Sufi wars in China (pre-Dungan)

This article is also available in: Italiano

Before the outbreak of the Dungan riots, there is a very recent clarification on the political and religious situation in China at the end of the 18th century, focusing in particular on the role of two different Sufi communities: the Khufiyya and the Jahriyya.

The Khufiyya

Towards the end of the seventeenth century, Islam spread more and more throughout Central Asia through ever stronger thrusts of Sufi masters (in particular naqshbandi) who lavished themselves on proselytizing across the continent, managing to penetrate even China. If in Xinjiang we see the formation of the Afaqi and Ishaqi Khoja, in the rest of the country the tariqa Khufiyya and Jahriyya will emerge, mainly linked to traditionally Chinese communities such as the Hui and the Salar people.


The Khuffiyas represent the oldest tariqa and will be formed around the 18th century under the pressure of several members of the Afaqi Khoja, who have come to the Gansu region to preach Sufism. This movement will then acquire ever greater dimensions through some great Hui masters such as, for example, Ma Laichi, still today one of the most famous sheykhs in the country. Their preaching will focus in particular on the silent dhikr and the link with the past, so much so that they soon come into conflict with the younger Jahriyya, literally his opposite.

The tariqa Jahriyya

The latter was founded in 1761 by Ma Mingxin, a Shaikh of the Hui ethnic group who returned home after 16 years of studies between Mecca and Yemen. The master stressed the need for reforms both within the Islamic and Chinese worlds, distinguishing himself, not surprisingly, for a particularly noisy type of dhikr.


The two brotherhoods soon came into conflict over territories and followers, starting to cultivate the virus of the Dungan revolt, destined to explode less than a century later. The behavior of the Qing dynasty will be decisive in the matter, decisive for lighting the fuse of the conflict.

The Jahriyya revolt

Because of its revolutionary nature, the emperor had never looked favorably on the activities of the Jahriyya, considered to be on the verge of subversive; this was the reason why, in 1781, the government decided to actively enter religious tensions, imprisoning Ma Mingxin and thus favoring the Khuffiyas. This naturally provoked strong reactions within the brotherhood, which will organize a real anti-government guerrilla war, which is however destined to be destroyed.


The Qing will also order exile or slavery for all tariqa followers, thus allowing the hate virus to spread throughout the country and thus sowing the germs of the future Dungan uprising.

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