates, oranges, lemons, aubergines, artichokes, cumin, coriander, bananas, almonds, pams, henna, woad, madder, saffron, sugar-cane, cotton, rice, figs, grapes, peaches, apricots and rice." (Burke, 1985, p. 37)

By the beginning of the ninth century, Muslim Spain was the gem of Europe with its capital city, Cordova. With the establishment of Abd al-Rahman III - "the great caliphate of Cordova" - came the golden age of Al-Andalus. Cordova, in southern Spain, was the intellectual center of Europe.

At a time when London was a tiny mud-hut village that "could not boast of a single streetlamp" (Digest, 1973, p. 622), in Cordova�

"�there were half a million inhabitants, living in 113,000 houses. There were 700 mosques and 300 public baths spread throughout the city and its twenty-one suburbs. The streets were paved and lit." (Burke, 1985, p. 38)

"The houses had marble balconies for summer and hot-air ducts under the mosaic floors for the winter. They were adorned with gardens with artificial fountains and orchards". (Digest, 1973, p. 622) "Paper, a material still unknown to the west, was everywhere. There were bookshops and more than seventy libraries." (Burke, 1985, p. 38).

In his book titled, "Spain In The Modern World," James Cleuge explains the significance of Cordova in Medieval Europe:

"For there was nothing like it, at that epoch, in the rest of Europe. The best minds in that continent looked to Spain for everything which most clearly differentiates a human being from a tiger." (Cleugh, 1953, p. 70)

During the end of the first millennium, Cordova was the intellectual well from which European humanity came to drink. Students from France and England traveled there to sit at the feet of Muslim, Christian and Jewish scholars, to learn philosophy, science and medicine (Digest, 1973, p. 622). In the great library of Cordova alone, there were some 600,000 manuscripts (Burke, 1978, p. 122).

This rich and sophisticated society took a tolerant view towards other faiths. Tolerance was unheard of in the rest of Europe. But in Muslim Spain, "thousands of Jews and Christians lived in peace and harmony with their Muslim overlords." (Burke, 1985, p. 38)

Unfortunately, this period of intellectual and economic prosperity began to decline. Shifting away from the rule of law, there began to be internal rifts in the Muslim power structure. The Muslim harmony began to break up into warring factions. Finally, the caliphs were eliminated and Cordova fell to other Muslim forces. "In 1013 the great library in Cordova was destroyed. True to their Islamic traditions however, the new rulers permitted the books to be dispersed, together with the Cordovan scholars to the capital towns of small emirates." (Burke, 1985, p. 40) The intellectual properties of the once great Al-Andalus were divided among small towns.

�the Christians to the North were doing just the opposite. In Northern Spain the various Christian kingdoms united to expel the Muslims from the European continent. (Grolier, History of Spain) This set the stage for the final act of the Medieval period.

In another of James Burke's works titled "Connections," he describes how the Muslims thawed out Europe from the Dark Ages. "But the event that must have done more for the intellectual and scientific revival of Europe was the fall of Toledo in Spain to the Christians, in 1105." In Toledo the Muslims had huge libraries containing the lost (to Christian Europe) works of the Greeks and Romans along with Muslim philosophy and mathematics. "The Spanish libraries were opened, revealing a store of classics and Muslim works that staggered Christian Europeans." (Burke, 1978, p. 123)

The intellectual plunder of Toledo brought the scholars of northern Europe like moths to a candle. The Christians set up a giant translating program in Toledo. Using the Jews as interpreters, they translated the Muslim books into Latin. These books included "most of the major works of Greek science and philosophy... along with many original Muslim works of scholarship." (Digest, p. 622)

"The intellectual community which the northern scholars found in Spain was so far superior to what they had at home that it left a lasting jealousy of Muslim culture, which was to color Western opinions for centuries" (Burke, 1985, p. 41)

"The subjects covered by the texts included medicine, astrology, astronomy pharmacology, psychology, physiology, zoology, biology, botany, mineralogy, optics, chemistry, physics, mathematics, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, music, meteorology, geography, mechanics, hydrostatics, navigation and history." (Burke, 1985, p. 42)

These works alone however, didn't kindle the fire that would lead to the renaissance. They added to Europe's knowledge, but much of it was unappreciated without a change in the way Europeans viewed the world.

Remember, Medieval Europe was superstitious and irrational. "What caused the intellectual bombshell to explode, however, was the philosophy that came with (the books)." (Burke, 1985, p. 42)

Christians continued to re-conquer Spain, leaving a wake of death and destruction in their path. The books were spared, but Moor culture was destroyed and their civilization disintegrated. Ironically, it wasn't just the strength of the Christians that defeated the Muslims but the disharmony among the Muslims' own ranks. Like Greece and Rome that proceeded them, the Muslims of Al-Andalus fell into moral decay[1] and wandered from the intellect that had made them great.

The translations continued as each Muslim haven fell to the Christians. In 1492, the same year Columbus discovered the New World, Granada, the last Muslim enclave, was taken. Captors of the knowledge were not keepers of its wisdom. Sadly, all Jews and Muslims that would not abandon their beliefs were either killed or exiled (Grolier, History of Spain). Thus ended an epoch of tolerance and all that would remain of the Muslims would be their books.

It's fascinating to realize just how much Europe learned from the Muslim texts and even greater to see how much that knowledge has endured. Because of the flood of knowledge, the first Universities started to appear. College and University degrees were developed (Burke, 1985, p. 48). Directly from the Muslims came the numerals we use today. Even the concept of Zero (a Muslim word) came from the translations (Castillo & Bond, 1987, p. 27). It's also fair to say that renaissance architectural concepts came from the Muslim libraries. Mathematics and architecture explained in the Muslim texts along with Muslim works on optics led to the perspective paintings of the renaissance period (Burke, 1985 p. 72). The first lawyers began their craft using the new translated knowledge as their guide. Even the food utensils we use today come from the Cordova kitchen! (Burke, 1985 p. 44) All of these examples show just some of the ways Europe transformed from the Muslims.

Footnotes:

[1] By leaving the tenets of their religion


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The spread of Islam in West Africa

Muslim geographers and historians have provided excellent records of Muslim rulers and peoples in Africa. Among them are Al-Khwarzimi, Ibn Munabbah, Al-Masudi, Al-Bakri, Abul Fida, Yaqut, Ibn Batutah, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Fadlallah al-'Umari, Mahmud al-Kati, Ibn al Mukhtar and Abd al-Rahman al-Sa'di. Islam reached the Savannah region in the 8th Century C.E., the date the written history of West Africa begins. Islam was accepted as early as 850 C.E. by the Dya'ogo dynasty of the Kingdom of Tekur. They were the first Negro people who accepted Islam. Trade and commerce paved the way for the introduction of new elements of material culture, and made possible the intellectual development which naturally followed the introduction and spread of literacy.

Eminent Arab historians and African scholars have written on the empires of Ghana, Mali, Songhay, and Kanem Bornu. They document famous trade routes in Africa - from Sijilmasa to Taghaza, Awdaghast, which led to the empire of Ghana, and from Sijilmasa to Tuat, Gao and Timbikutu. Al-Bakri describes Ghana as highly advanced and economically a prosperous country as early as the eleventh century. He also discusses the influence of Islam in Mali in the 13th century and describes the rule of Mansa Musa, whose fame spread to Sudan, North Africa and up to Europe.

