The Era before 1900:
With the beginning of the era of
Japanese Renaissance, known as the era of Meiji, started in 1868, only two
countries in Asia enjoyed independence, namely the Ottoman Empire and Japan. As
they both came under pressure from Western countries, they decided to establish
friendly relations between them and consequently they started to exchange
visits. The most important of these visits was the mission sent by Abdul Hamid
II (reigned 1876-1909) to Japan on board Al Togrul ship which carried more than
six hundred officers and soldiers led by admiral Uthman Pasha in 1890. On the
homeward journey, after the mission was successfully accomplished in Japan and
meeting Japanese emperor, a fierce hurricane fell on the ship while it was
still in Japanese waters, causing the death of more than 550 people
including the Sultan's brother. The
disaster deeply moved both sides and the survivors were carried on board of two
Japanese ships to Istanbul. The martyrs were buried at the site of the accident
and a museum was set up not far from the accident site. Japanese and Turks still celebrate this event until today
at the same site of the accident every five years despite successive change of
the ship with the survivors going home, a young Japanese journalist by the name
of Shotaro Noda who raised donations in Japan for the martyrs families, left
for Istanbul, handed these donations to Turkish authorities and even met Sultan
Abdul Hamid II, who asked him to stay in Istanbul and teach Japanese to ottoman
officers. During his stay in Istanbul, he met Abdullah Guillaume, an English
Muslim from Liverpool, Britain who introduced Noda to Islam. Quite convinced
after a lengthy discussion that Islam is the truth, Noda embraced Islam and
chose to be named Abdul Haleem, as Turkish document at back of the present
pamphlet shows. In fact, Abdul Haleem Noda could be considered the first
Japanese Muslim. Soon afterwards, another Japanese called Torajiro Yamada went
to Istanbul in 1893 to give donations he had collected back home to the martyrs
families in Turkey. Following his conversion to Islam, being the second
Japanese person to embrace Islam, he changed his name to Khaleel, or maybe
Abdul Khaleel. He stayed in Istanbul several years doing business and kept
friendly relations with Turkey after coming home until his death.
The third Japanese person to embrace Islam was
a Christian merchant by the name of Ahmad Ariga. He visited Bombay,
India in 1900. The beautiful sight of a Mosque there attracted his attention,
he went in and declared his conversion to Islam. During this period, a number
of Indian Muslim merchants lived in Tokyo, Yokohama, and Kobeare
considered to be the first Muslim community in Japan.
PERIOD FROM 1900 TO 1920:
Muhammad Ali, one of Sultan Abdul Hamid’s
envoys, visited Japan in 1902 with the intention of building a Mosque in
Yokohama, as some documents have revealed, but he was not successful.
A Turkish general Pertav Pasha, an envoy
of Sultan Abdul Hamid, also visited Japan to monitor the Russo-Japanese
War (1904-05). He spent two years there, met Ottoman emperor and authored a three volume
book in Turkish which I translated the first two volumes into Arabic language.
the Russo-Japanese War, news came in the press that Japanese showed interest in
Islam as well as in the Muslim world, prompted Muslims to call Japanese for
Islam. Abbas Mahmoud Al Aqqad, a prominent Egyptian scholar, mentioned that
some Egyptian officers were so impressed by Japanese victory against Russian
forces that they volunteered to serve in Japanese army and later on married
Japanese women who gave birth to children. Some of them returned home while
some others stayed in Japan. Qari Sarfaraz Hussein, a famous Indian scholar,
also visited Japan towards the end of 1905 and early 1906 and gave lectures on
Islam in Nagasaki and Tokyo. The first Mosque was built in Osaka for Russian
Muslim prisoners in 1905.
in the Muslim world also announced in 1906 that a conference is to be held in
Tokyo in which Japanese would conduct a comparison between various faiths in
order to choose the right one. This news also prompted enthusiastic Muslims to
travel to Japan to attend the conference.
Ahmad Al Jarjawi, an Egyptian Shahriah lawyer and a graduate from Al Azhar
University, claimed that he had attended the conference and wrote a book titled
The Japanese Journey. Al Jarjawi, along with Chinese Sulaiman, Russian
Mukhlis Mahmoud and Indian Hussein Abdul Munim, formed a society in Tokyo to
call to Islam resulted that embraced 12,000 Japanese Islam.
or three years later, Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim, a Muslim traveler and noted caller
of Islam from Russia, came to Japan in 1909 and rejected the claims of Al Jarjawi. This claim was also
rejected by an Indian intellectual Muhammad Barakatullah who stayed in Japan
for five years (1909-1914). In fact, the present author has for some years
until now been trying to find out if Al Jarjawi really visited Japan or not,
and has not found any tangible evidence to this effect, apart from the book
written by Al Jarjawi.
Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim came to Japan in 1909 and
stayed there for six months, during which he met a number of Japanese people,
ranging from ministers to peasants. As a result of his Islamic activities, many
young intellectuals, officers, and journalists embraced Islam. He also visited
China, Korea, India, and Hejaz, Saudi Arabia, and wrote a thousand page long
book in ottoman language, which the author of the present work translated and
revised into Arabic language. It is in the press and will come out soon,
In fact, Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim was a prominent
traveler, a caller of Islam, a politician, a man of letters and an erudite
scholar. The late Dr. Abdul Wahhab Azzam of Egypt, mentioned that the book
Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim had authored was far better than Bin Battutah's book, as
Dr. Muhammad Rajab Bayyumi mentioned in an article published in Al Azhar magazine.
Muhammad Barakatullah, from Bhopal, Indian, also visited
Japan and was the first to teach Urdu in the University of Foreign languages in
Tokyo. He also issued Islamic Fraternity, an Islamic magazine, for
three years (1910-1912), and managed to convert a large number of Japanese
people into Islam. In fact, I have managed to find only two issues of his
magazine, and I am still trying to find the rest as they certainly reflect the
early beginning of Islam in Japan.
Ahmad Fadli, an Egyptian
officer, stayed in Japan and married a Japanese lady in 1908. He met Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim and worked closely with him. He also
with Barakatullah for six months and helped in producing his magazine. In
fact, Fadli wrote The Secret behind the Japanese Progress in Arabic in
1911 and translated the Soul of Japanese into Arabic. He also visited
Waseda University along with Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim and translated one of his
lectures on Islam which lasted for three hours. Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim mentioned
that there were about one thousand Chinese at Waseda University of whom
thirty-nine were Muslims who published "Islamic Awakening” an Islamic
magazine in Chinese which also bears the title in Arabic.
Hasan UHO Hatano, who embraced Islam through
Barakatullah, published an illustrated magazine named Islamic Brotherhood
in 1918. He also published another magazine "Islam” in both Japanese and
English in 1912. I have not found a single issue of these two magazines.
first Japanese Muslim to perform pilgrimage was Umar Yamaoka in 1909, who
accompanied Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim to the holy lands and then to Istanbul.
French magazine La Mound Mousol Man also
published in 1911 some news to the effect that two Japanese people who were
residing in China embraced Islam, and
then returned to Japan, determined to spread Islam in their home country.