Chinese Islam: A Complete Concert

Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, New York University

Matthew S. Erie, China and Islam: The Prophet, the Party, and Law. Cambridge University Press, 2016. 472 pp. $140 (cloth/e-book).

Jonathan Lipman, ed., Islamic Thought in China: Sino-Muslim Intellectual Evolution from the 17th to the 20th Century. Edinburgh University Press, 2016. 288 pp. £70 (cloth; e-book).

Roberta Tontini, Muslim Sanzijing: Shifts and Continuities in the Definition of Islam in China. Brill, 2016. 238 pp. $125 (cloth).

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Why study a Chinese “minority” and its history? The task of scholars of Chinese Islam since the 1990s has been twofold: on the one hand, we have wanted to study Islam in China in its Chinese social and cultural context, as opposed to imagining it as a single separate entity, and to show that its history is relevant and meaningful for Chinese history in general. One could almost say that this goal was achieved a while ago. The next task has been to make the study of Chinese Islam and its history meaningful and useful for the greater community of scholars of Islam in general. It seems to me that with the books reviewed here, and with others in the making, we are getting close to reaching this target. In 1910, Marshall Broomhall’s Islam in China declared that Chinese Islam was a “neglected problem.” These books show that it is no longer neglected, and no longer a “problem”; rather, it is an exciting topic. Indeed, a complete, even if not harmonious, concert.