Spread of Islam in West Africa

Islam reached the Savannah region in the 8th Century C.E., the date the written history of West Africa begins The Muslim-Arab historians began to write about West Africa in the early 8th century. The famous scholar Ibn Munabbah wrote as early as 738 C.E., followed by Al-Masudi in 947 C.E. As Islam spread in the Savannah region, it was quite natural that commercial links should also come to be established with North Africa. Trade and commerce also paved way for the introduction of new elements of material culture, and made possible the intellectual development which naturally followed the introduction and spread of literacy, and for which parts of the Sudan were to become famous in the centuries to come. In the Kingdom of Tekur, situated on both banks of the Senegal, Islam was accepted as early as 850 C.E., by the Dya'ogo dynasty. This dynasty was the first Negro people who accepted Islam.

It was for this reason that Muslim-Arab historians referred to Bilad al-Tekur as 'The Land of the Black Muslims.' War-jabi, son of Rabis, was the first ruler of Tekur in whose reign Islam was firmly established in Tekur and the Islamic Shari'ah system was enforced. This gave a uniform Muslim law to the people. By the time the Al- Murabitun of Almoravids began their attack on Tekur in 1042 C.E., Islam had made a deep impact on the people of that area. Al-Idrisi in 1511 described the Tekur Country as 'secure, peaceful and tranquil.' The capital town of Tekur was also called Tekur which had become center of commerce. Merchants used to bring wool to sell there from Greater Morocco and in return, took with them gold and beads.

We have enough documents about the history of this region since it was known to the Arab historians as the Bilad al-Sudan, the land of the Blacks. In the medieval period, the most well-known empires that grew there are known until our day: The empires of Ghana, Mali, Songhay, and Kanem Bornu. Eminent Arab historians have written about the glories of these lands, notable among whom are Al-Bakri, Al-Masudi, Ibn Batutah and Ibn Khaldun. Besides these scholars, there were local scholars whose works have come down to us. As for example Tarikh al-Sudan, the History of the Sudan, by Al-Sadi and Tarikh al-Fattash by Muhammad al-Kati.

There were famous trade routes, like the one from Sijilmasa to Taghaza, Awdaghast, which led to the empire of Ghana, and another from Sijilmasa to Tuat, Gao and Timbikutu. There were others which connected the present Nigeria with Tripoli via Fez to Bornu and Tunisia with Nigeria via Ghadames, Ghat, and Agades to Hausa land. These routes had made all the above mentioned places famous trade centers. These centers of trade invariably became centers of Islamic learning and civilization. New ideas came through visiting traders in the field of administrative practices. We shall study briefly the expansion of Islam in each of the ancient empires of Western Sudan.

Islam in the Ancient Empire of Ghana

Al-Bakri, the Muslim geographer, gives us an early account of the ancient Soninke empire of Ghana. His Kitab fi Masalik wal Mamalik (The Book of Roads and Kingdoms) describes Ghana of 1068 as highly advanced. Economically, it was a prosperous country. The King had employed Muslim interpreters and most of his ministers and treasurers were also Muslims. The Muslim ministers were learned enough to record events in Arabic and corresponded, on behalf of the king, with other rulers. "Also, as Muslims, they belonged to the larger body politic of the Islamic world and this would make it possible to establish international relations."

Al-Bakri gives the following picture of Islam in Ghana in the 11th century:

The city of Ghana consists of two towns lying on a plain, one of which is inhabited by Muslims and is large, possessing 12 mosques one of which is congregational mosque for Friday prayers: each has its Imam, Muezzin and paid reciters of the Quran. The town possesses a large number of jurists, consults and learned men.

Islam in the Empire of Mali

The influence of Islam in Mali dates back to the 15th century when Al-Bakri mentions the conversion of its ruler to Islam. There was a miserable period of drought which came to an end by offering Muslim prayers and ablutions. The Empire of Mali arose from the ruins of Ghana Empire. There are two important names in the history of Islam in Mali: Sundiata (1230-1255) and Mansa Musa (1312-1337). Sundiata is the founder of the Mali Empire but was a weak Muslim, since he practiced Islam with syncretic practices and was highly disliked by the scholars. Mansa Musa was, on the other hand, a devout Muslim and is considered to be the real architect of the Mali Empire. By the time Sundiata died in 1255, a large number of former dependencies of Ghana also came under his power. After him came Mansa Uli (1255-1270) who had made a pilgrimage to Makkah.

Mansa (Emperor) Musa came to power in 1312 and his fame reached beyond the Sudan, North Africa and spread up to Europe. Mansa Musa ruled from 1312 to 1337 and in 1324-25 he made his famous pilgrimage to Makkah [Hajj]. When he returned from his pilgrimage, he brought with him a large number of Muslim scholars and architects who built five mosques for the first time with baked bricks. Thus Islam received its greatest boost during Mansa Musa's reign. Many scholars agree that because of his attachment to Islam, Mansa Musa could introduce new ideas to his administration. The famous traveller and scholar Ibn Batutah came to Mali during Mansa Sulaiman's reign (1341-1360), and gives an excellent account of Mali's government and its economic prosperity - in fact, a legacy of Mansa Musa's policy. Mansa Musa's pilgrimage projected Mali's enormous wealth and potentialities which attracted more and more Muslim traders and scholars. These Muslim scholars and traders contributed to the cultural and economic development of Mali. It was during his reign that diplomatic relations were established with Tunis and Egypt, and thus Mali began to appear on the map of the world.

Islam in the Empire of Songhay

Islam began to spread in the Empire of Songhay some time in the 11th century when the ruling Za or Dia dynasty first accepted it. It was a prosperous region because of its booming trade with Gao. By the 13th century it had come under the dominion of the Mali Empire but had freed itself by the end of the 14th century when the dynasty was renamed Sunni. The frontier of Songhay now expanded and in the 15th century, under the leadership of Sunni 'Ali, who ruled between 1464-1492, the most important towns of the Western Sudan came under the Songhay Empire. The great cities of Islamic learning like Timbuktu and Jenne came under his power between 1471-1476.

Sunni 'Ali's was a nominal Muslim who used Islam to his ends. He even persecuted Muslim scholars and practiced local cults and magic. When the famous scholar Al-Maghilli called him a pagan, he punished him too. The belief in cults and magic was, however, not something new in Songhay. It existed in other parts of West Africa until the time the revivalist movements gained momentum in the 18th century. It is said of Sunni 'Ali that he tried to compromise between paganism and Islam although he prayed and fasted. The scholars called it merely a mockery.

Sunni 'Ali's syncretism was soon challenged by the Muslim elites and scholars in Timbuktu, which was then a center of Islamic learning and civilization. The famous family of Agit, of the Berber scholars, had the post of the Chief Justice and were known for their fearless opposition to the rulers. In his lifetime, Sunni 'Ali took measures against the scholars of Timbuktu (in 1469 and in 1486). But on his death, the situation completely changed: Islam and Muslim scholars triumphed. Muhammad Toure (Towri), a military commander asked Sunni 'Ali's successor, Sunni Barou, to appear before the public and make an open confession of his faith in Islam. When Barou refused to do so, Muhammad Toure ousted him and established a new dynasty in his own name, called the Askiya dynasty. Sunni 'Ali may be compared with Sundiata of Mali, and Askiya Muhammad Toure with Mansa Musa, a champion of the cause of Islam.

