China Muslim

  • Salaam alaiki Ms Mah!

    Alhamdulillah, I am very very thankful to Allah for allowing me to embark on this memorable (this is an understatement actually) trip on the 6th of December 2008. Honestly, I had NO idea what to expect in China, what I'd see or what I'd experience throughout those 12 days there. All I depended, pre-trip, were the pictures and descriptions on Amylia's blog for her trip in 2007. Shangrila–http://am11.wordpress.com/2007/12/25/balik-kampung/ Qurban–http://am11.wordpress.com/2007/12/26/qurban-1428h/ .

    I remembered just feeling a great sense of anticipation, yet at the same time, tawakkaltu 'ala Allah, at the airport before our departure. Haha.

    Goodness, I have NO idea where to start even. I don't think I'll be able to cover all the places or everything, so I'll just pick out some or else it will be a very very long email.

    I remembered stepping into NanCheng Mosque which was to be our 'staple' mosque and eating place whenever we were at Kunming. We had our EidulAdha prayers there, and it was an unforgettable experience, being amidst these Chinese people, us coming from such different backgrounds, cultures and races but ultimately bonded together through our Ad-Deen, Islam… It was very emotional for me especially when everyone recited the takbir together, the varying accent ringing in my ears. Unforgettable, certainly!!!

    The next highlight was the Qurban rituals at Da Bai Yi Village. If my memory doesn't fail me, I believe we reached the village at night. So many villagers came down to greet us, standing in such a pristine line, from the kids to the elderly, eagerly waiting for our arrival in the dark! I was so taken aback initially, and was touched beyond words. They were incredibly warm and welcoming, bellowing out their Salaam with such gusto and I've to admit, I remembered tearing as I salaam them.. I honestly, cannot find a word to justify what I truly feel. Little did I know that there would be more of such welcomes in the days to come.

    We had our dinner at Da Bai Yi Village and I recalled getting to know some of the adorable little girls there. They were the sweetest bunch, and I still remember a bunch of them bringing me around their village in the dark. They were SO brave! I felt so cowardly beside them. Haha!! Since I was able to speak a smattering of Mandarin, I tried to communicate awkwardly with them, whatever that I could manage. I would remember these sweet little ones for life, really. They were so welcoming, so endearing MashaAllah! And I was amazed at the amount of food (delectable at that!) they prepared for us for dinner. Yet again, I'd NO idea that there would be more of such feasts. Alhamdulillah!

    I witnessed my first China-Qurban rituals in Da Bai Yi. It was one unforgettable moment, the camaraderie among the villagers and the amusing excitement in trying to 'chop' (reserve) our respective goats. Ha ha!! Even young boys participated in the Qurban, handling the goats almost effortlessly (even when the goats were thrashing wildly around which scared the wits out of some of us haha!!). I've to say, this is a far cry from Singapore because we usually see the pakcik-pakcik(elderly folks) doing the job of Qurban.

    Next, we visited the Dian Bai Mu Madrasah. Here, I will always remember their amazing fried dumplings, MashaAllah.! They were so freshly made; we actually could witness the ladies getting busy in the kitchen, mincing the meat, flattening the “wanton” dough skin and all. Very gotong-royong(co-operative), as how the Malays would put it. This is one of the better-conditioned madrasahs around. Alhamdulillah! . I remember standing on rooftop of the madrasah and savouring the ambience around me, MashaAllah!

