The Faith

Islam in China: FAQ

Islam in ChinaThe FAQ section is under construction. It may be some time before all the questions get answered. Feel free to add more questions.

  • What is Islam and what is a Muslim?
    Islam is a universal monotheistic religion. Followers of Islam are called Muslims. Muslims believe that there is only one God who sent a number of prophet to guide humanity and the last and the greatest of these prophet is Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him.)

  • Isn’t Islam a ‘foreign’ religion? Most Muslims live in the Middle East right?
    This is misconception that a lot of people have. Although Islam originated in the Middle East and the Arabs, Turks and Iranians are majority Muslims, followers of Islam are found throughout the world. Thus for example the largest Muslim country is in South East Asia – Indonesia. As for regions, South Asia (Pakistan, India and Bangladesh) have the largest number of Muslims in the world – more than 400 millions! Islam in China is almost as old as Islam itself. In fact there are more Muslims in China than there are in Most Arab countries. So Islam is not a foreign religion. It is a universal religion with many ethnicities and groups.

  • How many Muslims are there in China?
    There does not seem to be any consensus on this number. Most estimates range from as low as 10 million to as high as 100 million Muslims in China. However the figure of 25 million Muslims seems more plausible.

  • Are there Chinese Muslims in other countries?
    Yes there are Chinese Muslims in Central Asian countries and also in Malaysia. In Central Asia they are known as Dungans and still maintain their identity as Chinese Muslims. Almost all of these sought refuge in the Russian Empire during the Hui Minorities War in the 19th century. The Chinese Muslims as a community has arisen and disappeared in Malaysia a few times in the past. Either they were absorbed by the majority Malay Muslims and became Malays over time or they were absorbed by the non-Muslim Chinese and lost their beliefs. The recent growth of Chinese Muslims in Malaysia is an exception. There are more than 50,000 Chinese Muslims in Malaysia.

  • Do all Chinese Muslims belong to the same group?
    No. Out of the 56 officially recogonized ethnic groups in China 10 are predominantly Muslim. These are Hui, Uyghur, Kazak, Dongxiang, Kyrgyz, Salar, Tajik, Uzbek , Bonan, and Tatar.

  • Who are the Hui Muslims?
    Although there are 10 ethnic groups in China who are predominantly Muslims, two groups form the numerical majority. These are the Hui and the Uygar. Hui Muslims are the descendants of Arab, Persian and Turkish Muslims who intermarried with the local Han Chinese people. There are around 10 million Hui Muslims in China. Their culture is the same as that of the majority Han Chinese with the difference that the Hui practice Islam and thus don’t eat pork or drink alcohol.

  • What is the relation of Hui surnames to Arabic and Farsi names?
    Some of the Hui surnames are derived from Arabic and Farsi names. Thus the following names used by Chinese Hui Muslims have their origin inArabic and Farsi.
    • Ma for Muhammad
    • Han for Muhammad
    • Ha for Hasan
    • Hu for Hussein
    • Sai for Said
    • Sha for Shah
    • Zheng for Shams
  • What is the difference between a Han Chinese and a Hui Chinese?
    Historically speaking other than the practice of Islam there is not much difference and even this distinction is no longer applicable. For some Huis being a Muslim is like belonging to an ethnic group and thus their knowledge of Islam is practically non-existent to the point that they do not even know the basic pillars of Islam and yet they consider themselves Hui. On the other hand there are recent Han Chinese Muslims who follow Islam much more than the Hui but they do not like to be called Hui because they are of pure Han Chinese blood. In terms of lifestyles the two groups are almost identical. Places where they live side by side they speak the same language. Even amongst the Hui one will find people who eat pork and drink so its difficult to tell where the Hui begins or the Han ends.
Credit to: Islam in China

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