Chinese Ismailis

August 12, 2006 at 1:10 pm (ethnic Ismailis)

The tens of thousands of Ismaili Muslims of the Tajik Autonomous District in China’s north western Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region are isolated from their fellow-Ismailis across the border in Tajikistan and elsewhere in the world, Forum 18 News Service found on a visit to Xinjiang between 8 and 10 September. There is only one Ismaili mosque functioning in the Tajik Autonomous District, in the district capital Tashkurgan, whose imam was appointed by the Chinese secular authorities.

The imam-hatyb of Tashkurgan’s Ismaili mosque, Shakar Mamader, admitted to Forum 18 on 9 September that under Chinese law children are forbidden from attending the mosque up to the age of 18. He also admitted that the Chinese authorities do not allow the Fourth Aga Khan (the Ismaili spiritual leader) to offer any aid to the Tajik Autonomous District. However, Mamader believes “there is absolutely no need for such help as the central government provides very substantial funding to the region”. He stressed that the Fourth Aga Khan had visited the region in 1980.

Mamader also declared that Ismaili preachers and clerics from neighbouring Pakistan (Tashkurgan is situated 100 kilometres or 60 miles from the checkpoint at the Chinese-Pakistan border) do not work in China. He believes there is no need for them to do so. “We have enough of our own experts on Ismailism,” he insisted. However, other local Ismailis who preferred not to be named told Forum 18 that Pakistani Ismaili clerics are not allowed to preach on Chinese territory. Xinjiang’s Ismaili community has no contact with Tajik Ismailis as there is not one checkpoint on the Chinese-Tajik border.

The Tajik Autonomous District is situated in the eastern Pamir mountains and borders Pakistan and Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. There are about 50,000 people living in the Tajik Autonomous District identified as Tajiks in the Chinese census. However, these people can be called Tajiks only in the broadest sense. The Sarikoli and Wakhi Chinese Pamir nationalities, as well as the Tajik, Pakistani and Afghan Pamir nationalities who live in Chinese Pamir, speak languages belonging to the Eastern Iranian language group, whereas Tajik is linked to Western Iranian.

Unlike the Tajik Sunni Muslims, the Pamir nationalities practise Ismailism – a branch of Shia Islam which bears the clear influence of Buddhism and neo-Platonism. The current Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary imam of the worldwide Ismaili community. In contrast to other Muslims who pray five times a day, the Ismailis recite prayers only twice a day. They do not observe the Ramadan fast, nor do they ban the consumption of alcohol.

Externally, the villages of Chinese Pamir are virtually indistinguishable from the villages of Tajik Pamir. For example, the homes have an almost identical structure – the interior of the building has to have five columns, a number of sacred significance for Ismailis. However, there are substantial differences in the religious life of the Ismailis of the Chinese and Tajik Pamir.

In contrast to the ban on aid to the Ismailis of Xinjiang, the Aga Khan gives so much aid to the population of Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region that this area depends on his financial support. The headquarters of the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme, which the Aga Khan funds, has opened in the city of Khorog, the capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. A similar office operates in the city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan, from where shipments of aid are dispatched by road to Tajikistan.

On 30 August the Tajik president Emomali Rahmonov laid the foundation stone for a new Ismaili Centre in the Tajik capital Dushanbe. In his remarks at the ceremony, the Aga Khan said the new centre would be “a place for contemplation, upliftment and the search for spiritual enlightenment”.

http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=141

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34 Comments

  1. Arif said,

    “In contrast to the ban on aid to the Ismailis of Xinjiang, the Aga Khan gives so much aid to the population of Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region that this area depends on his financial support.”

    This seems out of place and misleading, none of the Aga Khan financial support programs are ever developed to make people dependent. Good article though.

  2. Farida B said,

    Do we have an idea of how many such ismaili Chinese Tajiks are there? Compared to how many ismaili Tajiks in Tajikistan?

  3. tajikistan.neweurasia.net » Indian military base in Tajikistan? said,

    […] The author on the Ismailism blog is talking about the Chinese Ismailis who live in the Tajik Autonomous District in Chinas north western Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region. There is a good post, where the author talks about the difficulties of practicing Ismailism in China and compares the Ismailis of China with their fellows in Tajikistan. The author reports that under Chinese law children are forbidden from attending the mosque up to the age of 18 and Chinese authorities do not allow the Fourth Aga Khan (the Ismaili spiritual leader) to offer any aid to the Tajik Autonomous District. […]

  4. peter wang said,

    Just to avoid possible misunderstanding.. The religious restrictions, as in this case, on Chinese Tajiks, do not mean to mistreat the Chinese Tajiks. The Chinese Tajik community gets subsdized education and medical facilities and the Tajiks do not need to pay taxes and are eligible for social warfare. Their university education is also subsidized. They are also not restricted by one-child-policy like other Chinese.

