Monday, June 24, 2013

Doors to China


This short posting is for a friend who seems to appreciate my China story so much, one who has been wanting to visit the People's Republic of China and do all the things I was privileged to do. Alhamdulillah wa shukrulillah.

But overall, there's nothing to be envious about. It's not an ordinary fun touristy trip. We had only 20 minutes to shop at one store before we flew home. Yes, but there is no reason to complain really because we are NOT important. Our wants and needs are not as direful as many of those we visited in Lanzhou, Linxia, and Zhaotong. That's the most valuable lesson learned after having visited the less fortunate Muslims in China.  

Hope and pray, more people would open their hearts to visit Muslims in China especially those who could use a little help from us. I will share a couple more stories soon InshaAllah.

Indeed, there are many doors to China if you care to spare some time and make a meaningful trip, other than shop til you drop in cities like Guangzhou or Beijing.

Red door
Green door

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The great halal of China


I know I owe you another three postings on China: that is on Linxia, Zhaotong and Sister Mariah Mah. But before that, let's just talk about food for a change.  

So I learned, the Chinese will serve at least 8 to 10 dishes in a meal. But a truly grand dinner/lunch would have 8 hot dishes, 8 cold dishes, and some bread, noodles or rice and soup of course. Yo Siang (literally means delicious oil/fry) is a type of traditional bread that is often served on a religious occasion. There are 8 types of Chinese cuisines altogether. I don't know their names, but I could taste the different styles of cooking between Lanzhou and Kunming. A must-have dish for a special guest is boiled mutton. Simple. No need to do much to impress your guests.

Ultra sweet melons of Lanzhou and dried fruits and nuts hosted by the leader of Ling Ming Tang Gong Bei in Lanzhou. 
Dico's is the only halal fast-food franchise we came across in Lanzhou downtown and also at the airport. I honestly think they have got a better menu than the two global fast-food franchise "K" and "M". And tastier too!
Strict signage at Dico's in Lanzhou, addressed to non-Muslims.
Halal bakery in Lanzhou
One of the food vendors in Lanzhou downtown
Home cooked food in Linxia. Notice the boiled mutton?
Simply supreme. I voted this the best dish of all the great dishes we had in China. Cooked by Sister Oumda of the Mu Cha orphanage in Linxia. She is the wife of the center's principal. 
This was at Kunming. More spicy and hot than what we had in Lanzhou.
Chicken's head on the plate!
Sweet delicious desserts served at a restaurant on Muslim Street in Kunming. It's definitely a restaurant I want to go back to.
One of the many halal food stores along Muslim Street in Kunming
This was at Geder in Lanzhou. Geder is a variation of Kadir/Qadir. I truly enjoyed the corn pancakes.

Yo Siang (on the left) is a traditional cake often served on religious occasions. The beef dish on the right was also very delicious. This was in Lanzhou.
Steamed cakes with vege filling.
The potato dish was spicy and yummy. And of course, you recognize that vege dish.

That's it - the great halal of China for you! 
Go visit China y'all!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Nur Islam in Lanzhou | China (Part 2)


Alhamdulillah wa shukrulillah, we were able to visit many Islamic institutions and initiatives of various kinds in Lanzhou, China. Many thanks to Sister Mariah Mah who organized everything thoroughly and thoughtfully for us. Sister Mariah Mah is one outstanding personality of Muslim Chinese descent. She is based in Singapore and visits China every two months as she actively channels funds for plenty of charity work for Muslims in China. She was named one of the world's 500 influential Muslims in 2009. This amazing lady deserves a special posting.

You may want to check out her activities on and just keep in mind that everything you read about this trip to China, all credits pertaining to travel coordination and local contacts, go to Sister Mariah Mah.   

On our second day in Lanzhou, after visiting the grand Ling Ming Tang Gong Bei hilltop complex, we visited six sites that exposed us to unsung charitable personalities and the initiatives they lead and/or support.

