Saturday, September 10, 2016

Chinese Muslims celebrating lantern festivals\

See my previous post Bend the ethnic belief - Bin the 'bin Abdullah' over at Boleh Talk blog, in which I wrote (extracts):

huh? shéi shì (who is) 'bin Abdullah'?

The Perlis Mufti had succinctly said (but obviously still not heeded by some): "It's the faith that matters, not race".

Then, that’s where the Mufti dropped the cultural bombshell – which I mentioned, what Indonesians and other nations have actually been practising for eons - there isn't any need for non-Malay converts to change their name or those cultural practices that are not against the teachings of Islam.

Chinese mosque

would it be haram since it looked like a temple?

To support the Perlis mufti's advice, I brought out examples in Indonesia and China where Muslims in those countries don't even use Middle-Eastern names, least being tagged as 'bin Abdullahs', as would be the case in Malaysia for new Muslim converts.

I am sure all of us are aware that there are Javanese Muslims who call themselves Suharto, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Megawati, etc.

And in China, the founder of a branch of the internal martial art Hsing Yi Chuan in Henan province was Ma Xueli (1714-1790). Ma was a Muslim, as were his family and all his students. They all had Chinese names, full stop!

Hsing Yi Chuan (Xingyiquan)

haram? aurat?

Why then has there been a continuing reluctance and even objections to Dr Asri’s enlightened view, that raises Islam above the narrow sectarian ethno-centric manner in which it is currently being held by some Malaysians (and that little corner called Brunei)?

I trust the above may be useful background to this post.

PETALING JAYA, Sept 10 — A group of Chinese Muslims will light up lanterns at the Muhammadiah Masjid in Tasek Jaya, Ipoh, today in another initiative to educate Malaysians on the Chinese culture-Islam relationship in Malaysia.

The move is yet another effort by the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (Macma) that represents Chinese Muslims to improve public understanding of the small community.

Its president, Prof Taufiq Yap, said the lantern festival (Mid-Autumn Festival) was celebrated by all as it was a cultural event and had nothing to do with religion.


“It is much easier these days for Chinese Muslim converts to retain their cultural practices. More are becoming aware that one does not have to abandon one’s cultural upbringing simply because they have embraced Islam,” he said in an interview.

Taufiq said state religious departments tended to be much more understanding on issues like retaining one’s birth name upon conversion.

“In principle, there is nothing obstructing Chinese Muslims from celebrating cultural festivals which do not go against the tenets of Islam,” he said citing the example of Chinese New Year and Tang Yuan (Winter Solstice Festival).

It might come as a surprise for some to know that Chinese Muslims also participate in Cheng Beng, also known as the tomb-sweeping festival where Chinese families clean the graves of ancestors.
“Although it can be a bit difficult, Chinese Muslims can join them in cleaning graves to honour our ancestors. However, we abstain from rituals such as offering incense as that involves faith,” said Taufiq who became a Muslim 33 years ago

In my 2006 post here, titled ‘bin Abdullahs’ celebrating Chinese New Year! I cited what Baradan Kuppusamy, a journalist then at Malaysiakini wrote on a survey regarding Malaysian inter-ethnic perceptions in an article titled Racism alive and well in Malaysia:

“Curiously, the survey also showed that many Malaysians have a vague idea, not only of one another's cultures and traditions. but also of their own.”

“Hari Raya Puasa was wrongly perceived as the Malay New Year by 32% of Malays, 84% of Chinese and 45% of Indians - the festival actually marks the culmination of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. Similarly, the Chinese New Year was thought to be a religious festival by 57% of Malays, 53% of Indians and a whopping 62% of 
Chinese respondents.”

A whopping 62% of Chinese respondents had not been aware that their own Chinese New Year has been a seasonal-social-cultural-administrative celebration and NOT a religious one?

Well, I can testify to the above embarrassment because when I was working for an organization that had a number of Chinese Muslims, and that when they celebrated Chinese New Year, my Malay boss and a personal good mate, remarked to me: “Look KT, are those ‘bin Abdullahs’ really Muslims or what!”

Note that I didn't put a ‘question mark’ in his query to me, because he made what we call a rhetorical question, one where the person posing the question already has the answer which he wants you, the recipient of his query to think about (on what he has in mind).

His incorrect perception and thus outrage at so-called Muslims celebrating a pagan festival was hardly surprising when 62% of Chinese Malaysians would have agreed with him.

In as much as his perception of the Chinese Muslims celebrating Chinese New Year wasn’t complimentary at all, his description of them as ‘bin Abdullahs’, which translates literally as ‘sons of the servants of Allah’, was equally patronising because that label actually meant ‘Johnnies-come-lately’ to Islam or Islamic 'freshies'.

I took some time to explain to him what Chinese New Year was all about, assuring him that it had nothing to do with religion, any religion, and that Chinese of any religion - Islam, Christianity, Buddhist, Taoist, Confucianism, etc - or even without one, would celebrate the start of the Chinese lunar-solar calendar, the beginning of the Spring season. In other words it was a seasonal-social and thus a seasonal-socio-cultural-administrative festival.

But I didn't dare tell him that one of those ‘bin Abdullahs’ came from a Muslim family in China who embraced Islam about more than a thousand years ago, or more than 500 years before Raja Paramesvara of Malacca, late of Palembang of the Buddhist Srivijaya Empire, became a Muslim as Sultan Megat Iskandar Shah.

Oh no sirree, I wasn't going to embarrass him with the reality that he was, relative to them, the ‘bin Abdullah’, wakakaka. Yeah, Malay Muslims are really the 'bin Abdullahs' compared to the Chinese Muslims in China.

