Jan 162012
 

This paper casts light on Islam’s long history in China and the cultural genius of its indigenous Muslims, who fashioned a way of life that preserved their Islamic identity, while making them active participants in the highly developed non-Muslim civilization around them. The Prophet, God bless and keep him, said: “Seek knowledge even if in China, for the seeking of knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim.” Naturally, Chinese Muslims cherished this widely-cited Hadith. But for all Muslims, the Prophet’s allusion to China indicates that there is something about the land that is unique and of lasting value. The Hadith rings as true today as ever. Our large and growing Muslim communities in the United States, Canada, and Europe face challenges not unlike those that once faced the Muslims of China. We too must survive and flourish in the context of an advanced non-Muslim society. For us, the historical experiment of Islam in China for more than a thousand years constitutes an invaluable precedent. But for the modern world in general, Islam in China has something to offer, especially its spiritual focus on the art of learning to be human. Chinese Muslim scholars articulated a stunning Islamic humanism with an Eastern stamp. They delved into their own Abrahamic faith, while mastering the non-Abrahamic traditions around them. Their ability to think within and beyond the Abrahamic box enabled them to build enduring cross-cultural bridges. Their accomplishment stands as a lesson for humanity today in its struggle to achieve a just global society that is genuinely human and truly pluralistic.

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