Imam practises what he preaches
By Mu Qian
Updated: 2007-03-16 07:00

For Abdulatip Abdurahim, an imam from Hotan of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the term "advocating harmony in society" is not meaningless religious window dressing.

It is a belief he has advocated all his life.

"It's very good news that our government is stressing harmony in society, but actually harmony was what Islam called for more than 1,400 years ago," Abudlatip, a CPPCC member of the religion circle, said.

"The word 'Islam' itself contains the meaning of harmony."

A few years ago, the son of Abdulatip's neighbor worked for a Han boss as a fisherman in a reservoir. One day a storm came when he was fishing in the reservoir. The boat was turned over and he drowned.

The young man's father was so infuriated that he was going to kill the Han boss, who he believed should have safeguarded his son.

Unable to stop him, the village's Party secretary asked Abdulatip for help.

When Abdulatip arrived, a group of people were ready to go looking for the Han boss, all armed with sticks and knives. The young man's father wouldn't listen to Abdulatip, saying that Abdulatip was with the government.

"Forget who I am. Let me ask you a question. Are you a Muslim?" Abdulatip asked.

"Yes."

"Do you believe in Allah?"

"Of course I do."

"Do you think it is Allah or a person that decides when, where and how someone dies?"

"It is Allah."

"That day the weather was ok at first, but the storm came when they were fishing. Do you think it is Allah or a person that decides the weather?"

"It is Allah."

"Then why are you going to take revenge on a person who doesn't have the power to decide the weather?"

Not able to answer Abdulatip's question, the young man's father admitted that he was too angry as he lost his beloved son, and asked Abdulatip to forgive him and said he needed Abdulatip's help for the funeral.

It was not the only time in which Abdulatip settled a conflict with his knowledge of Islam, though he said his regular work involved leading Muslims to pray, presiding over religious ceremonies and teaching the Koran.

"Public order is mostly maintained by the authorities, but sometimes they turn to us and we try to do what we can," Abdulatip said.

"I'm a religious leader, so I have to not only act according to the Koran myself, but also preach Islam's doctrines of harmony and peace at every chance."

The majority in Hotan is Uygur, though there are also Hui and Han people. Abdulatip said he would give Han people good wishes during Spring Festival, and he would also receive good wishes from Han people at Islamic festivals.

"The only difference between Muslims and non-Muslims is only the customs," Abdulatip said.

"We all seek the same happy lives."

(China Daily 03/16/2007 page6)