On his coming to power, he established Islamic law and arranged a large number of Muslims to be trained as judges. He gave his munificent patronage to the scholars and gave them large pieces of land as gifts. He became a great friend of the famous scholar Muhammad Al-Maghilli. It was because of his patronage that eminent Muslim scholars were attracted to Timbuktu, which became a great seat of learning in the 16th century. Timbuktu has the credit of establishing the first Muslim University, called Sankore University, in West Africa; its name is commemorated until today in Ibadan University where a staff residential area has been named as Sankore Avenue.

Like Mansa Musa of Mali, Askia Muhammad Toure went on a pilgrimage and thus came into close contact with Muslim scholars and rulers in the Arab countries. In Makkah, the King accorded him great respect; he was turbanned. The King gave him a sword and the title of the Caliph of the Western Sudan. On his return from Makkah in the year 1497, he proudly used the title of Al-Hajj.

Askia took such a keen interest in the Islamic legal system that he asked a number of questions on Islamic theology from his friend Muhammad al-Maghilli. Al-Maghilli answered his questions in detail which Askia circulated in the Songhay empire. Some of the questions were about the fundamental structure of the faith, such as 'who is a true Muslim?' and "who is a pagan?" When we read Shehu 'Uthman Dan Fodio's works, we can see some of his arguments quoted on the authority of Al-Maghilli. In other words, Al-Maghilli's detailed discussions of the issues raised by Askiya Muhammad played a great role in influencing Shehu.

Islam in Kanem-Bornu Empire

Kanem-Bornu in the 13th century included the region around Lake Chad, stretching as far north as Fezzan. Kanem today forms the northern part of the Republic of Chad. Islam was accepted for the first time by the Kanem ruler, Umme-Jilmi, who ruled between 1085-1097 C.E., through a scholar named Muhammad B. Mani, credited for bringing Islam to Kanem-Bornu. Umme-Jilmi became a devout Muslim. He left on a pilgrimage but died in Egypt before reaching Makkah. Al-Bakri also mentions that Umayyad refugees, who had fled from Baghdad following plans to liquidate their dynasty at the hands of the Abbasids, were residing in Kanem [21, 22].

With the introduction of Islam in Kanem, it became the principal focus of Muslim influence in the central Sudan and relations were established with the Arab world in the Middle East and the Maghrib. Umme's son Dunama I (1092-1150) also went on a pilgrimage and was crowned in Egypt, while embarking at Suez for Makkah, during the third pilgrimage journey. During the reign of Dunama II (1221-1259), a Kanem embassy was established in Tunisia around 1257, as mentioned by the famous Andalusian historian Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406 C.E.). It was almost at the same time that a college and a hostel were established in Cairo, named Madrasah Ibn Rashiq. Toward the end of the 13th century, Kanem became a center of Islamic knowledge and famous teachers came from Mali to teach in Kanem. By the middle of the 13th century, Kanem established diplomatic relations with Tuat (in the Algerian Sahara) and with the Hafsid state of Tunis at embassy level. The Kanem scholars and poets could write classical Arabic of a very high standard. We have evidence of this in a letter written by the Chief scribe of the Kanem court dating from 1391 to 1392.

The historian Ibn Khaldun calls Dunama II as the 'King of Kanem and Lord of Bornu,' because his empire had expanded as far as Kano in the west and Wadai in the east. It is said that Dunama II opened a Talisman (Munni or Mune), considered sacred by his people, and thus brought a period of hardship to his people. It was because of his enthusiasm for the religion of Islam that he committed this 'abomination' (perhaps the talisman was a traditional symbol of divine (kingship) and alienated many of his subjects).

In the late 14th century, a new capital of the Kanem empire was established in Bornu at Nigazaragamu by 'Ali b. Dunama, also called 'Ali Ghazi, who ruled during the period 1476 to 1503. This thriving capital continued until 1811. 'Ali revived Islam. He was keen on learning its principles. He used to visit the chief Imam 'Umar Masramba to learn more about the Islamic legal system. He, by his own example, persuaded the nobility and Chiefs to limit the number of their wives to only four.

The Islamization of Bornu dates from the time of Mai Idris Alooma (1570-1602). We come to know about him through his chronicler, Ahmad bin Fartuwa. In the 9th year of his reign, he went on a pilgrimage to Makkah and built a hostel there for pilgrims from Bornu. He revived the Islamic practices and made all and sundry follow them. He also set up Qadhis courts to introduce Islamic laws in place of the traditional system of customary law. He built a large number of brick mosques to replace the existing ones, built with reeds.

In 1810 during the period of Mai Ahmad the glories of the Empire of Bornu came to an end, but its importance, as a center of Islamic learning, continued.

Islam in Hausa-Fulani land

There is a well-known Hausa legend concerning the origin of the Hausa state, attributed to Bayajida (Bayazid) who came from Begh to settle down in Kanem-Bornu. The ruling Mai of Bornu of that time (we do not have any information about the time) welcomed Bayajida and gave his daughter in marriage to him but at the same time robbed him of his numerous followers. He fled from the Mai with his wife and came to Gaya Mai Kano and asked the goldsmith of Kano to make a sword for him. The story tells us that Bayajida helped the people of Kano by killing a supernatural snake which had prevented them from drawing water from a well. It is said that the queen, named Daura, married him in appreciation of his service to the people. Bayajida got a son named Bawo from Daura. Bawo, himself, had seven sons: Biran, Dcura, Katsina, Zaria, Kano, Rano and Gebir, who became the founders of the Hausa states. Whatever may be the merit of this story, it tries to explain how Hausa language and culture spread throughout the northern states of Nigeria.

Islam came to Hausaland in early 14th century. About 40 Wangarawa graders are said to have brought Islam with them during the reign of 'Ali Yaji who ruled Kano during the years 1349-1385. A mosque was built and a muedthin (one who calls to prayer) was appointed to give adthan (call to prayer) and a judge was named to give religious decisions. During the reign of a ruler named, Yaqub (1452-1463), one Fulani migrated to Kano and introduced books on Islamic Jurisprudence. By the time Muhammad Rumfa came into power (1453-1499), Islam was firmly rooted in Kano. In his reign Muslim scholars came to Kano; some scholars also came from Timbuktu to teach and preach Islam.

Muhammad Rumfa consulted Muslim scholars on the affairs of government. It was he who had asked the famous Muslim theologian Al-Maghilli to write a book on Islamic government during the latter's visit to Kano in the 15th century. The book is a celebrated masterpiece and is called The Obligation of the Princes. Al-Maghilli later went to Katsina, which had become a seat of learning in the 15th century. Most of the pilgrims from Makkah would go to Katsina. Scholars from the Sankore University of Timbuktu also visited the city and brought with them books on divinity and etymology. In the 13th century, Katsina produced native scholars like Muhammadu Dan Marina and Muhammadu Dan Masina (d. 1667) whose works are available even today.

