chapter  7
Sects and Sufism (1): The Islamic Background
Pages 22

This chapter and the two that follow explore the diverse organisations and institutions which have transmitted and preserved Islam in China. These include orthodox Gedimu Islam, the Yihewani, the seemingly endless profusion of varieties of Sufism which served as a parallel Islam and helped sustain the faith during times of persecution, the growth of Sufi networks in a distinctive Chinese pattern known as menhuan and the uniquely Chinese Xidaotang. Although this book is not intended primarily as a study of the religious belief and religious organisation of the Hui, it is quite clear that for many Muslims in China, as elsewhere in the Muslim world, the focus of their life has been, and in many cases still is, the Islamic order of which they are members, and that this is intimately connected with family relationships. Membership of an Islamic order is not just a question of religious belief but an expression of individual and family identity. No attempt has been made to cover all the sects and Sufi orders comprehensively. The main groupings are outlined and selected groups examined in detail to indicate the impact of religious organisations on the life of the Hui people.