Women-only Mosques in China: an Interview with Islam in China

chinese female ahong

Ding Gui Zhi, Nu Ahong at Lu Lan Women's Mosque in Lanzhou, Gansu Province

Q: Nu ahong (female imams) and all female mosques are a unique Chinese Muslim phenomenon, what roles do nu ahong play in the hui culture?

A. The precise role of a nu ahong varies from mosque to mosque. It is a position that offers a measure of security and high community status, and a nu ahong most often plays a very full role in the life of her local community. In addition to presiding over nu si (women’s mosques) a nu ahong’s duties include ritual guidance at marriages and funerals, preaching, resolving political and social disputes, and offering moral guidance and counseling. She also acts as educator, a role which is highly valued within Islam.

There are many schools for hui woman and girls and they are often attached to mosques and run and financed by the hui people themselves. Some help women with illiteracy, others teach the Arabic and the Qu’ran, and still others give girls from disadvantaged backgrounds a basic education that enables them to teach themselves or even to go on to university. This aspect of hui society has been instrumental in keeping Islam alive in China.

Education for a girl in China may be her route out of poverty. In the past, the high illiteracy rate among women in China meant that most Muslim women had to stay at home as they had no opportunities to receive education or join in a broader social life. Now young people are learning Arabic as part of their religious instruction and this increases their chances of finding a job in the private sector as a translator or interpreter in the blossoming Mideast-China trade where they can earn very good salarie
(Read the full interview…..)

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