The literature of Shehu 'Uthman Dan Fodio, his brother, Abdullahi, and his son Muhammad Bello speaks of the syncretic practices of the Hausa Fulanis at the end of the 18th century. The movement of 'Uthman Dan Fodio in 1904 was introduced as a revivalist movement in Islam to remove syncretic practices, and what Shehu called Bid'at al-Shaytaniyya or Devilish Innovations.

The spread of Islam in Africa is owing to many factors, historical, geographical and psychological, as well as its resulting distribution of Muslim communities, some of which we have tried to outline. Ever since its first appearance in Africa, Islam has continued to grow. The scholars there have been Africans right from the time of its spread. Islam has become an African religion and has influenced her people in diverse ways.


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Muslim Rule in India

The Muslim rule in India lasted for almost 1000 years. How come then, asked the British historian Sir Henry Elliot, that Hindus 'had not left any account which could enable us to gauge the traumatic impact the Muslim conquest and rule had on them'? Since there was none, Elliot went on to produce his own eight-volume History of India from its own historians (1867).

His history claimed Hindus were slain for disputing with 'Muhammedans', generally prohibited from worshipping and taking out religious processions, their idols were mutilated, their temples destroyed, they were forced into conversions and marriages, and were killed and massacred by drunk Muslim tyrants. Thus Sir Henry, and scores of other Empire scholars, went on to produce a synthetic Hindu versus Muslim history of India, and their lies became history.

However, the noted Indian scholar and historian, Dr Bishambhar Nath Pande, who passed away in New Delhi on 1 June, ranked among the very few Indians and fewer still Hindu historians who tried to be a little careful when dealing with such history. He knew that this history was 'originally compiled by European writers' whose main objective was to produce a history that would serve their policy of divide and rule.

Lord Curzon (Governor General of India 1895-99 and Viceroy 1899-1904, d.1925) was told by the Secretary of State for India, George Francis Hamilton, that they 'should so plan the educational text books that the differences between community and community are further strengthened'.

Another Viceroy, Lord Dufferin (1884-88), was advised by the Secretary of State in London that the 'division of religious feelings is greatly to our advantage', and that he expected 'some good as a result of your committee of inquiry on Indian education and on teaching material'.

'We have maintained our power in India by playing-off one part against the other,' the Secretary of State for India reminded yet another Viceroy, Lord Elgin (1862-63), 'and we must continue to do so. Do all you can, therefore, to prevent all having a common feeling.'

In his famous Khuda Bakhsh Annual Lecture (1985) Dr Pande said: 'Thus under a definite policy the Indian history books text-books were so falsified and distorted as to give an impression that the medieval [i.e. Muslim] period of Indian history was full of atrocities committed by Muslim rulers on their Hindu subjects and the Hindus had to suffer terrible indignities under Muslim rule. And there were no common factors [between Hindus and Muslims] in social, political and economic life.'

Therefore, Dr Pande was extra careful. Whenever he came across a 'fact' that looked odd to him, he would try to check and verify rather than adopt it uncritically.

He came across a history text-book taught in the Anglo-Bengali College, Allahabad which claimed that 'three thousand Brahmins had committed suicide as Tipu wanted to convert them forcibly into the fold of Islam'.

The author was a very famous scholar, Dr Har Prashad Shastri, head of the department of Sanskrit at Calcutta University. (Tipu Sultan (1750-99), who ruled over the South Indian state of Mysore (1782-99), is one of the most heroic figures in Indian history. He died on the battlefield, fighting the British.)

Was it true? Dr Pande wrote immediately to the author and asked him for the source on which he had based this episode in his text-book. After several reminders, Dr Shastri replied that he had taken this information from the Mysore Gazetteer. So Dr Pande requested the Mysore University vice chancellor, Sir Brijendra Nath Seal, to verify for him Dr Shastri's statement from the Gazetteer. Sir Brijendra referred his letter to Prof Srikantia who was then working on a new edition of the Gazetteer.

Srikantia wrote to say that the Gazetteer mentioned no such incident and, as a historian himself, he was certain that nothing like this had taken place. Prof Srikantia added that both the prime minister and the commander-in-chief of Tipu Sultan were themselves Brahmins. He also enclosed a list of 136 Hindu temples which used to receive annual grants from the Sultan's treasury.

It transpired that Shastri had lifted this story from Colonel Miles' History of Mysore which Miles claimed he had taken from a Persian manuscript in the personal library of Queen Victoria.

When Dr Pande checked further, he found that no such manuscript existed in Queen Victoria's library. Yet Dr Shastri's book was being used as a high school history text-book in seven Indian states, Assam, Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. So he sent his entire correspondence about the book to the vice chancellor of Calcutta University,

Sir Ashutosh Chaudhary. Sir Ashutosh promptly ordered Shashtri's book out of the course. Yet years later, in 1972, Dr Pande was surprised to discover the same suicide story was still being taught as 'history' in junior high schools in Uttar Pradesh. The lie had found currency as a fact of history.

The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (born 1618, reigned 1658-1707) is the most reviled of all Muslim rulers in India. He was supposed to be a great destroyer of temples and oppressor of Hindus, and a 'fundamentalist' too! As chairman of the Allahabad Municipality (1948-53), Dr Pande had to deal with a land dispute between two temple priests.

One of them had filed in evidence some farmans (royal orders) to prove that Aurangzeb had, besides cash, gifted the land in question for the maintenance of his temple. Might they not be fake, Dr Pande thought, in view of Aurangzeb's fanatically anti-Hindu image? He showed them to his friend, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, a distinguished lawyer as well a great scholar of Arabic and Persian. He was also a Brahmin. Sapru examined the documents and declared they were genuine farmans issued by Aurangzeb.

For Dr Pande this was a 'new image of Aurangzeb'; so he wrote to the chief priests of the various important temples, all over the country, requesting photocopies of any farman issued by Aurangzeb that they may have in their possession.

The response was overwhelming; he got farmans from several principal Hindu and jain temples, even from Sikh Gurudwaras in northern India. These farmans, issued between 1659 and 1685, related to grant of jagir (large parcel of agricultural lands) to support regular maintenance of these places of worship.

Dr Pande's research showed that Aurangzeb was as solicitous of the rights and welfare of his non-Muslim subjects as he was of his Muslim subjects. Hindu plaintiffs received full justice against their Muslims respondents and, if guilty, Muslims were given punishment as necessary.

One of the greatest charges against Aurangzeb is of the demolition of Vishwanath temple in Banaras (Varanasi). That was a fact, but Dr Pande unravelled the reason for it. 'While Aurangzeb was passing near Varanasi on his way to Bengal, the Hindu Rajas in his retinue requested that if the halt was made for a day, their Ranis may go to Varanasi, have a dip in the Ganges and pay their homage to Lord Vishwanath. Aurangzeb readily agreed.

'Army pickets were posted on the five mile route to Varanasi. The Ranis made journey on the palkis [palanquins]. They took their dip in the Ganges and went to the Vishwanath temple to pay their homage. After offering puja [worship] all the Ranis returned except one, the Maharani of Kutch. A thorough search was made of the temple precincts but the Rani was to be found nowhere.

