Chinese Muslim Wedding Traditions, Old and New
Reprinted from IslamInChina.com, an excellent blog written by brother Wang Daiyu
Chinese Muslim Wedding Traditions
Since China is a very diverse country and the Muslims of China are equally diverse there is no one way to describe the wedding tradition of Chinese Muslims. It is however safe to say that just like other Muslim communities they are a blend of local cultures and Islamic religious requirements just as Arab Muslim wedding traditions are a blend of Arab culture and Islamic requirements, Malaysian wedding traditions are a blend of Malaysian culture and Islamic requirements etc.
Contacts between Muslims and Chinese began very early. Arab merchants traded in silk even before the advent of Islam, and tradition has it that the new religion was brought to their port-city trading colonies by Muslim missionaries in the seventh century.
In 755, a contingent of 4000 soldiers, mostly Muslim Turks, was sent by the Abbasid caliph Abu Jafar al-Mansur to help the Chinese emperor Su Tsung quell a revolt by one of his military commanders, An LuShan. Following the recapture of the imperial capital, Ch’angan (today’s Xian), these soldiers settled in China, married Chinese wives and founded inland Muslim colonies similar to those established by the traders on the coast.
Since then Islam has continued to flourish in China. There are several different communities and ethnicities of Chinese Muslims.
A Chinese Muslim wedding is very complex, but it avoids all superstitions such as the reading of the horoscopes of the betrothed persons. Some ask the Ahund to read the Arabic wedding rite on the wedding day or the day before. If one of the parties is not a Muslim, the Ahund admits that one into Islam one or two days before the wedding so both may be of the same faith.
In the past, betrothal money was not taken seriously since it looked like a business transaction. Nowadays it is customary to give clothing or jewelry, or a small amount of money is given and looked upon as only a symbol. Marriage is based on love. This change should be introduced to other Islamic countries as a means of solving the problem of the decrease in marriage due to the heavy betrothal price.
The old type of Chinese wedding ceremony is now out of date except among poor people in the country. According to the old custom the parents of the concerned parties monopolized the whole affair.
The new type follows the teaching of Islam and gains the consent of both parties. Islamic wedding customs are rational and at the same time are timeless, for they follow rules laid down more than thirteen hundred years ago. Emphasis on agreement between both parties, especially the consent of the girl, shows the Islamic stress on the rights of men and the protection of the rights of womanhood.
The ceremonies of engagement and marriage are quite similar for Chinese Muslims and non-Muslims except that the Muslims celebrate the event with a religious and a general ceremony, and they do not use old Chinese music or gongs or fire crackers since they consider them to be superstitious.
The religious ceremony is held a day before or just preceding the general ceremony. At present Muslims hold the marriage ceremony in the mosque. In modern times Western music has been adopted for marriages since it is not associated with the worship of other gods.
Chinese Muslims obey the Civil Law of China by practicing monogamy almost everywhere except in the frontier provinces. There is no Muslim court to take care of divorce, adoption, and inheritance, as in other Muslim countries; all these matters are now handled in the general courts.