A section of the Ling Ming Tang Gong Bei complex

1. Wu Shin Ping Mosque | Private schools for orphans and pre-schoolers

Entrance to Wu Shin Ping Mosque/Primary School
Madam Ma Gui Hong - the leading woman behind the schools at Wu Shin Ping Mosque. It is common for mosques in Lanzhou/China to have private schools within its compound. This lady oversees the needs of 90 less fortunate kids.  
University students (Muslims & Non-Muslims) volunteer at the schools on weekends to teach orphans and help primary school students with their homework. [Wonder what the uni students in Malaysia are up to on weekends?]
Extra lessons on weekends
Within the Wu Shin Ping mosque compound there are classrooms, teachers' quarters and dorms for kindergarten pupils to stay back during weekdays. Sister Mariah Mah sponsored this neat dorm and living expenses for 13 students.
2. Arab Primary School | Lanzhou Muslim Women School

Entrance to the Arab Primary School/Lanzhou Muslim Women School in  Lanzhou
On weekdays this school trains illiterate women on basic religion, Arabic language and selected vocational skills. It also offers different courses for various groups and backgrounds i.e. primary school, high school, adult classes. It is a private school funded by zakat and donations from local communities. It has 11 teachers and staff, 4 classrooms and 3 dorms. It has been in operation for 14 years. They have just moved to this new premise 3 months ago. Previously, their activities were based at a private home.
On weekends, the school offers free Islamic lessons to uni students and provide them with complimentary lunch and dinner. The students are mostly from Lanzhou Uni, Northwest Uni, and Lanzhou Community Uni.
Hilaludeen (or Mah Kung Yueh) is an Al Azhar graduate who serves as imam at Yen Tan mosque in Lanzhou. He had bought two houses to make the Yen Tan mosque and together with another 8 teachers, he trains 70 students to become imam and da'ie. On weekends, he volunteers at this school, teaching religion to university students. The other two ladies are permanent teachers/staff at this school.
Lunch hosted by the school. In fact, all our meals throughout the intensive China tour were sponsored by someone. Yes all, except two breakfasts. I always thought the Thais are the most hospitable people but Chinese Muslims top the list for me now.
 Hophia (left) is our interpreter in Lanzhou.  Ma Xue Fang (right) is Hophia's ever so chirpy friend. Because we didn't have time to shop in Lanzhou, she made an effort to get the traditional Chinese gai tou (headscarf) I wanted. 

3. Private Muslim kindergarten 

This private Muslim kindergarten provides free education to 250 students. It has 8 air-conditioned classrooms and a dormitory for 37 students.   
Teachers and staff at the kindergarten which mainly serve underprivileged kids from the surrounding poor neighborhood. Some of the orphans attending this kindergarten lodged at a nearby private orphanage (Cho Teng Orphanage).

4. Cho Teng Orphanage

Standing in the back row are volunteers and staff at Cho Teng Orphanage which houses 41 orphans in the slums of Lanzhou. This center is too small and lacks proper facilities. It has 16 beds and only 1 small classroom where students are given free lessons on religion, maths, and science. It does not even have a blackboard, no fan, no PC and no TV. Children, aged between 3 to 14 would gather at this center as soon as they come back from the public day-schools around the area.
Dolahi, 3, is the youngest orphan who lives at Cho Teng Orphanage.  He is seen here with Li Qing Nang who is volunteering at this center in Lanzhou for 2 months while he is on semester break. Li Qing Nang is from Xing Ging province in China. He is a student at the Multimedia University in Cyberjaya, Malaysia. 
One of the two dorms at Cho Teng Orphanage. Cramped but very neat. Notice the stack of prayer mats? 
5. Ai Xin private Muslim school at Pai Shu Xiang