'When Aurangzeb came to know of this, he was very much enraged. He sent his senior officers to search for the Rani. Ultimately they found that statue of Ganesh [the elephant-headed god which was fixed in the wall was a moveable one. When the statue was moved, they saw a flight of stairs that led to the basement. To their horror they found the missing Rani dishonoured and crying deprived of all her ornaments. The basement was just beneath Lord Vishwanath's seat.'

The Rajas demanded salutary action, and 'Aurangzeb ordered that as the sacred precincts have been despoiled, Lord Vishwanath may be moved to some other place, the temple be razed to the ground and the Mahant [head priest] be arrested and punished'.
(B N Pande, Islam and Indian Culture, Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna, 1987)

Dr Pande believed in the innate goodness of human nature. Despite all that senseless hate and periodical outbreak of anti-Muslim violence after independence, he remained an optimist. When one of the worst riots took place in 1979 in Ahmadabad, in which more than 2,000 Muslims were killed and 6,000 houses burnt, Dr Pande travelled there to see whether there was 'any humanity still alive'.

Yes, it was in one locality, Mewabhai Chaal, where he found that all the houses had been burnt down. Did they all belong to Muslims? No. Only 35 belonged to Muslims; some 125 belonged to Hindus, he was told. So, it meant, the arsonists came in two different waves; one destroying the Muslim houses and the other the Hindu houses? No, it was only one wave, said Kalayan Singh. That one, there, he pointed out to smoke billowing from what used to be his house and his tyre-shop. He was a Hindu and he had lost property and business worth 200,000 rupees.

The miscreants had asked him to point out the Muslim houses so they could spare the Hindu houses. Kalyan Singh refused, and watched as the mob set fire to all the houses - including his own. How could I betray my Muslim neighbours? he asked Dr Pande rhetorically.

Dr Pande also went to the Muslim students hostel. One-third of its residents were Hindus. "Come out all you Hindu students," yelled a murderous mob gathered outside the hostel. No, we won't, shouted back the Hindu students and locked the gate from inside. In the event, the entire hostel was evacuated by the army and then left to the mob to loot and burn.

The Hindu students were told they could take with them their books and research papers. Dr Pande met a young DSc scholar, named Desai, who had left behind his more than three years' labour, a ready-for-typing dissertation, to be burnt by the arsonists. Desai said he couldn't think of saving his thesis while some of his Muslim friends were in similar position with their theses. A noble soul! Dr Pande who had been looking for humanity found it there as well.

The inhumanity did not lie in the Indian nature, but the nature had fallen victim to the evil heritage of colonial history. Few realised how 1000 years of their history had been stolen from them. Many tended to buy the fake and doctored version handed down to them as part of their colonial heritage. Some even saw a little political advantage in this trade.

Dr Pande heard a leading Hindu Mahasabha politician and religious leader, Mahant Digvijaynath, telling an election meeting that it is written in the Qur'an that killing a Hindu was an act of goodness (thawab). Dr Pande called upon the Mahant (High Priest) and told him that he had read the Qur'an a few times but didn't find such a statement in it, and he had, therefore, brought with him several English, Urdu and Hindi translations of the Qur'an; so would he kindly point to him where exactly did the statement occur in the Qur'an?

Isn't it written there? said the Mahant. I haven't found it; if you have, please tell me, replied Dr Pande. Then what does it say? It speaks about love and brotherhood, about the oneness of mankind. What's jihad then? What is jizyah? How then India got partitioned? The Mahant went on asking, and Dr Pande kept on explaining, hoping the Mahant would correct himself. However, the Mahant's ideas were fixed, in prejudice and in ignorance.

Dr Pande himself had been a senior member of the ruling Congress party which he had joined at a very young age. He was a disciple of Gandhi, a friend of Nehru; he had taken part in each and every non-cooperation movement against the British and gone to jail eight times.

The Congress was supposed to be an all-Indian nationalist platform and yet Dr Pande's party was hardly free from the bias and ignorance of a cleverly deconstructed history. The rise of militant Hindutva tendency is only recent, but before it all became overt, the Congress itself was doing the same, albeit a little covertly.

All the horrific anti-Muslim carnage took place during more than four decades of Congress rule. The doors of the Babari Mosque were opened for Hindu worship during the tenure of Nehru's grandson, Rajiv Gandhi. The Mosque itself was pulled down during the regime of another Congress Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao.

Dr Pande was, however, just one individual. That made his work all the more important, not just from the Muslim but from the point of view of the entire country. India's deconstructed history is like a time bomb; unless it is defused, India cannot survive in one piece. Not for very long.

Bishambhar Nath Pande born on 23 December 1906 in the Madhya Pradesh of Umreth; member UP Legislative Assembly (1952-53); member UP Legislative Council (1972-74); twice member of the upper house, Rajya Sabha (1976 and 1982); Governor of Orissa state (1983-88); recipient of the highest national award Padma Shri (1976); author of several books, including The Spirit of India and The Concise History of Congress; died in New Delhi, 1 June 1998.



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Islam in China

The 'Great Mosque of Guangzhou' is also known as Huaisheng Mosque which means 'Remember the Sage' (A Memorial Mosque to the Prophet) and is also popularly called the 'Guangta Mosque' which translates as 'The Beacon Tower Mosque'. Huaisheng Mosque is located on Guantgta Road (Light Pagoda Road) which runs eastwards off Renmin Zhonglu.

Prior to 500 CE and hence before the establishment of Islam, Arab seafarers had established trade relations with the "Middle Kingdom" (China). Arab ships bravely set off from Basra at the tip of the Arabian Gulf and also from the town of Qays (Siraf) in the Persian Gulf. They sailed the Indian Ocean passing Sarandip (Sri Lanka) and navigated their way through the Straits of Malacca which were between the Sumatran and Malaysian peninsulas en route to the South China Sea. They established trading posts on the southeastern coastal ports of Quanzhou and Guangzhou. Some Arabs had already settled in China and probably embraced Islam when the first Muslim deputation arrived, as their families and friends back in Arabia, had already embraced Islam during the Prophet's revelation (610-32).

Guangzhou is called Khanfu by the Arabs who later set up a Muslim quarter which became a centre of commerce. Guangzhou's superior geographical position made it play an important role as the oldest trading and international port city in China. Witnessing a series of historical events, China has become a significant place in history and one of the fastest growing regions in the world enjoying unprecedented prosperity.

Whilst an Islamic state was founded by Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, China was enduring a period of unification and defense. Early Chinese annals mentioned Muslim Arabs and called their kingdom al-Medina (of Arabia). Islam in Chinese is called "Yisilan Jiao" (meaning "Pure Religion"). A Chinese official once described Mecca as being the birthplace of Buddha Ma-hia-wu (i.e. Prophet Muhammad).

There are several historical versions relating to the advent of Islam in China. Some records claim Muslims first arrived in China in two groups within as many months from Abyssinia (Ethiopia).

Ethiopia was the land where some early Muslims first fled in fear from the persecution of the Quraysh tribe in Mecca. Among that group of refugees were one of Prophet Muhammad's daughters Ruqayya, her husband Uthman ibn Affan, Sad Ibn Abi Waqqas and many other prominent Companions who migrated on the advice of the Prophet. They were successfully granted political asylum by the Abyssinian King Atsmaha Negus in the city of Axum (c.615 CE).

