Before the transition period between the Qing and Ming dynasties (mid-17th century), Muslims in China belonged to the Sunni sect, except the Tajiks who were of the Shiah sect and a very small number of the Uighurs who believed in Ithna Ashariyyah. As for the schools they followed, except a few in Xinjiang following Shafi'iyyah, the rest were of Hanafiyyah. In the transition period between Ming and Qing dynasties, as Sufism was introduced into China, many independent sects and Menhuans emerged one after another and grew rapidly, among which three sects: Qadim, Ikhwan and Xidaotang, and four Menhuans: Kubrawiyyah, Qadiriyyah, Khufiyyah and Jahriyyah were of greatest influence.
Qadim, which means "traditional sect", is a sect of Islam in China that has spread early and widely and has more followers and greater influence than any other sect. As it adheres to the teachings, thoughts and ceremonies that have been practiced for generations since the Tang and Song dynasties, so it was named Qadim. Qadim is of Sunni. It bases its religious thoughts upon the Holy Qur'an and strictly abides by the "Six Beliefs", "Eight Ultimate Principles" and traditional ceremonies and proprieties. It holds an attitude of respect and tolerance towards others sects and schools, and coexists in peace with other religions prevailing In China. Having undergone a long process of development in Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, Qadim has become the mainstream sect of Islam in China, being unique in its own style. Qadim was influence by Shiah to some extent although it has always walked its own path. It takes Tariqah (austerity) practiced by Sufism as Tatawwu, does not worship saints and their mausoleums but is not firmly opposed to it on the other hand. On the aspect of its etiquette and customs, there are some things borrowed from the culture of the Hans.
Ikhwan, which literally means brotherhood, is also called Ahl al-Sunni (a sect abiding by the Holy Qur'an) and most other sects call it the New Sect. It was established by Ma Wanfu, a well-known Dongxiang Imam in Hezhou (now the Linxia Hui Prefecture in Gansu), at the end of the 19th century. In the short time of some tens of years, it has quickly developed into a new sect covering Gansu, Ningxia and Qinghai. It abides by the doctrine of Sunni and follows the teaching of the Hanafiyyah School, maintaining that all the etiquettes and ceremonies that are not in line with the Holy Qur'an and Hadith should be abolished. It is against mausoleum and murshid (guide) worship, and advocates that preaching and Da'wah should be done in Chinese.
Xidaotang also previously called Jinxingtang. Basing its doctrine upon the works of well-known Chinese Islamic scholars such as Liu Zhi and others, it is also called Hanxuepai (school of Chinese culture). It believes that only by combining with Chinese culture could Islam be developed in China. Xidaotang was established by Ma Qixi (1857-1914 A.D.) in a small town called Jiucheng in Lintan County, Gansu Province. It abides by the doctrine of Sunni and follows the teaching of Hanafiyyah, and takes the works of Liu Zhi and others as its Da'wah source. It attaches great importance to Mawlid al-Nabiy (birthday of Prophet Muhammad and also the day when he passed away) and the anniversary of the death of Ma Qixi, founder of Xidaotang, but did not build any mausoleums for the murshids (guide) after him. It practices murshid-domination system with the murshid as both religious head and the manager of the followers' secular life. Its followers are of two categories: individual households and collective households. The individual households are scattered all over the Northwest of China, independent on economy and living, but they can seek help from Xidaotang when they are in need. The collective households are concentrated in the home of Xidaotang located in Lintan County and engaging in business on farming, forestry, animal husbandry and commerce collectively. It calls for pursuing knowledge, encouraging all schoole-age boys and girls within Xidaotang itself and of all other nationalities of the locale to attend school, and selects the top students with in Xidaotang to receive secondary and high education,so a considerable number of its followers are well educated.
Xidaotang is a religious sect and a special economic community as well.