    The Chinese government just says, all religions in China must not be under any foreign influence – to avoid inter-religious hatred, killings and imperialistic infiltration – which happened TOO MANY TIMES in the last 200 years of Chinese history.

  5. Rameez Bhimji Mohammed Ali said,

    Just to make things clear,the author refers to Muslims in the chinese region.All ismailis must practice: sawm (fasting),No
    Alcohol consumption, and must pray three times a day.How ever,ismailis them selves are not too keen on this.Question-Do you know the ismaili imams faith, and practises of Islam?Thanks

    • post.views@hotmail.com said,

      This is nonsensical. You cannot mingle an individual’s attributes or actions with religious teachings or core values. The history speaks for itself; however, it is important to educate the ignored ones like you. In Shia Imami Ismailia sect consumption of alcohol and smoking are strictly prohibited and hence deemed as ‘sin’ i.e. ‘Haram’. The true followers of Shia Imami Ismaili sect have purified souls as they are led and taught the right path of life by their spiritual leader i,e. their 49th Imam Shah Karim Al-Hussaini (Aga Khan). The entire world i.e. east and west both hold this particular branch of Shia Islam in the highest of regard and esteem because of the clean, harmless, faithful, honest and righteous conduct of its true followers. In this sect of Shia Islam, there could be some misguided individuals like you. However, there is one thing common in all misguided people in this world and that is their inability to hold onto true principles of life. I would advise you to do a thorough reading of the true meaning of Sawm (fasting) first. Your poor mental level is forcing you to look at the concept of Sawm through your own myopic lens. People like you think that in one month of Sawm one must stay away from sins and remember Almighty Allah whereas in the remaining 11 months one should commit all kinds of misdeeds and sins. Ismailism is driven by the power of ‘intellect’. Therefore, it keeps its true followers souls engaged throughout their lives to explore the true meaning of the mandatory rituals of Islam. Ismailism doesn’t leave you with a forsaken mind to be at conflict within and outside..

  6. Rumi said,

    Lo Iloha Illalloh Muhammadun Rassullulloh Aliun Amir al muminin Mavlono Shohkarim Al Hiseini.
    Alohuma Laka sujudi va toati. I will do it all my life.

  7. SHIRAZ AZIZ BABWANI said,

    Dear,

    Ya Ali Madad This is Shiraz from Mumbai INDIA. We are group of Ismailis are planning to visit for the Deedar of Mavlono shohkarim Al Hussaini.

    As a Ismaili brotherhood will you be glade enough to send us when / exact location for deedar is to be held in China so that we can meet our Isamilis in China / India together.

    Hope u will send me the details as soon as possible so that we can arrange a trip to see our mosuque & our Ismaili brother in China.

    My Mobile No : + 919820200688
    + 919820534586

    Eraly reply will make us more glade and happy hope u will lovingly coperate us and feel free to contact us without any any hesitation.

    Above all if u want any help from INDIA ,Mumbai I will be there to help u out any matter what so ever to the best of your satisfaction Inshallha.

    Yal Ali Madad,

    Yours Lovingly Ismaili Brother,
    Shiraz Aziz Mahomed Babwani.
    Email : syuworry@gmail.com / karimbabwani@gmail.com

  8. Daniel Alighari said,

    Correction: Ismailis are forbidden to drink alcohol and are encouraged to fast. Please do not mislead readers. The Imam himself encourages this as does the Quran which Ismailis adhere to as well.

  9. Mahmood Bharwani said,

    Dear All 1-8 posting above

    Read you comments on Ismailism Blog – Chinese Ismailis posted 27 March 2008.

    The article done by F18 News – was circulated in many different web sites and changed slightly by the time you read it, but it was in the whole fairly accurate. I trust that your Didar & Darbar went well and we may learn soon about any intended visit of our Imam to China, if the political climate is right and he is given an invitation from the Chinese Govt to come as a “diplomatic guest”.