However, some Companions never returned to Arabia. They may have traveled on in the hope of earning their livelihood elsewhere and may have eventually reached China by land or sea during the Sui Dynasty (581-618 CE). Some records relate that Sad Ibn Abi Waqqas and three other Companions sailed to China in c.616 CE from Abyssinia (Ethiopia) with the backing of the king of Abyssinia. Sad then returned to Arabia, bringing a copy of the Holy Quran back to Guangzhou some 21 years later, which appropriately coincides with the account of Liu Chih who wrote "The Life of the Prophet" (12 vols).

One of the Companions who lived in China is believed to have died in c.635 CE and was buried in the western urban part of Hami. His tomb is known as "Geys' Mazars" and is revered by many in the surrounding region. It is in the northwestern autonomous province of Xingjian (Sinkiang) and about 400 miles east of the latter's capital, Urumqi. Xingjian is four times the size of Japan, shares its international border with eight different nations and is home to the largest indigenous group of Turkic-speaking Uyghurs. Hence, as well as being the largest Islamized area of China, Xingjian is also of strategic importance geographically.

The Quran states in unequivocal words that Muhammad was sent only as a Mercy from God to all peoples (21:107), and in another verse:

"We have not sent thee but as a Mercy to all Mankind�" (34:28)

This universality of Islam facilitated its acceptance by people from all races and nations and is amply demonstrated in China where the indigenous population, of ethnic varieties of Chinese Muslims today is greater than the population of many Arab countries including that of Saudi Arabia.

The history of Huaisheng Mosque represents centuries of Islamic culture dating right back to the mid-seventh century during the T'ang Dynasty (618-907) - "the golden age of Chinese history". It was in this period, eighteen years after the death of the Prophet, that Islam - the last of the three monotheistic religions - was first introduced to China by the third Caliph, Uthman Ibn 'Affan (644-656 CE/23-35 AH ).

Uthman was one of the first to embrace Islam and memorize the Holy Quran. He possessed a mild and gentle nature and he married Ruqayyah and following her death, Umm Kulthum (both were daughters of the Prophet). Consequently he was given the epithet of 'Dhu-n-Nurayn' (the one with the two lights). Uthman was highly praised for safeguarding the manuscripts of the Quran against disputes by ordering its compilation from the memories of the Companions and sending copies to the four corners of the Islamic Empire.

Uthman sent a delegation to China led by Sad Ibn Abi Waqqas (d. 674 CE/55 AH) who was a much loved maternal uncle of the Prophet and one of the most famous Companions who converted to Islam at the age of just seventeen. He was a veteran of all the battles and one of the ten who it is reported that the Prophet said were assured a place in paradise.

In Medina, Sad, using his ability in architecture added an Iwan (an arched hall used by a Persian Emperor) as a worship area. He later laid the foundation of what was to be the first Mosque in China where early Islamic architecture forged a relationship with Chinese architecture.

According to the ancient historical records of the T'ang Dynasty, an emissary from the kingdom of al-Medina led by Sad Ibn Abi Waqqas and his deputation of Companions, who sailed on a special envoy to China in c.650 CE, via the Indian Ocean and the China Sea to the famous port of Guangzhou, thence traveled overland to Chang'an (present day Xi'an) via what was later known as the "Silk Route".

Sad and his deputation brought presents and were warmly received at the royal court by the T'ang Emperor Kao-tsung, (r. 650-683) in c.651 CE, despite a recent plea of support against the Arabs forwarded to the Emperor in that same year by Shah Peroz (the ruler of Sassanid Persia). The latter was a son of Yazdegerd who, along with the Byzantines, already had based their embassies in China over a decade earlier. Together they were the two great powers of the west. A similar plea made to Emperor Tai Tsung (r.627-649) against the simultaneous spread of Muslim forces was refused.

First news of Islam had already reached the T'ang royal court during the reign of Emperor Tai Tsung when he was informed by an embassy of the Sassanid king of Persia, as well as the Byzantiums of the emergence of the Islamic rule. Both sought protection from the might of China. Nevertheless, the second year of Kao-tsung's reign marks the first official visit by a Muslim ambassador.

The emperor, after making enquiries about Islam, gave general approval to the new religion which he considered to be compatible with the teachings of Confucius. But he felt that the five daily canonical prayers and a month of fasting were requirements too severe for his taste and he did not convert. He allowed Sad Ibn Abi Waqqas and his delegation freedom to propagate their faith and expressed his admiration for Islam which consequently gained a firm foothold in the country.

Sad later settled in Guangzhou and built the Huaisheng Mosque which was an important event in the history of Islam in China. It is reputedly the oldest surviving mosque in the whole of China and is over 1300 years old. It survived through several historical events which inevitably took place outside its door step. This mosque still stands in excellent condition in modern Guangzhou after repairs and restorations.

Its contemporary Da Qingzhen Si (Great Mosque) of Chang'an (present day Xi'an) in Shaanxi Province was founded in c.742 CE. It is the largest (12,000 sq metres) and the best early mosque in China and it has been beautifully preserved as it expanded over the centuries. The present layout was constructed by the Ming Dynasty in c.1392 CE, a century before the fall of Granada, under its (ostensible) founder Hajj Zheng He who has a stone tablet at the mosque in commemoration of his generous support, which was provided by the grateful Emperor.

A fine model of the Great Mosque with all its surrounding walls and the magnificent, elegant appearance of its pavilions and courtyards can be seen at the Hong Kong Museum placed gracefully besides the model of the Huaisheng Mosque. I was fortunate to visit the real mosque last year during Asr prayer, after which I met the Imam who showed me an old handwritten Quran and presented me with a white cap.

Walking to the prayer hall is like sleepwalking through an oriental oasis confined in a city forbidden for the impure. A dragon symbol is engraved at the footstep of the entrance opposite the prayer hall demonstrating the meeting between Islam and the Chinese civilisation. All in all it is a dazzling encounter of the architecture of Oriental China with that of the indigenous fashionable taste of Harun ar-Rashid (147-194 AH/764-809 CE) of Baghdad - a newly founded city that was to become the greatest between Constantinople and China, fifty years after the time of Harun.

The Sheng-You Si (Mosque of the Holy Friend), also known as the Qingjing Si (Mosque of Purity) and Al-Sahabah Mosque (Mosque of Companions), was built with pure granite in 1009 CE during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). Its architectural design and style was modeled on the Great Mosque of Damascus (709-15) in Syria thus making the pair the oldest extant Mosques to survive (in original form) into the twenty-first century.

Qingjing Mosque is located at "Madinat al-Zaytun" (Quanzhou) or, in English, "City of Olives" in Fujian Province, where also two Companions of the Prophet who accompanied Sa'd Ibn Abi Waqqas's envoy to China are buried. They are known to the locals by their Chinese names of "Sa-Ke-Zu and Wu-Ku-Su".

Zhen-Jiao Si (Mosque of the True Religion), also known as Feng-Huang Si (the Phoenix Mosque) in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, is believed to date back from the Tang Dynasty. It has a multi-storied portal, serving as a minaret and a platform for observing the moon. The Mosque has a long history and it has been rebuilt and renovated on a number of occasions over the centuries. It is much smaller than it used to be, especially with the widening of the road in 1929, and it was partly rebuilt in 1953.