Menhuan is a general term for all the Sufist schools and | their branches prevailing in inland China. Sufism was introduced ' to Xinjiang from Bukhara and Samarkand in Central Asia in the 17th century, and separated into two sects: Baishan (white mountain) and Heishan (black mountain). All the Sufi schools and branches in Xinjiang are generally called Ishan. Since the 18th century, Sufi schools such as Kubrawiyyah, Qadiriyyah, Khufiyyah and Jahriyyah (called Four Menhuans by Muslims) were introduced into Gansu, Ningxia and Qinghai successively. Influenced by traditional Chinese culture, some smaller branches such as Mufti, Dawantou, Dagongbei, Huasi, Guanchuan came into being. These Sufi schools and branches that prevailed in the areas of the Huis did not have a common name at the very beginning, so some of them continued to use the name of the sect from which they originated, such as Kubrawiyyah and Qadiriyyah; some were named according to the tone of their chanting Dhikr (praise to Allah), such as Khufiyyah and Jahriyyah; some were named after the place where the mausoleum of the founder or mosque are located, such as Bijiachang and Baizhuang; some were named after the family name of the founder, such as Xianmen and Zhangmen; some were given the name for their wide coverage and grand construction of the mausoleums, such as Dagongbei (grand mausoleum) and Huasi (splendid mosque); some were named with the word on the stele bestowed by the local government, such as Mufti.
Menhuan is a type of organization combined with religious mysticism. It is built upon a specific social and economic foundation with centralized power and a considerable sphere of influence, existing among the Huis, Dongxiangs, Salas and Bao'ans. Neither Menhuans nor their branches came into being in the same period or in the same way. When Sufism was introduced into China, four major schools were produced, namely Four Menhuans as is called usually.
Khufiyyah, Arabic transliteration, originally means "hidden" or "silent". It advocates chanting Dhikr in low tone, therefore it was named as such. It was founded by Muhammad Bahauddin (1381-1388 A.D.) who lived in Central Asia, and originated from Naqshibandiyyah. Around the 16th century, Muhammad Yusuf, grandson ofAjaam, introduced it into Xinjiang, and developed it into a sect called Baishan (white mountain). During the same period of time, Ishaq, another grandson ofAjaaam, also came to Yirqiang in Xinjing to develop his influence, and the sect founded by him is called Heishan (black mountain). In the 17th century,Khufiyyah was introduced into Gansu, Ningxia and Qinghai from Xinjiang and Arabia. Having undergone two hundred years of spreading, developing and amalgamating with Chinese culture, it has generated many branches. Khufiyyah abides by the doctrine of Sunni and follows the teaching of the Hanafiyyah School.
Qadiriyyah, Arabic transliteration, is named after the word appearing in the name of its founder Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani. It was established in the 12th century and prevailed in Baghdad, and developed into one of the biggest Sufi societies. During the early reign of Kang Xi of the Qing Dynasty, Khwaja Abdullah who proclaimed to be the 29th generation of Prophet Muhammad introduced Qadiriyyah into Gansu, Ningxia and Qinghai, which afterwards separated into three smaller sects: Qimen, Xianmen (converted into Khufiyyah later) and Mamen (founded by Yunnan Ma). In later years, Qadiriyyah evolved into many branches that are not subordinated to each other. In addition to the three sects of Qadiriyyah founded by Abdullah, there were other sects founded by those who had studied it in Xinjiang or Arabia and spread it in their hometown Qansu and Qinghai when they returned. Qadiriyyah abides by the doctrine of Sunni and follows the teaching of the Hanafiyyah School.
Jahriyyah, Arabic transliteration, originally means "open"or "loud" and has by extension come to mean "chanting Dhikr loudly". So Jahriyyah is also called Sect of Loud Chanting, opposite to Khufiyyah which is called Sect of Low Chanting. In the 16th century Jahriyyah was introduced into Shache and Kashgar in Xinjiang from Central Asia. In 1744 Ma Mingxin (1719-1781 A.D.) introduced it into Gansu, Ningxia and Qinghai. The followers of Jahriyyah are distributed in the Northwest, and 13 provinces such as Yunnan, Guizhou. Followers of it number among the Donggans (descendants of the Huis who immigrated to Russia and Central Asia). Jahriyyah abides by the doctrine of Sunni and follows the teaching of the Hanafiyyah School.