Also, many Malaysian Muslims weren't also aware that they were/are more Muslims in China than in Malaysia. Of course those Chinese ‘bin Abdullahs’ would never have suggested such a label for ‘Johnnies-come-lately’ to the umma wahida [the united Islamic world].

Admiral Cheng Ho, a Chinese Muslim



    The younger generation have no inkling of the Mid-Autumn festival's religious origins, so they treat it as just about Lanterns and Moon Cakes. But that does not negate its essence founded in Chinese Folk Religion.

    In olden days, the Mid-Autumn festival really was a Chinese religious festival, associated with Moon Worship.
    "Pai Guek Neo" was a common Baba prayer offering , made at midnight of the 15th Day of the 8th Month of the Lunar calendar. Traditional Folks still practice it in Malacca till this day.

    Its real meaning was a thanksgiving prayer festival to offer gratitude for the Harvest. A vital event for a agricultural society that survived from one harvest to the next.

    It only became a non-religious festival along with the largely secularisation of overseas Chinese communities.

    1. Lantern festival in China is totally different from the one in Malaysia. Anyhow, it's a cultural celebration

  2. The bin Abdullah syndrome of the Melayu is the sign of their inferiority complex.

    They would accept anything Islam as superior to anything else. Bcoz no matter how hard they tried to re-invent the history of their Melayu history, everything comes short.

    As faith in Islam is also the the corner stone of been a Melayu & prophet Mohammed was an Arab! The Islam prerequisite, thus linked them to the Arab culture. Any wonder about the prolific inclination towards Arabialization in bolihland, especially among the heartlanfers!

    Until the Melayu M'sians break through this psychological shackle, they would forever beholden to this siege mentality, supporting with the continuous cheering of the Melayu palsu & their elites at the background.

  3. Agree, "It's the faith that matters, not race"

    Islam tidak pernah mengharamkan atau melarang hambanya mengekalkan nama asal bapa dan ibu asal.

    However, for "anak yang tidak sah taraf" it must 'bin or binti' Abdullah or Abdul Rahman or Abdul Rahim or Abdul Rashid or Abdul Hadi or any of Allah's 99 names.

    1. And that would translate as " son of Allah(name 1 of 99 Allah's names)?
      How about the Christians calling Jesus as Yeshua Bin Abdullah? What would that translate into English?

    2. Hello Tuan Teo Akbar,

      Abdullah means "Hamba Allah" i.e. Slave of Allah and NOT Son of Allah, ok kawan?

    3. Thus, Abdul Hadi = Abdul (Hamba) + Hadi (Name of Allah)= Hamba Allah.

      Hadi means "yang memberi hidayah/petujuk", thus, you can also interpret Abdul Hadi as "Hamba yang memberi hidayah/petujuk".

    4. bro hasan.. typo error, it is 'petunjuk' not 'petujuk'.

    5. 'bin' is 'son of' as in Yehoshua ben Yosef, where 'ben' is the Jewish equivalent of 'bin'.

      'Abdullah' is 'slave of Allah'

      so 'bin Abdullah' means 'son of the slave of Allah swt'

  4. The Hui - culturally Han Chinese who are Muslims, as contrasted to Turkic Uighurs, are relatively a tiny minority in China - less than 1% of the population.

    To survive within the wider Chinese community in China's giant cities, they have had to make many compromises over the centuries. One of the most important was to be almost completely assimilated (apart from their Islamic religion). Apart from Islamic rituals pertaining to births, circumcision, marriage, deaths, fasting, Haj, the Hui are completely assimilated within the Chinese community.

    The Hui Chinese equivalent of "bin Abdullah" was their taking up the Surname Ma, which is a reference to the Prophet Muhammad.

    Over the centuries, whenever ethnic Chinese converted to Islam, they gave up their original surname, could be Lim, Tan, Wong, Lee, Chang, Yang, whatever that was, and took the surname "Ma" to signify their becoming the Sons of Muhammad. They kept Chinese given names, though.

    In case anyone was wondering, there was Never any Mass conversion of the Ma clan into Islam. That is not the explanation why if you meet a Muslim Hui Chinese, it is most likely their surname would be Ma.

    The case in South East Asia was different. Before the coming of Islam, most of the ruling class in South East Asia were Hindus or Buddhists. They often had names which had strong Hindu or Buddhist religious meanings, based in Sanskrit. When the ruling class converted to Islam, it was common practice to take on completely different names. Since the Muslim missionaries were usually Arabs or Indian Muslims, the new names were also often Arabic.

    The practice of practically restricting Muslims only to give Arabic names to newborns is a much more recent Malaysian government edict.

  5. Some corrections;

    The original Hui referred to the Muslim tribes from the Western region of China. Most of them r Turkics in race.

    The Ma of the 'Hui' refers to the Han Chinese Muslim. They r NOT a race. They r Han Chinese. They were grouped into the 'Hui' sometime during the late Tang dynasty due to the intermarriages & the mass assimilation of the Turkics origined people into the Han culture.

    Thus the present Hui definition with lesser link to the original Turkics source. Most of the Hui' people has Han features nowadays.

    Not all Chinese Muslim takes the surname Ma. Most of the time when Ma is taken, it's due to family & village traditions, or bestowed by the emperor. There r other surnames taken by the Chinese Muslims.

    The original beginning of the surname Ma has many sources. Attributing to Allah is ONLY one of the story. They r all not conclusive.

    So be very careful about those googling 'facts'!