    We have read the article from F18 News and we must no “isolate” our minds into any resentment towards the Chinese – they are part of our global community and our Imam says that we must co-exist side by side with all nations, regardless or race, colour, ethnic origin, traditions and local customs. This is “pluralism” and we are brothers to Sunnis and other Shia faiths and to outsiders, Christians, Buddists, Hindus, Jews etc. And we must step above the “clash of ignorance” and try and identify – focus on the work of the Imamat which does not work on our human “time scale”, human projects can be 5 or 10 or 20 years but Imamat “time scale” thinks in very long periods, where the Imamat will serve best the murids of the Xinjiang region and other regions across the world.

    For now we can pray that all murids are safe, happy and sharing the effects of the Golden Jubilee across all parts of the world and make our Mowla proud and we have to treasure this and give of our “time and knowledge” and let the world be. We have so much to share and so much to give that Ismailis from all over the world are coming together at these Darbars by the grace and blessing bestowed on us by our Imam. Our forefathers had to serve and protect our faith from colonial errosion and ehtnic cleansing. They took to new “ports” and gave their children – our fathers and mothers a new beginning and we have been blessed by the Guidance of our Imam and so keep the faith, write about your experiences for your family and your children and rise above this “ignorance” and keep the legacy your father have passed to you, so you can pass to your family and share with your friends.

    Be kind to others, help if you can, share with the poor and teach your children that you have a great family across the world from East to West and North to South, that carry the flag of our community in their hearts and their thoughts and are blessed by the Guidance of our Imam forever. Amen

    Please feel free to email me at – taxfirst@yahoo.co.uk

    Especially I would like to here from any Ismaili in the Xinjiang-Uigar Autonomous Region and any dialogue or comments you may wish to make one any topic can be made privately and confidentially at my email address and not posted here. I would like to put my hand across the continents and say that I am your friend and that I would like to understand you better, understand your history and your cultural values and your customs, and not focus on “isolated issues” – I come with an open mind and I will not treat you differently, just because you practice your faith differently or because your conditions and environment have made you practice things differently – we are all equal in God’s eyes and who better to judge our differences then Him who created us and to Whom we must return. So please feel free to talk to me, if my message reaches your heart!

    I will share a few poems with you and hope that we may one day all meet and be friends:
    *********************************************************************************************************************************************
    LIGHT UPON LIGHT

    KNOW THAT A THOUGHT IS A BEACON OF LIGHT.
    SEE THE POWER THAT GENERATES THAT THOUGHT.
    FIND THE ESSENCE THAT COMMANDS THAT POWER.
    IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT FORM IT TAKES,
    THE BEACON OF LIGHT IS ONLY A SINGLE MANIFESTATION OF HIS GLORY,
    WHICH, CAPTURED BECOMES CRYSTALISED IN IMMORTALITY, BUT THE LIGHT ITSELF, IS ETERNAL.

    By Mahmood Bharwani

    “Of all the beautiful truths pertaining to the soul, which have been restored and brought to light in this age, none is more gladdening or fruitful of divine promise and confidence, than this, that man is the master of thought, the moulder of character and the maker and shaper of conditions, environment and destiny” – James Allen
    *****************************************************************************************************************************************
    DEEDAR (Spiritual Meeting of a Devotee & his Beloved)
    I yearn for your Noorani Didar (A full of Light, Spiritual Union)
    O my Lord, my Beloved
    O the Source of all Joy and Happiness;
    You are the Innermost Centre of my being;
    You are the Source of Life and Nourishment;
    You are the Gate of the city of Divine Knowledge;
    You are the Keeper of all Heavenly Treasures;
    You are the Source and Usherer of Peace;
    You are the Champion of all Champions;
    You are the Celestial Beacon of Divine Wisdom;
    You are the Eternal Truth reflected in all creation.
    You are the most Loving, by far the most Loving.
    O the Light of Ali, by the Grace of Allah,
    Send me the news of your coming,
    That I, like Hafiz, shall soar above Life and the World.

    The radiance of my Beloved
    Is the birthplace of my Ancestral Soul.
    I could sit a thousand years in contemplation, for that spark
    To ignite my soul and rise through Ibadat (prayer) on a thread of light
    To lose all comprehension and become vapour (incense).