Ai in the Chinese language means love. Love is the foundation at Ai Xin private Muslim school in Pai Shu Xiang, Lanzhou. It was set up by Mr. Wu Ming Run in 2003. His Muslim name is Nuha. The school has just moved to its current premise as seen in this picture. Brother Nuha is the one standing fourth from left. He is flanked by teachers and volunteers - both Muslims and non-Muslims from nearby universities. From Monday to Friday, Ai Xin school provides free education and meals to 150 students from four Muslim minority groups i.e. Hui, Dong Xiang, Sala and Paoan. Some of the students are orphans or come from poor families.
Brother Nuha, 65, is a retired teacher. He has been managing Ai Xin school for 10 years now and  is also one of the editors for the popular Islamic magazine Kai Tuo. He has been involved in this free quarterly magazine for 20 years. Brother Nuha is seen here holding the magazine's latest draft copy.
Brother Nuha is one loving and dedicated principal. While we were chatting about the school, he suddenly ran off to get bread and hard boiled eggs for the kids. As can be seen in this picture the school is in need of a bigger space. The courtyard needs leveling so that children could run and play about safely. The school could also benefit from a safer staircase. 
6. Kai Tuo Publishing House

Mr. Han Hai Chao, Chief Editor of the Kai Tuo Muslim magazine, welcomed us to the publishing house.
At Kai Tuo Publishing House. From left: Miss Halimah (Teacher at Ai Xin school in Lanzhou), Brother Nuha (Principal at Ai Xin school cum editor of Kai Tuo magazine), Mrs. Hophia (Our ever so helpful interpreter and travel guide. She is with the Chinese Naqshbandi/Jahriyya group based in Lanzhou) and Miss Eza (Servant at Lisan al-Din blog. She is on this trip to China courtesy of a charity foundation based in KL)
Left: Kai Tuo - Quarter 1, 2013 issue. Kai Tuo in the chinese language means pioneer. It features articles on tauhid,  seerah etc. contributed by Muslim writers from universities all over China including Prof. Na Gua Chang, a prominent Muslim scholar from Kunming. The magazine which costs about 80,000 Yuan to publish per quarterly issue, is funded by donations from individuals and organizations. Each contributor's name and donation amount are clearly printed on the back page of the magazine. All expenses are also declared in the magazine which is distributed freely at mosques in Lanzhou.
Right: All four Kai Tuo issues in 2012 compiled in one book.
Some of the chinese Islamic magazines. Most of which come from 3 out of the total 30 provinces in China, namely Yunan, Henan and Gansu. Lanzhou is the capital city of Gansu where Kai Tuo is published.

7. Naqshbandi/Jahriyya tariqat group in Lanzhou, China

Entrance to the Naqshbandi/Jahriyya Zawiya  in the middle of Lanzhou downtown. At the time we arrived, the jemaah had just finished special recitals for haul commemorating the passing of the second Naqshbandi leader of China - Mu Xian Zhang. The current tariqat leader is the 8th since Naqshbandi/Jahriyya established its presence in China. Apart from Naqshbandi/Jahriyya, Chinese Muslims belong to either Hufiah, Qadiriyyah or Khufiyya tariqat groups. 

Inside the Naqshbandi/Jahriyya courtyard is a mosque and tomb of the first Naqshbandi/Jahriyya leader in China, Mah Ming Xin who died 230 years ago. Mah Ming Xin was orphaned at a young age. When he was 9 years old, he set off with his uncle to study in Yemen.  He got separated from his uncle during the long arduous journey and was adopted by a Yemeni family. After Yemen, Mah Ming Xin went on a pilgrimage to Mecca and returned to China at the age of 25. His tomb at the Lanzhou Naqshbandi/Jahriyya zawiya is open to public.
Inscribed on the front of his tomb:
Man zal lazi yash fa'u 'indahu illa bi iznih
"Who is it that shall intercede with Him, except with His permission."

Next posting will be about nur Islam in Linxia which is known as the "Little Mecca of China". To get to Linxia from Lanzhou, one needs to travel 3 hours by road through rugged and somewhat precarious mountains.

