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Source: Index >> Culture History >> Religions

Rise of New Islamic Schools and Muslim
(Tianshannet) Updated: 2010-August-4 17:56:43

Around the Revolution of 1911, motivated by bourgeois democratic thought, Hui Muslims in inland China were active in cultural movement, religious reform and educational development, attempting to adapt Chinese Islam to the new historic trend. Many well-known figures within Islamic circles connected the fortune of the state with that of their nation and religion, placing "loving and defending the motherland" above all others. For example, Ding Zhuyuan, an advanced Chinese Muslim, proclaimed: "To defend the state is to defend Islam; to love the state is to love oneself"; "No matter which religion one follows, being a Chinese citizen, one should endeavor together with others for the fortune of our country. Could the religion survive if the country collapsed?" They also proposed strengthening the unity of the Huis with the Hans, saying that they should adhere to their own religions while respect the other's freedom of religious belief. Confronted by the actual situation that very few Muslims were literate, and many people knew little about Islam, they pointed out that only when both the economy and education of the Huis was developed could Islam show its charm. With their motivation and efforts, new Muslim schools sprang up like mushrooms all over the country where Muslims were concentrated. The reason why they were called "new schools" was that they differed essentially from traditional Islamic education. In these schools, natural and social sciences such as geography, maths, physics and chemistry were taken as major courses just as other ordinary schools had done, while they offered courses on religion as well, which was the continuity of traditional Islamic education. The educational objective of the new schools was not only to foster capable persons for Islamic causes but also to cultivate useful persons for society. Thus the students that the new schools had educated were scattered in all walks of life, not only confined to Islamic circles. Though some of the new schools were established in mosques or run by mosques, the method by which they were run had made them socialized, exerting a positive influence upon all circles.

From the time Tong Cong, a well-known Muslim in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu, established "Mu Yuan School" in 1906, Muslim primary schools rose one after another all over the country, among which the eminent ones were mostly run by well-known Islamic educationalists, such as Jingshi (now Beijing) Muslim Bi-Level (primary and secondary) School run by Wan Kuan at the Niujie Mosque in 1908, the "Xie Jin Primary School" run by educationalist Ma Linyi in Shaoyang, Hunan, in 1906. At the same time, Muslims came to realize the importance of the new type of education at secondary level, and set up a number of secondary and normal schools, such as Muslim Secondary School (renamed as Northwest Public School later) established in 1928, Mu Xing Secondary School run by Sun Zhongwei and others in Hangzhou in 1928, Ming De Secondary School run by Yang Wenbo and others in Kunming in 1930, Crescent Woman's Secondary School initiated collectively by Yang Xinmin, Chen Yongxiang, Zhao Zhenwu, Ma Songting, Wang Mengyang and others in Beijing in 1935. The normal schools established in this period of time are: Shanghai Islamic Normal School, Wanxian Islamic Normal School in Sichuan, and Yunting Normal School in Ningxia, which was the first public Islamic normal school in China. Among all the schools established in this period of time, Chengda Normal School is worth mentioning most. Chengda, the name of the school, indicates fostering character and ability. It obliged itself to cultivate qualified teachers, enlighten the Huisb with knowledge, develop Islamic culture, and undertake to train school masters, Imams and leaders of Muslim organizations. To foster qualified teachers who were well versed in both Islamic knowledge and Chinese culture, in addition to the major courses on Islam, the school also offered courses on Chinese language, Chinese history and geography, natural sciences, pedagogy and psychology to train the students to read Islamic scriptures in Arabic and understand the Holy Qur'an and Hadith comprehensively, and make allow them to acquire the ability to study Islamic philosophy, laws, ethics and history. In 1932, the first group of students graduated from Chengda, among whom some were sent to Azhar University in Egypt for further study, being the first group of students abroad in the history of Chinese Islam. Chengda Normal School practiced a schoolmaster responsibility system under the leadership of the board of trustees. It was a typical new type of Islamic school in the modern era of China, which played an important role in Chinese Islamic education and modem Arabic teaching. When the People's Republic of China was funded in 1949, Chengda Normal School was merged with Northwest Public School into Hui Min College, the first institution of higher learning for the Huis in China.