    The most memorable and certainly unforgettable for life, would be the Yang Zai Village. I'm sure my two buddies who came with me ,Aisyah and Shazwani would agree with me on this. The journey to the place itself was memorable. We had to plough through long hours and cross rivers which was one unique experience for sure! Upon our arrival, SO many villagers came to welcome us, just like at Da Bai Yi. I remembered salaam-ing them and a few elderly women actually cried and I could not hold back my own feelings. They seemed so touched and happy…MashaAllah. Honestly, among the many villages or madrasahs we visited during the trip, I have to admit that Yang Zai is the most deplorable, however, this place left the biggest indelible impact for me in the trip. I remembered standing on the 2nd storey of their madrasah and just absorbed the surroundings in. I could only see vast and seemingly endless barren land, there were no shops, nothing. They were literally ON a hill! and there was nothing else. I remembered heading back to the hotel and talking it out with Aisyah and Shaz on what we saw. It was almost haunting. It made us reflect on Life lots for that night. Despite the poverty, the villagers were generous in their smiles and laughter and they prepared such a grand feast for us, MashaAllah. It was a mighty “kendur” feasti for the whole village, where everyone came together and enjoyed getting to eat meat, which was a very very rare occasion for them. This place, became special, despite being one of the poorest. I really hope we all are able to come up with more donations to inject to Yang Zai..especially to better their toilets and sanitation amenities…InsyaAllah!

    Then we visited MaoHuoJie madrasah and I remembered the HUGE, steaming meat buns they prepared for us. Heavenly! We did our 2nd round of Qurban. As Miss Mah said, this madrasah is the biggest Islamic training centre in Yunnan. I was in awe at how driven they were in pursuing the field of Ukhrawi. However, the girls' dormitory in the damp basement or “dungeon” was in dire need of improvement.. This is another section where I pray and hope that we are able to come up with funds to improve the living conditions of these girls…

    Next on the itinerary was Hei Shi wah village. The most memorable moment here was the performances they put up for us by all ages! We had the little kids, the teenagers and even the elderly bunch to sing nasyids and perform for us, MashaAllah. They had so much fun, and I could remember some of the elderly women nudging one another to be at the front of the stage because they were so shy. Haha!!. I remember tearing during their performances because honestly, you cannot help but feel so touched by their sincere gestures and efforts, and ultimately, appreciation…

    On the way to Shangrila, we dropped by the Tiger Leaping Gorge and it was one of the most beautiful sight ever. The waterfall, the gushing river… it was therapeutic! (But making our way up, for those who descended those flights of stairs, was quite a nightmare! Haha!.) The most interesting part! We could pay the men to CARRY us up in some sedan-like seats if we are too exhausted to climb up. I was beyond awed by their strength! But none of us employed their services because we wanted to challenge our own stamina (especially me, PANCIT TEROS!punctured!). Haha!! The Gorge, was beautiful, simply said.

    The journey to the villages in Shangrila was very long but we got to witness the breathtaking mountainous scenery as we ascended. We could see snow-capped mountains, nothing we could ever get here in this urban-jungle Singapore. (: We stayed in a lodge, and the water was FREEZING, BITING COLD! But it made everything all the more memorable, certainly, with our chattering teeth and all. Haha! I remembered feeling breathless looking at the star-filled sky in the middle of the night, SubhanaAllah… All of us were smitten by the adorable kids we saw in both villages at the kindergartens. Haha!! They were so small but mashaA! llah, to know that they are receiving Islamic education at such a young age was simply heartening. Hearing the children singing out nasyids with such enthusiasm touched us all… And here would be another place we could pump more funds to better the conditions of the kindergartens.. for these kids…who knows, they might just be great leaders in disseminating Islam… InsyaAllah..

    All in all, I would not exchange my experience and time in China for anything else. The memories are too precious and to me, this trip was such a big blessing from Allah…Thank you Ms Mah for your endless energy in organising this trip… I really really respect you! May Allah bless you for all your efforts and great intentions… Ameen ameen. It would certainly have been impossible without you, Ms Mah. So thank you! No doubt, it'll be a dream to go on this trip again, with God's will.

    I encourage others to join this trip because I am certain that you will go home with lot s and lots of wonderful memories and insyaAllah, it will open up doors of reflection for us, and be better servants of Allah… indeed, this is a trip with a great great cause… Do join! You won't regret it, ever. (:

    I hope my humble writeup helps, in a way or another. I really really miss China.