Praise be to Allah for this opportunity, for keeping us safe and for providing us with rizq throughout our journey. Alhamdulillah wa shukrulillah. And may Allah purify our intentions and forgive our sins. Ameen.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Crescent Chi | China (Part 1)

Maghrib at Xiguan Mosque in Lanzhou, the capital city of Gansu province, China


Alhamdulillah wa shukrulillah. I don't know how and where to start. There's just too many lovely photos and wonderful experiences to share about Muslims in China, particularly those in Lanzhou, Linxia, Zhaotong and Kunming. We took a strikingly different route than most people - no Beijing, no Guangzhou and the likes. Next time maybe InshaAllah. Our journey started in Shanghai but we just saw a glimpse of Shanghai, or rather a blink of Shanghai. 

Because we meant business, we went straight to Lanzhou which is about 4 hours by flight to the west of Shanghai. Situated in the Central/West of China, Lanzhou was one of the Silk Road stops during the old days.

Nestled in the busy Lanzhou downtown is the Xiguan Mosque of Lanzhou (above and below pic). Yes, I too found it hard to believe to see so many of the men wearing turban/headgear in Lanzhou - a place I never knew existed. If you were to look carefully at the photo, people actually stand on the narrow carpet and make sajada (prostration) on the wooden floor i.e. the gaps in between the long/narrow rugs which formed the saf.

Xiguan Mosque of Lanzhou, China
The first Muslim complex in Lanzhou we visited was Ling Ming Tang Gong Bei. If a Muslim complex is known as Gong Bei, that essentially means the complex also houses a tomb of a shaykh or a prominent scholar or founder of the madrasah. There is a total of four Gong Bei in Lanzhou, a city which appeared bigger and busier than KL. It is also the only city that is blessed to have the Yellow River passing through it. 

Ling Ming Tang Gong Bei has two tombs of its first and second spiritual leader - Mahim Mim who died in 1925 and Shan Tse Jiao died in 1955. We were lucky to be able to visit the entire complex including the two tombs which are usually closed to the public. Its current resident scholar, Wang Shou Tiang, 94, treated us to sumptuous snacks which comprised of sweet Lanzhou honeydew, melons, local dried fruits, and nuts.

Main gate of Ling Ming Tang Gong Bei in Lanzhou, China
The mosque inside the Ling Ming Tang Gong Bei complex
Entrance to one of the two maqam (Gong Bei)
Wang Shou Tiang - the current (third) leader at Ling Ming Tang Gong Bei
was kind enough to spend some time with us and make a prayer for us.
To be continued InshaAllah. Until then, here are some photos for you.

Abu Baker - the Principal of the YaXing Pre-School at Linxia - a world-class institution aiming to produce hafiz who are well rounded in arts and sciences. (I will tell you in a separate posting why it is truly world-class.)
Abu Baker or Lan Ming Zhong is a hafiz and so are his three children whom he had sent to learn the Quran in Pakistan when they were between 3 to 7 years old. He was awarded a gold medal by the International Islamic University of Islamabad for having scored a 4.0 GPA in Usuluddin.
Students at one of the private Muslim schools we visited.
The principal of this school is an active NGO woman who has been involved in charity work since she was 28. The school is now 10 years old and is in need of support to finance teachers' salaries and meals for orphans. Can your little son slaughter a chicken?
Aminah - a happy single mother and her 10-year-old daughter Wang Xiu Mei. Her smile hides her sorrow. She is diagnosed with cancer. Her landlord has asked her to move out soon for missing her rent - a 7 by 10 feet room - cost 250 RMB per month (Ringgit Malaysia 125)
You can see women in gai tou (headscarf) and men with pai mao (white hat) almost everywhere in Lanzhou especially in Xiao Xi Hu - a Muslim area in the suburb of Lanzhou where 1 million of its 5 million population are Muslims. The above pic was taken as I stepped out of our hotel on the first morning. A pleasant sight indeed. The King House Hotel is owned by a Muslim (Jin Ao bin Guan).
Hassan cafe is famous for beef noodles (lamian) a popular dish of Lanzhou. A short walk from our hotel.

More soon, InshaAllahJummah Mubarrak people! Hope you have missed me as much as I have missed you :)
Credit: Sis. Mariah Mah and Sis. Hophia our travel guide/interpreter