By Hakim Joe
What is Mualaf? According to the dictionary, it is a term to categorize those who are ready to embrace the Islamic religion and/or the new Moslem converts. However in Malaysia, all Malaysian-Chinese-Moslems are classified as such regardless of whether they have just converted or that they are fourth (or older) generation Moslems.
The question therefore remains when Islam was first introduced to the Chinese. According to World History, Islam was first brought to China between 616 and 618 AD by order of Uthman ibn `Affan (the third Sunni Rashidun or Caliph of the Muslim Empire) by Sahaba (companions) of Muhammad namely Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas, Sayid, Wahab ibn Abu Kabcha and another Sahaba (name unknown). This meant that Islam has existed in China for approximately 1.400 years. The Great Mosque of Xi’an (Huaisheng Mosque) in Shaanxi, China was erected in 742 AD and remains one of the oldest mosques in the world.
In comparison, the Malay Peninsula in which we now call Malaysia was inhabited by prehistoric Proto Malays during that same time in history. According to the Kedah Annals, Kandaram or the Kedah Kingdom (630 – 1136 AD) was founded by Maharaja Derbar Raja of Gemeron, Persia, allegedly the descendents of Alexander the Great. Incidentally, the Proto Malays (Melayu Asli) were descendents of migrants originating from Yunnan, China. The Malays as we know them today are Deutero Malays and are the progeny of intermarriages between the Proto Malays and Negrito Orang Asli. When the Great Mosque of Xi’an was being built and more than one century after Islam was introduced to the Chinese, Hindu-Buddhism was the main religion here.
Funan in Cambodia played a major part in the history and religion of the Malay Peninsula and according to Sejarah Melayu, the Khmer prince Raja Ganji Sarjuna founded the kingdom of Gangga Negara in the 700s in the northern part of the Malay Peninsula. The major religion then was Hinduism and between the 7th and the 13th century, the Malay Peninsula was ruled by the Srivijaya Empire, in which the major religion was initially Buddhism and then Hinduism at the later stages.
Gangga Negara means “a city on the Ganges” in Sanskrit and Srivijaya means “Radiant Victory” in Sanskrit. Sanskrit is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism (an ancient Indian religion) and Mahāyāna Buddhism.
Not only until the 13th century did Islam arrive at the Malay Peninsula (1402 to 1409 AD) purportedly brought in by Parameswara (a Srivijaya Prince who was born a Hindu) who was fleeing Temasek to avoid persecution. Parameswara (derived from the Sanskrit word Parameśhvara, a Hindu concept literally meaning the “Supreme Lord”) allegedly converted to Islam (no evidence was found) when he married the Princess of Pasai (Samudera in Sumatra) and he adopted the Persian title “Shah”, renaming himself Mahmud Iskandar Shah. It must be made known that Parameswara went on a boat trip with Chinese Admiral Zheng He (Cheng Ho) to China in 1411 to pay tribute to the Chinese Ming Dynasty Emperor. Incidentally Admiral Zheng He, his translator Fei Xin and his companion Ma Huan are all Moslems. Islam finally took hold after Parameswara’s death in 1414 when his son, Raja Sri Rama Vikrama became the second Sultan of Malacca and called himself Sultan Megat Iskandar Shah.
Islam has then existed in China for nearly 800 years.
In 1910, the Christian missionary, Marshall Broomhall published a book on his findings and estimated that there exist over 9 million Chinese Moslems in China. The entire population of the Straits Settlement in 1901 was less than 1 million (including Europeans).
So if your ancestors were born in China and have converted to Islam in 616 AD and that somewhere along the line, they have migrated to here, you are still a Mualaf by the fact that you are Malaysian-Chinese, albeit having your bloodlines being a Moslem for the past 1,396 years.