    O my Beloved, grant me in my humblest moment
    To give myself completely to Your Divine Will and
    Let my eyes see only You
    Let my ears hear only You
    Let my thoughts encompass only You
    Let my lips utter supplications only for You
    To lose myself and find the universe immersed in me.
    The span of your Radiance cannot be contained in my eyes
    Nor in my furtherest imaginings can I comprehend my Beloved
    From the birthplace of the Kabba (A Place of Reverence)
    To the axis at the centre of my being –
    I know, I live and believe and have my being in You.
    I have truly touched the Ocean and stirred in my soul
    To have danced the eternal dance of Spiritual Union,
    For absolute submission has revealed,
    The Embodiment of Truth,
    By the Grace and Mercy of Allah
    (God is beyond human comprehension; only by His Grace can we understand Creation)

    By Mahmood Bharwani
    *********************************************************************************************************************************************
    Ek Banda Aur Ek Khuda
    (Meaning WORSHIPPER & WORSHIPPED)

    I am your banda and you are my Khuda
    I exist by virtue of Your Existence
    And by the Kalam all things come into existence

    You are the Light of the Heavens and the Earth
    Creating all realities from your Absolute Oneness
    You are Hidden of the Hidden, The Treasure
    Beyond all treasures Seen & Unseen
    You are the Supreme Reality in all dimensions.

    Each atom bows in sajada to your Unlimited Attributes
    And your Attributes are Incomprehensible
    Atoms with dimension or without are known in your Knowledge
    All things in existence emanate from your Oneness;
    You are the reality beneath all Multiplicity
    And by your Rahmat all things ascend to your Nur.

    The Uncreated, Creator and Sustainer of Life
    With Your breadth both Zahir (Limited) and Batin (Unlimited)
    Until both are gathered and return into Oneness;
    Just as the Light was created from Nothingness
    So too will each atom return into Nothingness,
    Which itself is your Absoluteness.

    In that point where human knowledge has no expression
    Not eye has the power to see
    Not ear has the power to hear
    Not speech has the power to voice
    Not sense had the power to describe
    All are lost and Eternalised in Your Essence.

    Grant this banda, a Tajali (glimpse) of Jalal & Jamal,
    In the mirrors of Your Creation, as the Earth mirrors Your Beauty
    Subhan-Allah, and I shall exist in Fana
    And non-existence my ultimate reward.

    For existence annihilated,
    Removing the Hijab (veil or pardha)
    Reveals the Haqiqat Radiance of my Majesty, Most High
    To the eyes and heart of Your Banda
    Through the Light of Ali and The Alibiet
    And our Baya to Imam-e-Zaman.

    Written by Mahmood Bharwani
    ******************************************************************************************************************************************
    The poet has tried to measure our human ability as being limited in both space and time and that though we aspire to achieve our own perfection and our own search for Light, it is only through submission to the will of Allah and total faith in His decision, that we become purified and receive His blessings. So, only as a “purest vessel” can it be possible that the beams of Light will be directed into our hearts and our heart and thought will be purified to serve Him. Only then can all obstacles be overcome, no matter how great the struggle, hence the Title – “Purity of Faith”………………
    Poem 15

    PURITY OF FAITH

    If I were an atom,
    I would conquer the Sun;
    If I were a dot in the night sky,
    I would contain a thousand galaxies;
    If I were but a grain of sand,
    I would be as fortified as a mountain;
    If I were a millet seed,
    I would equal a hundred harvests;
    If I were a drop of rain,
    I would contend many storms and
    Overcome all obstacles;
    If I were a tiny star;
    I would shine like the brightest button
    On a dark coat;
    If I were a dimensionless point,
    I would contain an entire Universe.

    All this I could do, only if I had faith
    And the Power of God commanded my every thought
    And the purest intensions in my heart;
    I would but conquer myself
    And all victories I would assign to Him,
    For Whom all things are possible.

    If only I was the purest vessel, filled with His Light!

    By Shaheroz Bharwani

    **************************************************************************************************************************************

    You Imam loves you more then you and I could ever love Him and you must be strong in your faith and your knowledge that he is besides you all the time, even if you sometimes forget, he is always there!

    Mahmood Bharwani – London Area (UK)

    • fahim said,

      why do you write everything in the internet khoja people. not necessary to argue with some one on the internet.

  10. nalinbhanvadiya said,

    golden jublee mubarak didar mubarak ya ali madad

  11. Nasir Sayani said,

    It is very delightful to read about our Ismaili Brethren in such an isolated part of the world…..I wish each and every Ismaili a Very Heartiest Golden Jubilee Mubarak from Atlanta USA Jamat……Pray for the Strenght in Faith and Long and Healthy Life and May Mowla Grant His Holy Deedar to Chinese Jamat espacially the Tajiks in China.

    YA ALI MADAD

  12. Iead said,

    ya ali madad

    masyaf_7@yahoo.com

  13. SHAHID said,

    YA ALI MADAD TO ALL ISMAILIES.