    Regards,

    Samsiah Kushen

  • TOWARDS UNDERSTANDING THE NEEDS OF THE CHINESE MUSLIMS

    A testimony of the work I witnessed being carried out by Sister Mariah Mah on my visit to China from 6th-28th December 2008!

    I was fortunate enough to have the liberty of travelling alongside Mariah on her Qurban tour to visit Kunming, Zhaotong, Lijiang and Shangrila. After the tour we spent the next eleven days travelling to Lanzhou, Linxia and Ningxia. We began by our visit to the poor villages in Kunming and then in Zhaotong. In each case, the entire village that came out to welcome us greeted us. Lined up in the cold weather each face bore evidence of poverty and need.

    But the excitement and emotion driven by the joy of being visited by international friends overtook them. They expressed this by informing us that our visit was welcomed above the need for donations. They were humble and hospitable beyond recognition.

    Other than having our lunches and dinners at the mosques we were able to witness our Qurbani’s taking place. I can recall about 50 sheep being taken before my eyes and slaughtered one by one. The reciting of the Qurban takbeer by our Chinese brothers still echoes in my ears.

    To see the qurban meat being cut up and cooked and served was amazing. Added with the knowledge that these people seldom see meat on their tables. I played with the poor children of the village and felt the sense of belonging to the much forgotten Muslim community.

    Shangri-La is one of the most beautiful locations I have ever seen. The scenery was breathtaking. The high altitude and lack of resources means that life is full of simplicity. The houses have roofs with stones on them to keep the tiles down, there is corn drying everywhere, pipes are made of logs cut horizontally to carry the water from the streams etc. We went to visit the preschool where we greeted by the simultaneous ‘salaam’ of the children on the balcony. We went to the mosque and saw how our donations have helped to build cleaner toilet facilities.

    Lanzhou was one of the most heartbreaking locations. We were greeted on arrival by the principal of the ‘Chongde Muslim Women and Children’s Education Centre’ who is deeply concerned by the fear of her centre being closed due to lack of funding. She took us to see the classrooms to witness how crucial the work of the centre is for the community.

    Migrant workers from the Dongxian Tribe of neighbouring hilly and arid counties which have scarce water resources came to Lanzhou City to look for work as they could hardly eke out a living in their own harsh environment. They are known as FRINGE PEOPLE as they do not belong to the mainstream of the local population. They are denied housing and education facilities. Many live in slums or make shift sheds. We visited their homes, which were basically tiny dingy, poorly ventilated cubicles alongside a railway track in use. I watched toddlers crossing the tracks alone or going through rubbish heaps. A cubicle would house an entire family and contain little else than a rickety wooden bed . It has a small stove, which is used to keep the room from the cold freezing winter which is zero degrees. One example is of grandparents, parents, and four children in one room. Eight to a room is the norm. One family had to take shelter with neighbours as their room had been burnt down. One of them had fallen pieces of ceiling on the bed.

    The women and children from these families who are too poor to attend school( Fringe people have to pay fees to be admitted to schools) are given a free education in Sister Aisha Mah’s Education Center set up in 2004. The objective is to combat illiteracy and to restore Islamic teachings for these FRINGE MUSLIMS who are mostly uneducated. The classes we went to had elderly women reciting the Quran. Before they came to her school they had been illiterate. The children are also taught the Chinese language, Arithmetic , Iqra’ and basic Islamic knowledge. They are taught how to read and write Chinese so that they can read the translation of the Quran.

    As a qualified teacher who has taught in Islamic schools in London and across the Middle East including Egypt. I can guarantee that the work that was produced at this school was of a high standard.

    So it’s understandable that Sister Aisha the Principal is in dire need of financial support to keep the school running. Mariah decided that she should come with us to Ningxia to seek support from the Charity committee that is in Charge of the registered Muslim Orphanage, established in 2006 by Sister Mariah. . Thanks to Mariah, Sister Aisha is now a member of the committee, which is made up of government representatives.

