The spread of Islam in China

By Mohammed Khamouch

Sad and his deputation brought presents and were warmly received at the royal court by the T’ang Emperor Kao-tsung, (r. 650-683) in c.651 CE, despite a recent plea of support against the Arabs forwarded to the Emperor in that same year by Shah Peroz (the ruler of Sassanid Persia).  The latter was a son of Yazdegerd who, along with the Byzantines, already had based their embassies in China over a decade earlier.  Together they were the two great powers of the west.  A similar plea made to Emperor Tai Tsung (r.627-649) against the simultaneous spread of Muslim forces was refused.

First news of Islam had already reached the T’ang royal court during the reign of Emperor Tai Tsung when he was informed by an embassy of the Sassanid king of Persia, as well as the Byzantiums of the emergence of the Islamic rule.  Both sought protection from the might of China.  Nevertheless, the second year of Kao-tsung’s reign marks the first official visit by a Muslim ambassador.

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An account of how and when Islam first entered China

By Mohammed Khamouch

The ‘Great Mosque of Guangzhou’ is also known as Huaisheng Mosque which means ‘Remember the Sage’ (A Memorial Mosque to the Prophet) and is also popularly called the ‘Guangta Mosque’ which translates as ‘The Beacon Tower Mosque’.  Huaisheng Mosque is located on Guantgta Road (Light Pagoda Road) which runs eastwards off Renmin Zhonglu.

Prior to 500 CE and hence before the establishment of Islam, Arab seafarers had established trade relations with the “Middle Kingdom” (China).  Arab ships bravely set off from Basra at the tip of the Arabian Gulf and also from the town of Qays (Siraf) in the Persian Gulf.  They sailed the Indian Ocean passing Sarandip (Sri Lanka) and navigated their way through the Straits of Malacca which were between the Sumatran and Malaysian peninsulas en route to the South China Sea.  They established trading posts on the southeastern coastal ports of Quanzhou and Guangzhou.  Some Arabs had already settled in China and probably embraced Islam when the first Muslim deputation arrived, as their families and friends back in Arabia, had already embraced Islam during the Prophet’s revelation (610-32).

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