  14. Salmon said,

    YA ALI MADAD TO ALL ISMAILISM

  15. KAMANI FARIYAZ said,

    YAM ,

    I AM IN CHINA FROM LAST 8 YEARS DOING BUSINESS I AM BASICALLY FROM INDIA BOMBAY , OUR JAMAT HAS BEEN SPREAD ALL OVER BUT IN CHINA WE CANT FIND AS NO ISMAILI WILL LIKE TO SETTLE DOWN IN ANY COUNTRY WHERE THEY CANT GIVE RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE TO THEIR KIDS NEIGTHER HAVE GOOD EDUCATION FOR THEM,IF ANY ONE CAN SUGGEST SOME SOLUTION TO SET OUR JAMAT OUT HERE, OR IF THERE IS EXESTING JAMAT IN CHINA NEAR TO ZHEJIANG PROVINCE OF CHINA PLEASE SEND ME MSG LET ME KNOW

    THANKS REGARDS
    FARIYAZ KAMANI

    • Sabit Rahim said,

      Ya Ali Madam
      today i was search Ismaili Jamat in China, but disappointed, i read ur comments i got happy, i am in beijing from last half and one month doing PhD from University of Science and Technology, really it needs help from other parts of Ismaili Jamat

      thanks

      from Sabit Rahim

    • MANSOOR DAYANI said,

      Yam,
      I’m interested in doing business and need some guidelines from you. Hope you would understand and contact me.
      Regards,
      MANSOOR DAYANI
      HYDERABAD.
      Email :- sona_inds@yahoo.co.in
      Ph:- 091 9849071315.

    • Shiraz Aziz Mahommed Babwani said,

      YAM !

      It was great to read you as a Ismaili doing the business in China.

      I would like to addon you on my our Ismaili cllinteal list.

      I am staying in Mumbai India.

      Will you be glad enough to be my friend.

      My detail are as follows:
      Email : syuworry@gmail.com
      Cell : + 919820200688.

    • Karim said,

      YAM, you live in which city of zhejiang? It seems like Jamat is scattered around in few numbers in different parts of china, there are Jamat Khanas in Urumqi but here in mainland, its very hard i guess, unless we all fingure it out, how many of us are living here and which places.

      • yahya said,

        YAM,
        I am in Canada, i would like to travel to china where the chiness jamat are living. Can you please help me with that, pls send me an e-mail also in face book type yahya bakhtyar my.
        thanks

  16. Meer Alam said,

    Yaa Ali Madad to all my Ismaili brother and sisters!!!!!!

  17. Haqiqat said,

    Ya Ali Madad To ALL ISAMILI JAMAT SPECIAL IN CHINA ….
    (HOW MANY JAMAT KHANA ARE IN CHINA AND IN WHICH AREA… ..?

  18. Sabit Rahim said,

    Ya Ali Madam
    i am also look for the same question, i am from Pakistan and doing PhD from Beijing

    please let me know

  19. Zain said,

    Hi i am Zain from Pakistan but i am studying here in Guangzhou, China from last 2 year. if any ismaili like to meet and prey together please contact me.

    Mobile num:+86-13724178025
    my email:zainifti@hotmail.com

  20. inayat said,

    Ya ali madad
    I am very happy to know that threre are ismailis who come from overseas to study in china
    regards from toronto canada
    inayat kherani

  21. Dr.alamgeer said,

    YA ALI MADDAD to all my brothers and sisters.
    I m a student studying in jilin china i am searching jamat khana and ismailies please if any one contact me .alamg@rocketmail.com

  22. GHULAM AHMED said,

    I DO TRAVEL OFTEN TO CHINA ILL BE THERE THIS AUGUST AND SEPETMBER TODAY I JUST CALLED ZAIN WHO IS DOING HIS STUDIES IN GUANGZHOU SO HOPE WE CATCH UP WITH ZAIN.

    GHULAM AHMED BADAKSHANI
    AUSTRALIA

    • yahya said,

      YAM,
      have ever met a chiness jamat please write me @bakh63@yahoo.com
      thanks

  23. Sikandar said,

    in china there is no proper setup of JKs like Pakistan, India or there parts of the World. in singyank province in the kashgar & Dafador tashqugan, there are tajiks with proper settlements and doing the practices.

    sikandar
    Hunza Pakistan

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  25. Indian military base in Tajikistan? (round-up) | neweurasia.net said,

    […] author on the Ismailism blog is talking about the Chinese Ismailis who live in the Tajik Autonomous District in China’s north […]

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