    AS we were about to leave our hotel in Lanzhou to travel to Linxia, we were halted in the lobby by a couple that had brought along a 5 year old orphan named ‘Wahab’. As mentioned the community are so poor, they cannot even feed their own family. So Wahab was being moved from home to home and had come to point of being homeless. Mariah took him along with us to Linxia. It was entirely through her influence that the principal of Yasin preschool took Wahab in immediately. That preschool will serve as his home in the meantime. Ten other orphans were also found to be homeless

    Currently, it costs US$1000 a year to keep Wahab there, and hopefully Mariah will try and seek sponsorship. Again, as a school teacher who has worked in all types of educational institutions I can guarantee that Yasin preschool in Linxia Province is the best preschool in the world known to me. The facilities are state of the art for China and the children ranging from age 4-6 years have memorised surahs from the Quran during their term there.

    I could go on, but will stop there and urge you to take the opportunity of donating or travelling to China through Mariah. The following is an outline of the current projects I witnessed while I was out there:

    1. Lanzhou: Funds needed to maintain A Literacy cum Education Center for Muslim women and Children.
    2. Ningxia: Orphanage: Recently the earthquake has damaged the source of water supply and funds are needed to build another well.
    3. Orphans need sponsorship for their livelihood–$50 per month per child.
    4. Ningxia: An Islamic Primary school is planned.
    5. Ningxia: A wooden structure mosque was completely damaged and men had to pray on the open ground;Funds are needed to rebuild this.
    6. Linxia: Yasin preschool is planning to build a primary school .
    7. Zhaotong: Need funds for a madrasah where girls are currently housed in the basement of the building which is poor ventilated and damp. Some girls have contracted Tuberculosis as a result and had to be sent home,
    8. Zhaotong: Funding needed for An ISLAMIC Awareness Education Program to enable university students to be enlightened on the rudiments of Islam.
    9. Zhaotong: Mosque damaged by earthquake. Needs to be rebuilt
    10. Poor students and also undergrads cant pay fees These students need sponsorship.

    I’m sure I have not covered everything here. Please contact Sister Mariah if you are interested in any of the above.

    Finally, a huge Jazakallah Khair to Sister Mariah for arranging for me to visit these places and for raising my awareness to the needs of the Chinese Muslims.

    Walaikumasalaam,

    Tasnim Ali (Graduate Science teacher), London UK

    tasnim30@hotmail.co.uk

    Tasnim's full write-up of her 2008 Silaturrahim Experience

  • Salaam Mariah,.

    How are you? We had a most wonderful vacation (12day China Muslim tour 18-29April 2008)with you as our tour coordinator. You made our trip very special, and I highly recommend you to any one who is even slightly interested in visiting China. Thank you for the pictures of the train, really appreciate it.

    With much love,

    Nargis

    nargisadaya@yahoo.com

    Nargis Dada Santa Monica, California, USA/h4>

  • Salams my dear sister Mariah

    I just spoke to Zak who's just returned from China himself. I told him how wonderful my trip was and how pleased I was to have met you and I mean that truly… you are a rare gem of a person! May our friendship grow and prosper inshallah.

    I have only met Aysha once since our return which goes to show just how busy we've all been. I will sit down and write you a proper letter of approval of my trip that you may wish to keep as a reference in case anyone was to query the organisation of the tour. I have nothing but praise!

    ms.r.patel@hotmail.co.uk

    Roshan

  • Dear Mariah, Salam. Hope you are in good health and as busy as ever. Our Niswa group (from Los Angeles California) thoroughly enjoyed our travels in China and meeting our Muslim brothers & sisters.

    Please thank the Muslim families who hosted our dinners. We all loved the food. If you see Hasan, Saleema & Fatima please say our thanks to them. Thank you for the great time we had.

    niswainc@yahoo.com

    Shamim