The Chinese way of fasting


BEIJING: With the advent of the holy month of Ramzan, NiuJie Mosque becomes a centre of gravity for thousands of Muslims living in Beijing who throng the holy place for Sehr and Iftaar.

The mosque is located in the Niujie area of Beijing’s Xicheng District, the spiritual centre for the 10,000 Muslims living in the vicinity and it is the biggest and oldest worship centre in Beijing.

The mosque reflects a mixture of Islamic and Han Chinese cultural and architectural influences while its architecture reflects an attractive blend of traditional Chinese architecture and Islamic calligraphy.

The main prayer hall is 600 square meters in area, and can accomodate more than 1,000 worshipers. The mosque, built with timber, is home to some important cultural relics and tablets, such as the upright tablet of an emperor’s decree proclaimed in 1694 during the reign of the Qing dynasty.

Traditionally identified as a communist state with a strict code for religion, the opening up has transformed China into a centre of all cultures and faiths where people observe religious rituals with freedom.

According to conservative estimates, China is home to over 21 million Muslims — around two percent of the total Chinese population. Though Muslim population in Beijing comprises Hui ethnicity, but Uyghur Muslims have also migrated from Xinjiang province have also migrated to the Capital for better life and opportunities.

Add to this population the tens of thousands of Muslims from all over the Belt and Road countries, who have also made the city their home. All these Muslims observe the holy Ramzan for seeking blessings of Allah and to forge unity in ranks with their other Chinese brethren.

Mohammad Ishaq, a Uygur Chinese at the Mosque, told Pakistan Today that there were no restrictions for Muslims in China.

“Negative things you read about Xinjiang or in China are all false claims. It’s all western propaganda to defame China and to create divisions. Everything is fine here. People from different countries are free to practice their beliefs. We observe Ramazan according to our religion,” he claimed.

Asked about preparations for Sehr and Iftaar at the Mosque, Ishaq said that any Muslim could observe Sehr and Iftaar in mere 50 RMB.

Mehmood Hussain, working at Jilin University, Dalian, says that the Islamic organisations make huge donations to arrange Sehr and Iftaar for Muslims in Beijing and other cities as well.

“Beijing Islamic Association under the umbrella of China Islamic Association is serving the Chinese and foreign Muslims in the capital city. They are not only organising Sehr and Iftaar parties but also helping needy people through donations. A Muslim in Beijing can have Sehr and Iftaar in mere 50 Yuan and affluent Muslim businessmen fund such activities,” he said and added that Islamic Association of Jilin and Changchun organises Iftaar dinner in the grand Mosque of Changchun.

Zoon Ahmed Khan, a research fellow at BRI Institute at Tsinghua University, Beijing, says she enjoys eating there with all other Muslims from different countries.

“Chinese people are very friendly and respect the ritual of fasting. They know about the spirit of fasting and sometimes question how we can bear hunger and thrust for a long day in summers. They feel good to talk about spiritual commitments,” she said.

The Lahori girl says Beijing is the best place to study and also equally good for life. “I feel blessed to have a chance to study and serve here.

Talking to Pakistan Today, Sajid Chaudhary, a student of Chemical Engineering Department, Tsinghua University, Beijing, said that before travelling to China, he was concerned about his religious practices due to the negative propaganda by the western media outlets about the alleged strict regulations in China and non-availability of Halal food.

“However, once I landed here, it came as a pleasant surprise to me. It is nice to find that Muslims are free to practice their religion while Halal food is not only available in markets but also is cheaper,” he said.

He said since this was his first Ramazan out of Pakistan, his family was concerned how he would manage the fasting and prayers during the holy month.

“I often tell my family that Beijing is a very friendly city where there are no religious biases. Among all mosques I visited, I found Haidian mosque as most beautiful mosque where I mostly offered my prayers. Chinese Muslims are very hardworking and friendly”.

Hannan Gillani, another Pakistani student, said he regularly attends Friday prayers and Iftaar dinner hosted by Chinese Muslims.

“They take pleasure in hosting foreigners and give them the status of their guest. They also prepare Iftaar dinner for every Muslim throughout the month without any charges with elaborate arrangements.”

He said there are many Halal restaurants in the Beijing while Muslim canteen at Tsinghua University is one of the best places for breakfast and dinner with different types of traditional and modern Chinese food at very cheap rates.