Mapping the trajectory of Islam in Chinese terms

Community matters

Authored by: Roberta Tontini

Routledge Handbook on Islam in Asia

Print publication date:  September  2021
Online publication date:  September  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367225285
eBook ISBN: 9780429275364
Adobe ISBN:


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Since the 1980s, China witnessed a steady revival of different religious traditions, including a local variant of Islam. With the exception of Xinjiang, where religious practice remained comparatively restricted, Chinese Muslims’ access to Islamic education throughout the country was re-established. This in turn, enabled heterogenous approaches to Islamic theology and orthodoxy to reach the Chinese public, whether in the form of translations of foreign sources or as reprints of indigenous texts. The circulation of foreign and local discourses on Islam, paired with Chinese people’s unprecedented ability to access them, urged a re-evaluation of indigenous theories and practices. Contradictory inputs on the right way to be “Muslim” confronted both the scholar and the average practitioner, prompting modern Islamic scholarship in China to re-think its stand on core doctrinal matters. The present study seeks to map these paradigms through local literature in order to address the tension between center and periphery in a Muslim context from a Chinese perspective. In so doing, the chapter assesses the currency of traditional patterns of Islamic law and theology in search of alternatives to those commonly found elsewhere in the Muslim world.

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