My Chinese Village (Part-1)

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My Mountainous Country
My name is Nur Muhammad 'Abd al-Hamid and I live in Western China. I am a fourteeen-year-old Uyghur Muslim boy, al-Hamdulillah. I live in a beautiful village called Gonja, which means "flower bud" in our language, Uyghurje. Our language is a form of Turkish, similar to the Uzbek language spoken in neighbouring Uzbekistan, but we use Arabic script to write it. My homeland, Uyghuristan, or East (Sharqi) Turkistan, was once
*Here is a beautiful example of the bismillah written in khat al-sini, or the "Chinese" style of Arabic calligraphy. Chinese Muslims developed this handwriting style hundreds of years ago and it is still being used by Chinese Muslims when writing on ceramic tiles and other objects of art. Even our handwriting style has been influenced by khat al-sini.*
independent, but today we live in the largest province of China: the Xinjang (Shinjang) Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Uyghuristan is a land of very high snow-capped mountains. The Altai, Tien Shan, Pamir, Karakoram and Kunlun Shan mountain ranges all create natural boundaries to the north, west and south. In the centre of our province lies the immense and inhospitable Takla Makan Desert. Takla Makan is a Turkish name which means "the place that if one enters, one doesn’t leave"! Our village is an oasis on the edge of the desert and in the foothills of the giant Tien Shan mountain peaks. "Welcome to our village", or as we say in Uyghurje: kharshi elish!

Life here in the high plateau is difficult. Summers are short and the winters very long and bitterly cold. Most villagers are farmers. Although the growing season is short, the gardens, orchards and fields of Uyghuristan produce an amazing amount of delicious fruits and vegetables, masha 'Allah. In the srping and summer, rivers and streams run fast with water from melted snow. AlHamdulillah, each winter, the heavy snow cover helps to replenish the underground reservoirs of fresh water which are also used for irrigation.

Uyghurs have been Muslim for more than a thousand years. In 751 CE, the Uyghurs joined the Arab army and defeated the mighty T'ang Dynasty. After this, Islam slowly became the most important religion in Central Asia. In 934 CE, the Uyghur ruler Saltuk Bughra Khan became the first Turkish leader to embrace Islam. For the first time, mosques and madrasahs were built throughout Uyghuristan. For the first time too, the people of the high mountain peaks, deep valleys and small towns and villages skirting the desert all heard the call to one diety, the call to Islam and the call to success: Allah-u akbar, Allah-u akbar; hayya’ala al-falah, hayya'ala al-falah.

To read the next part of this story, click here.

Luqman Nagy

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