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The Mongol (Yuan) Period (612 – 769 AH)

During the reign of the Mongol khans in China, the Muslims enjoyed a special status in the society and came to fill many positions of prominence. The prestige accorded to Muslims in many cities of China, including Khan Baliq (present-day Beijing), was evident to all Muslim visitors to the area. 

The comment of Ibn Battutah (Rihlah) regarding every city of China having an independent Muslim neighborhood with its own mosques is an indication of the pervasive presence of Islam throughout the vast region of China in the Yuan period. As regards the expansion of Islam in the more interior southern and eastern coastal regions, reference should be made to the evidence in connection to the presence of Islam in the Yuan China in the areas coterminous with the modern-day provinces of Jiangxi, Shandong and Jiangzhou. 

It appears that Mongol domination was a catalyst accelerating the spread of Islam in the northwestern regions of the country. According to the information provided by Marco Polo regarding the social conditions of the people of Tanguk, coterminous with the present-day provinces of Kansu, Tsinghai and Shansi, Islam was the dominant religion in some cities, while enjoying large majorities in others. Islam reached such prominence in the region of Tangut that its Mongol ruler, Anande, chose to embrace Islam; a move that led to the conversion of some 150 thousand members of the Mongol army. Rashid al-Din, in his Jami` al-tawarikh, as part his narrative of the events of the early 8th century AH, considers the majority of the inhabitants of Tangut to be Muslims, except the elite and the farmers, whom he characterizes as idolaters; a reference to their Buddhism. It was this trend of Islamization that resulted in the emergence of a Muslim neighborhood within Qanjanfu – the present-day Sian, the major city of Shantsi region – which, in the 740s AH, had a shaykh al-Islam and a judge, who were in charge of managing the religious affairs of the Muslim population of the city. The same tendency in the Yuan period resulted in the mass conversion of the Mongol inhabitants of Tsiang province, who adopted a sedentary lifestyle and who gave birth to a Mongol-Islamic ethno-cultural orientation whose descendents go by the name of Baoan (Puo-an). 

In the southwest, Sayyid Ajal Bukhari, a Muslim agent of the family of Genghis Khan, was appointed by Kublai Khan to establish Mongol control over the province of Qarajang, including the modern-day province of Yunnan. Bukhari succeeded in imposing Mongol control over the area, where he and his descendents ruled for many years to come. Some, including Hartman, have considered the spread of Islam in Yunnan to have started with Bukhari’s rule. What may be asserted with some degree of certainty is that, as reported by Rashid al-Din, in the early 8th century AH, a large portion of the population of Qarajang province, and its major city of Yachi – in all likelihood, the present-day Kuming – consisted of Muslims.

* source: Pakatchi , Ahmad "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 , pp.556- 557

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