Saturday, December 27


I stared at the aluminium water container. At 12.30pm in Beijing, it was freezing cold and I was having second thoughts of getting my hands wet and risk having frostbite. Yet it was a chance of a lifetime - to perform solat at a Chinese Muslim mosque in Beijing. One of the things I had wanted to do in China.

Alhamdulillah there was warm water for ablution. The washrooms in the mosques were different. There were several cubicles and hooks to hang our jackets etc. I couldn't find toilets and when I asked the locals, they seemed to indicate the washrooms are for that purpose too. Therefore, I always made sure that I did my business in the shops or restaurants before going to the mosques. Less problem :P

One of the things we Malaysians had to get used to in China is the lack of water taps in the toilets. There are lots of tissue papers but no water taps, so we had to adjust ourselves to the new conditions. Doing istinjak became a challenge, huhuhu.

Entrance of the Anheqiao Mosque
My first sight of the Anheqiao mosque was "Wow!". The tall main building looked like a temple but it was actually the main hall where the Muslim men pray. We arrived at our first mosque in Beijing on a Friday, in time for zohor prayer. In great haste, we quickly did our ablution(alhamdulillah my Malaysian group was the first group to arrive at the mosque) and hurried to the prayer hall which was in a separate building next to the men's.

The Anheqiao Mosque built in the Ming Dynasty (between the year 1368 and 1644). This is the main prayer hall, for men.

The Muslimah's prayer room at Nandouya Mosque
which was built 300 years ago.

The Muslimah's halls were clean and there were soft paddings for us to stand when performing prayers. In all the three mosques we went to, there were small sturdy tables and stools, arranged neatly at both sides of the prayer halls for old women to sit and pray. How considerate and thoughtful, and something the mosques in Malaysia should have too. I met several senior Chinese ladies who seemed to have familiarized themselves with the presence of Muslim tourists and were helpful in giving directions and instructions. All in Mandarin, of course.

In the Anheqiao Mosque, we were suddenly alerted when the Imam ( I think)stood outside the main hall and called out the adhan loudly. Then the local men began to enter the main hall and sat down. My tour members, the men who were already in the hall looked puzzled. Instead of performing the Friday prayer, the imam sat down in front of the hall and started reading the al-Quran. Oh, his reading was beautiful! When I hear it, I really felt calm and in peace. All my tour members praised his readings. We didn't wait to hear his sermon as we had to go elsewhere. Anyway I doubt any of my tour group members, other than yours truly, could understand his sermon.

The mosques are community centres for Muslims. There are many rooms for different purposes, and to my amusement there's even a special room for 'Marital Consultation' at the Anheqiao Mosque. However, there seemed to be a lack of young Chinese Muslims performing prayers at the mosques. Perhaps they couldn't leave their workplace to pray at the mosques, unlike us in Malaysia. All I saw were mostly senior citizens at the prayer halls. And they had this serene look on their faces..

The entrance to the women's prayer hall at the Madian Mosque. See the clock that tells the time? The heavy green drapes keep the cold wind away.

At Madian Mosque, there was a small souvenir shop inside the mosque grounds. I stopped by to have a look. A friendly local woman attended to me. Alhamdulillah with my limited Mandarin, I managed to communicate with her. When the caretaker came, he was quite happy to know that I'm a Malaysian Chinese Muslim. I was told that there're about 70 Muslim Chinese families in the area, with 2300 Muslims.

The door of the Madian Mosque.
This mosque built during the reign of Emperor Kangxi, is about 300 years old.

"How old are you? How old is your husband?"
They seemed to like asking these questions. I suppose it's their custom. It's great to talk to the local Chinese Muslims. I've talked to the friendly local imams and mosque caretakers, the local Muslim sisters at the mosques (they're mostly serious), and some Chinese tourists from Guangdong (one had lived in Penang for years) who gave me a few "1 jiao" notes (worthless, cannot buy anything, he said :P). Thank God I know enough Mandarin to gain this experience. My Mandarin "lao-shi" would have been proud of me, hehehe.

The Chinese in China have been Muslims long before Islam stepped foot in Malay peninsular. There're actually more Muslims in China than there're Malays in Malaysia. According to my travel guide, the Communist regime had tried to stop the spread of Islam but their Muslim faith had become stronger during the tough period. Nowadays, the government seemed to have apologized for their past treatment of Muslim Chinese and have helped to rebuild the local mosques. Alhamdulillah, the popularity of Muslim tourism in Beijing has helped boost the Muslims' economy and soften the government's treatment towards them. I was amazed when the local peddlers are able to speak in Malay! "Lima yuan, boleh kurang.." was the normal phrases we heard when they approached us. The tudung indicated that we're Malaysian Muslims.

Note: Wish I could visit the famous Dongsi Mosque and Tongzhou Mosque but they're not in our agenda. We stopped by at the nearest mosque along our route. InsyaAllah next time...

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