During the period between the end of the Qing Dynasty and beginning of the Republic (the early 20th century), motivated by the thought of "saving the country, saving the nation and saving Islam", a group of Muslim intellectuals educated in new schools were active in initiating nation-wide or local Islamic organizations. These organizations were different from ordinary ones because they were not involved directly in religious services, but acted as a media in strengthening the contact and unity of the Muslims, promoting academic studies on Islam, and carrying on activities of saving the country and Islam. They engendered considerable social effects.

a). Cultural Groups and Organizations
The China Muslim Association for Common Progress initiated by Wang Kuan, Hou Deshan and others in Beijing in 1912 was one of the representative organizations of this kind, which pursued "uniting the Huis at home, developing Islam, promoting the Huis' education and improving the Huis welfare". By 1936, it had set up more than 200 branches in almost all provinces, and became a nongovernmental Hui cultural organization enjoying the greatest fame and widest coverage within China at the time. It was active in launching various
activities, such as inviting Wang Jingzhai, a well-known Imam, to translate the Holy Qur'an, running Muslim primary and secondary schools and Arabic school, universalizing education for the Huis, running factories to improve Hui life, and developing charities. As its members were mostly Hui officials, businessmen and Imams, this organization exerted a considerable influence on Hui Muslims.

In addition, there were other organizations such as the China Huis' Council in Beijing, which was a nongovernmental organization that appeared first and was named after the Huis, and the China Islamic Cultural Association in Shanghai.

b). Academic Groups and Organizations
The Islamic Society, established by the students ofjingshi Muslim Bi-Level School in 1917, took as its objectives to pursue academic studies and expound Islamic doctrine. Any Muslim adults capable of study could join the Society. It was one of many academic organizations in the modem history of Chinese Islam. . Besides, mere were other organizations such as the China Islamic Society in Shanghai.

c). Religious Groups and Organizations
Among the religious groups and organizations the China Islamic Trade Council was of considerable influence, whose objectives were to develop Muslim brotherhood at home and abroad, improve the welfare of the Huis, unite all Muslims in China and assist the country. There were also other groups and organization of this kind such as the Islamic Federation of the Republic of China in Nanjing, the Tianjin Islamic Federation in Tianjin and the Chinese Muslim Cultural and Fraternal Association in Hong Kong. d). Educational Groups and Organizations

Groups and organizations of this kind appearing then were: the Lanzhou Islamic Society for Encouraging Learning (renamed as the Gansu Provincial Islamic Education Promotion Council afterwards), the Ninghai Islamic Promotion Council in Qinghai (renamed as the Qinghai Islamic Promotion Council afterwards), the Changde Islamic Education Assistance Council in Hunan and the China Hui Education Promotion Council in Nanjing. The Changde Islamic Education Assistance Council in Hunan was typical among them, which devoted itself to reforming Mosque Education into one that offered courses on both Chinese and Arabic. It encouraged mosques to set up common primary schools, and published various Islamic scriptures to provide reading material on Islamic knowledge for Muslims who could not read Arabic, such as the 12-volume Elementary Chinese Reader and 1-volume advanced Arabic Reader, both of which were bilingual in Arabic and Chinese.

e). Youths Groups and Organizations
The China Islamic Youth Society was funded in Nanjing, whose members were mostly Muslim youths who had received secondary or higher education. It was active in uniting Muslim youths to launch various academic activities on Islam. In Guangzhou, Taiyuan and Shenyang, there were organizations of this kind too. In addition, with the purpose to "unite the Hui women and expound Islam", He Wenyu, a young Hui woman in Shanghai, along with others established the Shanghai Muslim Women Association, and published "Muslim Women" magazine.

f). Charitable Groups and Organizations
The Guangdong Islamic Society for the Aged was a Muslim charitable organization that worked for mutual help among the aged of the Huis. Essentially as form of life insurance, it only took on religious features afterwards.

(SOURCES:China Intercontinental Press)Editor: zhaoqian
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