China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Islamic Revival and the Legal Category of Custom in Modern China

Friday, July 6
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Willow, First Floor

In the late nineteenth century, Chinese Islamic reformist groups began advocating a revival of “true Islam” on the basis of “observing scripture and reforming custom.” This paper historicizes “custom” as a category within the Chinese Islamic legal tradition. Focusing on death rites, which Muslim and official reforms alike saw as rife with indefensible and backward practices, I trace the evolution of “custom” in Chinese Islamic legal discourse. In the late nineteenth century, Chinese Muslim scholars (ahongs) increasingly divided over the question of funeral orthopraxy and the determination of what was obligatory, what was permissible, and what was forbidden at the gravesite. Did wailing, wearing Confucian mourning robes, or collectively reciting the Quran constitute unlawful “innovations” of the shari‘a? Or were these matters of “custom” rather than worship and therefore subject to change? Recently acquired, foreign Islamic legal texts informed these ahongs’ legal classification of death rites, but so did the more immediate Chinese legal and political environment. Based on an analysis of a series of Chinese Islamic legal writings on death rites, primarily from Henan and the broader Central Plains region, this paper argues two points. First, starting in the late nineteenth-century ahongs increasingly attended and divided over the legal classification of death rites. Second, beginning in the early twentieth century, certain ahongs and officials both came to see “customs” as legitimate targets of reform—a common understanding that enabled collaboration between religious and state authorities in the Republican era. 

Aaron Glasserman

Columbia University, United States

Presentation(s):

Send Email for Aaron Glasserman


Assets

3 - Islamic Revival and the Legal Category of Custom in Modern China



Attendees who have favorited this

Please enter your access key

The asset you are trying to access is locked. Please enter your access key to unlock.

Send Email for Islamic Revival and the Legal Category of Custom in Modern China