Volume 2, Number 4
Rabi` al-Awwal, 1418/August, 1997

 

Ancient Mosque Opened for Mawlid
after 70 Years

BEIJING - This year witnessed the first mass gathering for Mawlid an-Nabi at the ancient Niujie Mosque in Beijing, China. After more than 70 years as a "cultural exhibit" under various communist regimes, the mosque has at last been reopened as a center of worship.

Muslims of Beijing, China celebrated Mawlid this year at the Niujie Mosque with chanting of na`at and nashid, feeding the poor, reciting the sirah, and giving gifts & sweets to children.

The mosque, completed in 996 AC, was constructed under the watchful eyes of the Arab scholar Nasruddin, under orders of the emperor of the Liao Dynasty. It is a sign of the respect under which Islam and Muslims were held by the Chinese imperial houses that this huge mosque was continually enlarged and renovated by the following Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. Architected on a symmetrical general layout, with the mosque facing west, all buildings are arranged along an axis.

Covering an area of 6000 square meters, the Mosque includes the Prayer Hall, the Wangyue Building, the Building for Training and Etiquette (tarbiyya), the Lecture Hall, the Tablet Pavilion, the Twin Pavilion and the Bath Houses for men and women. Many visitors come to pay respects at the tombs of two great saints (awliya) who came to China and spread Islam in early 1300's AC.

Magnificent and solemn, the mosque is built in an ornate and unique style, incorporating the style of Chinese Classical palaces with that of ancient Abbasid style mosques. Today the Niujie Mosque is one of the treasure houses of Chinese Islamic culture, containing such artefacts as tablets carved with Arabic calligraphy, a plaque inscribed with an "imperial edict" of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty and a 300-year-old hand-written copy of the Koran.

The main prayer hall of Niujie Mosque. The mosque has the capacity to hold several thousand worshippers. In addition to prayer facilities, in typical zawiya or khaniqa style, it provides a lecture hall, kitchen, center for training in spiritual conduct (al-adab wa at-tarbiyya), and bathing facilities for the public. As followers of the ways of spiritual discipline, the tariqats, most of the attendees were required to be knowledgeable in shari`ah, to which they added their training in the spiritual disciplines under a shaykh at-tarbiyya.  

In 1979, the Mosque was renovated. In 1988, it was appointed as a key cultural relic under special protection. Now, masses of Muslims come bathing and worshipping here everyday, including many foreign Muslims who also come here to enjoy the fabulous Eid and Mawlid celebrations.

 

The gravesites of two non-Chinese saints who spread Islam in China. Shaykh Muhammad bin Mahmoud bin Hammad who passsed away in 677 H. and the other is Shaykh Ali al-Qadi `Imad ad-Din al-Bukhari, who passed away in 682 H. The latter was sent by his Shaykh Ali ar-Ramitani of Bukhara, a great Naqshbandi teacher, to spread Islam among the native Mandarins.

 

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