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Main » 2011 » January » 4 » Islam in Japan (2)
7:46 AM
Islam in Japan (2)

PERIOD FROM 1920 TO 1930:

The Japanese became more interested in the Muslim world for expansionist, economic, and cultural reasons. The meaning of Holy Qur'an was translated into Japanese, Islamic societies were set up, and Islamic and Orientalist books were written.


The Tatar Muslim emigrants then started entering Japan fleeing Communist rule in Russia and most of them ultimately settled in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Kobe. The second Japanese Muslim to perform pilgrimage in 1924 was the late Ippei Tanaka who had embraced Islam when he was in China. Umar Mita, the well known translator of the meaning of Holy Qur'an into Japanese, also embraced Islam in China. 

Umar Yamaoka visited Egypt and went to Al Azhar University in 1924. A photo was taken of him in Al Azhar University gown, in which he appeared as though he is one of the venerable scholars of Indonesia or Malaysia.


PERIOD FROM 1930 TO 1940:

Abdul Hay Qurban Ali emerged as a religious leader of Tatar Muslims and published Yapan Makhbari, an Islamic magazine in the Tatar language which was distributed inside and outside Japan. He also established a printing house with Arabic letters, in which Islamic books were printed in Tatar language. The Qur'an was also printed in this printing house. This Holy Qur’an had been printed a few years before in the city of Kazan before the Communist rule. He also strengthened his relations with  Japanese authorities and managed through their assistance and support to build first Mosque in Tokyo in 1938. Dignitaries who attended the inauguration of Mosque included late Hafiz Wahbah, the ambassador of Saudi Arabia in London on behalf of late king Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Saif Al Islam Al Hussein from Yemen, Mahmoud Fawzi, consul of Egypt in Japan who later became Egyptian foreign minister and then vice president of the Egyptian republic. The author of the present work is still keeping the speeches and their translations as well as the photos which were taken on the occasion.


Abdr Rasheed Ibrahim visited Japan for the second time in 1933 and worked closely with Qurban Ali in managing the affairs of Muslim community in Japan. In fact, Japanese officers whom he converted to Islam later occupied important positions in the country. He stayed in Japan until his death in 1944.


Noorul Hasan Barlas, a leading professor from India, came to Japan and was appointed a university chair of Urdu in the University of Foreign Languages in Tokyo from 1932 to 1949. He actively participated in Islamic activities and wrote a number of articles on "Islam in Japan” in Urdu, which the author of the present work, translated into Arabic. In fact, I met his son in Karachi, Pakistan in 1997 as well as his grandsons in Karachi, Islamabad, Pakistan and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


Alimullah Siddiqi, a renowned scholar and caller of Islam from India, also visited Japan and gave a number of lectures on Islam in Tokyo. Alimullah Siddiqi was in fact one of the first travelers and caller of Islam who traveled world widely and established many Islamic Centers, wherever he went. I still have a copy of the lecture he gave on the position of women in Islam which he delivered in Orion Hotel in Ginza in the heart of Tokyo in 1936.


During this period, Indian Muslims founded a Mosque in Kobe in 1935, and the late "Firooz Japan wala”, made a handsome financial contribution towards its building. I also met his son in Delhi in 1995 and kissed his head in memory of his father. Tatar Muslims also built a Mosque in the city of Nagoya.


Japan also showed interest in East Turkistan, which is part of China, and for this reason it invited Muslim leaders and students to Japan. Among them "Ameen Islami” who held the position of Imam in Tokyo Mosque from 1938 to 1953. He then left for Taif, Saudi Arabia, then to Jeddah where he worked as a broadcaster and then in the Saudi Ministry of hajj. His children are still in Jeddah.


The late Mustafa Komura, another Japanese leader, also embraced Islam in this period and played a major role in Islamic activities and worked closely with Muslims in East Turkistan and Yunnan, a province of China. After the war, he formed two Islamic societies which were officially recognized, hence being the first Japanese Muslim to obtain official registration from the Japanese authorities, which was literally an extremely difficult task in the country. He also sent scores of Japanese students to Pakistan, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia and took an active part in translation of the meanings of Holy Qur’an to Japanese in Makkah Al Mukarramah, Saudi Arabia, and authored an extensive encyclopedia on the history of Islam in Japan, which we translated into English.


During this period, a large number of Japanese Muslims started performing Hajj. A few years later, late Salih Suzuki, a Japanese Hajj, had the honor of meeting the late King Abdul Aziz Al Saud who was in the habit of giving special care to Japanese pilgrims. Noor Tanaka performed Hajj for the second time in 1934.


In fact, Syed Amoudi who used to work in Muslim World League, Makkah Al Mukarramah, Saudi Arabia, informed me that Mr. Muhsin Japan Uglu, Mr. Qurban Ali’s brother in-law, visited Saudi Arabia and personally met the late King Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz in Taif in the mid thirties, explained to him the situation of Muslims in Japan and sought his help and support.


A Noted Lebanese businessman and a literary person Abdur Rahman Qulelat also came to Japan along with his family after a journey from Brazil and settled in Japan. In fact, he gave a great deal of assistance to Muslims in Japan. The DEBIS family, including their eldest member Abdul Hadi Debis, who was a big businessmen, also settled in Japan. The latter’s cousin, late Mr. Fuad Debis, as well as the entire Debis family made huge contributions towards the assistance of Muslims and Islam in Japan.


PERIOD FROM 1940 TO 1950:

Sheikh Abdullah Togai, Al Azhar University envoy as a caller to Islam, arrived in Japan in 1941 and stayed in Japan for only six months, and went back to Egypt which joined the Allies against the Axis during the Second World War. While still in Japan, he taught Mr. Umar Hayashi Arabic language. Hayashi is one of the elderly Japanese Muslims who work for a long time as a representative of Arab oil company in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and still active with Japan Muslim Association.


Abdul Kareem Tabbarah, a famous Lebanese stock trader, lived in Japan in 1941 deciphered the symbols and mysterious writings owned by the Ainu Tribes, the aboriginal inhabitants of Japan, after skilled Japanese linguists and anthropologists failed to do so. Then he provided a translation of these symbols and writings during a press conference which was held in Tokyo. 


Japan joined the Second World War and occupied parts of Asia, affording Japanese the opportunity to come into contact with Muslims from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Philippine. Prominent Japanese persons embraced Islam, including Umar Yukiba who converted to Islam in Malaysia, the late Abdul Muneer Watanabe, the late Sadiq Imaizumi, the late Faruq Nagase, Suda and Matsubayashi.


Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim, the leading Tatar scholar of Japan, passed away in 1944 and was buried in Tama Muslim graveyard on the outskirts of Tokyo.


Japan lost the war and three million Japanese returned to Japan including those who embraced Islam in Asia.


Noorul Hasan Barlas returned to Pakistan after selling ancient stamps and used the money to buy tickets for himself and his wife. As I mentioned earlier on, I met his 82 year old son who had previously studied in Yokohama school.

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