The other ancient Mosque is located in the city of Yangzhou in Jiangsu Province, once the busiest city of trade and commerce during the Song Dynasty (960-1280). Xian-He Si (Mosque of Immortal Crane) is the oldest and largest in the city and was built in c.1275CE by Pu-ha-din, a Muslim preacher who was a sixteenth-generation descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.

According to Chinese Muslim historians, Sad Ibn Abi Waqqas died in Guangzhou where he is believed to be buried. However Arab scholars differ, stating that Sad died and was buried in Medina amongst other Companions. One grave definitely exists, while the other is symbolic, God only knows whether it is in China or Medina. As one can see, the spread of Islam in China was indeed a peaceful one. The first envoy reached the southeast via the Zhu Jiang (The Pearl River) and was later followed by contact via an overland route from the northwest. Muslim communities are present over a wide geographical area in China today, including some in the remote places of Tibet, where I once met Tibetan Muslims in the middle of nowhere, while on a trek.


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Islam in Japan

Br. Nabil Bin Mohammed El-Maghrabi - Osaka,
Br. Mohamed Ahmed Soliman - Kyoto, Br. Mehmet Arif Adli - Nagoya - Japan

View of the Tokyo Jamee Mosque, Japan. Built in 1938, it is the Oldest Masjid in Japan. The Turkish influence is clear in its architecture and design.

Islam's relation with Japan is quite recent as compared to those with other countries around the world. There are no clear records of any contact between Islam and Japan nor any historical traces of Islam's coming into Japan through religious propagation of any sort except for some isolated cases of contact between individual Japanese and Muslims of other countries before 1868.

Islam was firstly known to Japanese people in 1877 as a part of Western religious thought. Around the same time the life of prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) was translated into Japanese. This helped Islam to find a place in the intellectual image of the Japanese people, but only as a knowledge and a part of the history of cultures.

Another important contact was made in 1890 when Ottoman Turkey dispatched a naval vessel to Japan for the purpose of starting diplomatic relations between the two countries as well introducing Muslims and Japanese people to each other. This naval vessel called "Ertugrul" was capsized and sank with 609 people aboard drowning 540 of them, on its way returning to home.

The first Muslim Japanese ever known are Mitsutaro Takaoka who converted to Islam in 1909 and took the name Omar Yamaoka after making the pilgrimage to Makkah and Bumpachiro Ariga, who about the same time went to India for trading purposes and converted to Islam under the influence of local Muslims there and subsequently took the name Ahmad Ariga.

However, recent studies have revealed that another Japanese known as Torajiro Yamada was probably the first Japanese Muslim who visited Turkey out of sympathy for those who died in the aftermath of the shipwreck of the "Ertugrul". He converted to Islam there and took the name Abdul Khalil and probably made pilgrimage to Makkah.

The real Muslim community life however did not start until the arrival of several hundred Turkoman, Uzbek, Tadjik, Kirghiz, Kazakh and other Turko-Tatar Muslim refugees from central Asia and Russia in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution during World War I. These Muslims who were given asylum in Japan settled in several main cities around Japan and formed small Muslim communities. A number of Japanese converted to Islam through the contact with these Muslims.

With the formation of these small Muslim communities several mosques have been built, the most important of them being the Kobe Mosque built in 1935 (which is the only remaining mosque in Japan nowadays) and the Tokyo Mosque built in 1938.

One thing that should be emphasized is that very little weight of Japanese Muslims was felt in building these mosques and there have been no Japanese so far who played the role of Imam of any of the mosques. During World War II, an "Islamic Boom" was set in Japan by the military government through organisations and research centers on Islam and the Muslim World.
It is said that during this period over 100 books and journals on Islam were published in Japan. However, these organisations or research centers were in no way controlled or run by the Muslims nor was their purpose the propagation of Islam whatsoever. The mere purpose was to let the military be better equipped with the necessary knowledge about Islam and Muslims since there were large Muslim communities in the areas occupied in China and Southeast Asia by the Japanese army. As a result, with the end of the war in 1945, these organisations and research centers disappeared rapidly.

Another "Islamic Boom" was set in motion this time in the shade of "Arab Boom" after the "oil shock" in 1973. The Japanese mass media have given big publicity to the Muslim World in general and the Arab World in particular after realizing the importance of these countries for the Japanese economy.

With this publicity many Japanese who had no idea about Islam got the chance to see the scene of Hajj in Makkah and hear the call of Adhan and Quranic recitations. Beside many sincere conversions to Islam there were also mass conversions which are said to have amounted to several tens of thousands of conversions which took placeduring those days. However, with the end of the effect of oil shock, most of those who converted to Islam disappeared from the scene.

Towards a new phase

"In the coming few years there should be substantial developments for Islam in Japan," says Nur Ad-Din Mori. "If not, then we cannot really speak of the future of Islam in this country."

Mori maintains it is a turning point now because of the relatively recent return of five young Muslims to Japan after completing their studies on Islam in Arab countries. Two graduated from the Umm al-Qura University, Makkah, one from Islamic University, Madinah, one from the Dawa College, Tripoli, and the last from Qatar University. Though the number may not seem very impressive it is a significant increase in the Japanese scene where, before these five, only six students graduated from universities in Arab countries during the last twenty years, with three of them majoring in Arabic, not Islamic, studies.

Mori, who studied theology and general Islamic studies in Makkah, is one of the recent five: he confirms their responsibilities." Islam is a religion of knowledge and we cannot stand well without learning. I think the efforts and activities made in this respect in Japan remain very minor up to this day."

Mori's pronouncement also refers to another problem in Japan: there have been few who can teach Islam to the indigenous people in their own language. The history of Da'wah in Japan for the past forty years has basically been that of efforts by foreign Muslims who happened to stay here in this mainly Buddhist country.

The Turks have been the biggest Muslim community in Japan until recently. Pre-war Japan was well-known for its sympathy and favour towards Muslims in central Asia, seeing in them an anti-Soviet ally. In those days some Japanese who worked in intelligence circles had contact with these Muslims. A few opened their eyes to Islam through these contacts, and embraced it after the war ended.

There were also those who went to Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia as soldiers during the war. The pilots were instructed to say "La ilaha illa Allah", when they were shot down in these regions, so that their lives would be spared. Actually one of them was shot down and captured by the inhabitants. When he shouted the "magic" words to them, to his astonishment they changed their attitudes and treated him rather kindly. He has been keeping his words until this day.

These are the Muslims of "the old generation". They found themselves as a minority group of Japanese Muslims after the war, and lived with already established foreign Muslim communities. Generally, the Japanese in those days had quite strong prejudices against Islam and their knowledge of international society was very limited. For example, in an article published in a magazine in 1958, the five pillars of Islam were described under the title "The strange customs of Mohammedans".

The Japanese had a stereotyped image of Islam that it was "a strange religion of underdeveloped countries". Even these days, though modified and corrected in many respects, such an image has not died out. Just a few years ago, a famous writer in social affairs could say in a TV program that Islam is a religion whose followers worship the sun.