Kubrawiyyah, Arabic transliteration, originated from the Kubrawi Society founded by the Persian Sufi philosopher Najimddin Kubrawi in the 13th century. In accordance with historic records that the first one who introduced Kubrawiyyah into China was a foreign missionary named Muhaaiddin. He came to China three times, firstly to Guangdong and Guangxi, secondly to Hunan and Hubei and thirdly to Gansu. Finally he settled down in Dawantou, a village in Dongxiang, Hezhou, in the transition period of the Ming and Qing dynasties. He took a Chinese name and worked on a land of 0.9 hectares presented by the villagers, and became a member of the Dongxiangs in the end. Along with him came his son Ahmad Junayd Naqshiband Baghdad!, who became the second murshid (guide) of Kubrawiyyah and converted more followers including a small number of the Hans. Kubrawiyyah is also called Zhangmen or Dawantou Menhuan. It is of Sunni and belongs to the Hanafiyyah School.
Although Menhuans differ from each other, they still have much in common.
1. Murshid worship. The followers call murshid "Lao Ren Jia" (a respectful form of address to an old man) and take him as sheikh who can guide them onto the path of righteousness, and even deem him as Wali (address to the Sufi master) who can create and manifest various Karamats (miracles). The followers pay greatest respect to murshid and ask for his Kou Huan (permission) on almost everything, becoming the master of both their secular life and spiritual world. Murshid dominates many Jiao Fangs (communities of his followers) and designates Ra'is and Akhund (Imam) to be in charge of mosques.
2. Building mausoleums for the founder, his successors, family members and outstanding disciples. After the founder and successors of a Menhuan pass away, the followers build mausoleums for them; sometimes they also build mausoleums for the missionaries from Arabia or Central Asia who were related to their Menhuan. Thereby mausoleums have become a religious symbol for Menhuan.
3. Having strict and systematic Silsilah, a system of succession to murshid authority. Every Menhuan has built up its succession lineage which is called Silsilah in consideration of its development. Three types of succession are applied: by descendants, by clan members or by person of virtue. All Menhuans attach great importance to Silsilah, about which there are many mysterious legends.
4. Attaching importance'to Tariqah, religious austerity. Tariqah is classified into three levels: Shari'ah, the lowest level, is of the basic conducts based on the "Six Beliefs" and "Five Pillars"; Tariqah, the mid level, is of the various austerities of Sufism; Haqiqah, the highest level, is of the highest spiritual state in which one gives up all the secular desires and reaches a state where one has been combined with the Creator. All Menhuans practice austerities in their own ways, and have absorbed elements from Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism to some extent as well. Almost all Menhuans attach great importance to chanting Dhikr (praise to Allah), whilst different Menhuan chant differently and put on a mysterious appearance.
Menhuans are different from each other on administration.Generally speaking, they all practice a three-level administrative system: Mul晄hid-Ra'is-A.]cl^und. Murshid is the highest leader of all the followers both in spiritual and secular life, enjoying the supreme status and respect. Ra'is is the deputy or representative of the murshid dispatched to other places to administrate religious affairs. Only the murshid has the right to appoint Ra'is; even hereditary Ra'is must be authorized and conferred by the murshid. The basic unit of the Menhuan is Jiao Fang, and each Jiao Fang has a mosque and in each mosque there is an Akhund (Imam) who is in charge of the religious services and affairs of the Jiao Fang. Frankly speaking, Menhuan system is a feudal patriarchal clan system in nature born from the development of Islamic sects in China and characterized by religious worship, oppression and exploitation.