A comparison of Japanese attitudes towards Christianity is interesting. Christianity has spread in Japan over the last hundred and twenty years as part of its Westernisation and is greatly respected even by those who do not adhere to its creeds. The population of Japanese Christians is one million, which constitutes less than one percent of the total population. Many of them, however, belong to be middle class and to intellectual circles, as demonstrated by the fact that the present Minister of Culture is a Christian writer, so their influence is much greater than their numerical strength may suggest. The spread of Christianity can be ascribed, not only to western influence but also to the long history of its presence in Japan, having arrived more than five hundred years ago.

The spread of Islam went eastwards, from India to Malaysia and Indonesia, and was blocked after reaching the southern Philippines by the Spanish colonization of the North. From there, Spanish missionaries were able to carry their message to Japan.

The Japanese invasion of China and South East Asian countries during the second world war brought the Japanese in contact with Muslims. Those who embraced Islam through them established in 1953, the first Japanese Muslim organisation, the Japan Muslim Association under the leadership of the late Sadiq Imaizumi.

Its members, numbering sixty five at the time of inauguration, increased two-fold before this devoted man passed away six years later. The second president of the association was the late Umar Mita, a very dedicated man. Mita was typical of the old generation, who learned Islam in the territories occupied by the Japanese Empire. He was working for the Manshu Railway Company, which virtually controlled the Japanese territory in the north eastern province of China at that time. Through his contacts with Chinese Muslims, he was convinced of its truth, and became a Muslim in Peking. When he returned to Japan, after the war, he made the Hajj, the first Japanese in the post-war period to do so.

He also made a Japanese translation of the meaning of the Quran from a Muslim perspective for the first time. Thus, it was only after the second world war, that what can properly be called "a Japanese Muslim community" came into existence. In spite of the initial success, however, later developments were quite slow in terms of membership.

Though many Islamic organisations were established since the 1900s, each of them has only a few active members. There is no reliable estimate on the Japanese Muslim population. Claims of thirty thousand are without doubt an exaggeration. Some claim that there are only a few hundred. This probably amounts to the number of Muslims openly practicing Islam. Asked to give an estimate on the actual number of Muslims in Japan, Abu Bakr Morimoto replied, "To say frankly, only one thousand. In the broadest sense, I mean, if we do not exclude those who became Muslims for the sake of, say marriage, and do not practice then the number would be a few thousands."

Apparently such a slow development is due partly to external circumstances. Japanese traditional religious atmosphere and highly developed materialistic tendencies must both be taken into consideration. But there are also shortcomings on the part of the Muslims. There exists a difference in orientation between the old and new generations.

For the old generation. Islam is equated with a religion of Malaysia, Indonesia, or China etc. But for the new generation, these East Asian countries are not very appealing, because of their western orientation, and so they are more influenced by Islam in the Arab countries. "The old generation have lived closely connected with non-Japanese Muslims," points out Nur Ad-Din . "It is an excellent act in the spirit of brotherhood. But on the other hand, we cannot deny its side effect, that is, this way of life could not prevent other Japanese from thinking of Islam as something foreign. How to overcome this barrier is a problem to be solved. It is a task for us, the younger generation."

When visiting Muslim countries, the remark that Japanese Muslims are the minority religious group always brings a question from the audience, "What percentage of Japan's total population are Muslims?" The answer at the moment is: One out of a hundred thousand. Nevertheless, the younger generation has aspirations. Perhaps some day it will be said that Islam is a popular religion in Japan.

Da'wah in Japan

The history of Islam in Japan reveals therefore some random waves of conversions. In fact, religious campaigns are no more successful for other divine revelations or "new religions". The statistics indicate that some 80% of the total population believe in either Buddhism or Shintoism while as few as 0.7% are Christians.

The latest results of a poll conducted by a Japanese monthly opinion magazine imply however an important caveat. Only one out of four Japanese effectively believes in any particular religion. The lack of faith is even more pronounced for Japanese youth in their 20s with an alarming rate of atheism as high as 85%.

The potential direct agents of da'wah represented by the Muslim community in Japan with its estimated one hundred thousand believers is itself extremely small compared with the total population of more than one hundred and twenty million citizens. Students together with various kinds of workers in precarious conditions constitute a large segment of the community. They are concentrated in big urban cities such as Hiroshima, Kyoto, Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo but are seldom organised into established units in order to conduct effective programs of da'wah.

In fact, the Muslim students association as well as some local societies organise periodical camps and gatherings in an effort to improve the understanding of Islamic teachings and for the sake of strengthening brotherhood relations among Muslims.

There is a continuous need for Muslims to withstand pressures to conform to the prevailing modern lifestyle which appeals to the passionate element of the soul. Further difficulties are faced by Muslims with respect to communication, housing, child education or the availability of halal food and Islamic literature, and these constitute additional factors hindering the course of da'wah in this country. The duty of da'wah is frequently perceived as the single obligation on Muslims to preach Islam to non-Muslims. However, important calls for reform (islaah) and renewal (tajdeed) constitute also distinct forms of da'wah to Muslims.

A betterment of the level of Islamic knowledge and living conditions of the Muslim community is therefore by itself the very da'wah needed in Japan. One should bear in mind however, that unless the attitudes of indifference and passivity of Muslim residents in Japan with respect to Islamic issues of congregational aspect are changed, the risk of the community being uprooted and diluted through severe distorsions of the Islamic belief will indeed grow higher. This likelihood is in fact pertaining to the permanent exposure of Muslims to the influence of many Japanese customs and traditional practices such as deep bowing as a form of greeting and collective participation in religious festivities and temple visits. The problem is perhaps being felt in more acute terms for Muslim children who, in the absence of any Muslim kindergartens or schools constitute indeed easy targets for the transmission and cultivation of unIslamic cultural and social habits. The remarkable lack of educational institutions of Islamic character is also reflected by the existence in all over Japan of a single mosque which resisted with fadhl from Allah (subhanahu wa Ta'ala) to the great Hanshin earthquake that nearly destroyed the city of Kobe on the wake of January 17 of this year. There are permanent efforts to build or transform housing units into masajids in many other cities and with the help of the Almighty, such good enterprises are expected to bear fruits in the very near future insha'Allah.

The misconception of Islamic teachings introduced by the western media stands to be corrected in a more efficient approach that takes into consideration the significant feature of the Japanese society of being one of the world's most literate countries. Yet, because of poor distribution, even translations of the meanings of Qur'an into Japanese language are not publicly available.

Islamic literature is virtually absent from bookstores or public libraries to the exception of few english-written essays and books that are sold at relatively high prices. As a result, it should not be surprising to find out that the knowledge of ordinary Japanese about Islam is modestly confined to few terms related to polygamy, Sunnah and Shia, Ramadhan, Makkah, Allah the God of Muslims and Islam the religion of Muhammad! Will Islam echo louder in Japan?

With increasingly significant evidence of a responsible recognition of its duties and rational assessment of its limits and capabilities, the Muslim community is showing stronger commitment to accomplish its task of da'wah in a better organised fashion.

There are indeed strong hopes that the future of Islam and Muslims will be better than their past inshaAllah as we believe that if Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) helps us, none can overcome us.


References:
1. Islam in Japan: It's past, present and future. Islamic Centre Japan, 1980.
2. Arabia, vol.5, no.54. February 1986/Jamad al-Awal 1406.



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