Monday 23 May 2022

Islam in Vietnam

We have been sharing spread  of Islam and life of Muslims in countries with non Muslim majority around the glob. So far we have covered 68 countries non Muslim countries, Iceland being the last entry. Today we move to South east Asia to Vietnam. Vietnamese are known for their loyalty, hardship and devotion to their work to raise their nation after over two decades of war with the USA. And despite the massive devastation of their country, their resilience never waned and they ultimately forced the intruders to not only regain their honour, their country, but also ensured unification of two Vietnams into one.

About 74%  of the people of the Vietnam either follow folk re3ligious traditions or have no religion at all. Of the remaining 14% are Buddhists. Muslims form part of other religions that constitute 0.25 of the total population, of which (as per Wikipedia and Vietnam's April 1999 census) there were some 63,146 Muslims. Over 77% lived in the South Central Coast, with 34% in Ninh Thuận Province, 24% in Bình Thuận Province, and 9% in Ho Chi Minh City; another 22% lived in the Mekong Delta region, primarily in An Giang Province. Only 1% of Muslims lived in other regions of the country. 
The earliest Muslim that came to this part of the world were in the times of Uthman ibn Affan, the third Caliph of Islam, who sent the first official Muslim envoy to Vietnam and Tang Dynasty China in 650. This was followed by seafaring Muslim traders who are known to have made stops at ports in the Champa Kingdom en route to China. During the 9th and 12th century, various medieval Arabic geographical works had identified modern-day eastern Indochina as lands of the Qimar (Khmer, Cambodians), the Sanf (Cham) and the Luqin (Vietnamese). However, the earliest material evidence of the transmission of Islam consists of Song Dynasty-era documents from China, which record that the Cham familiarized themselves with Islam in the late 10th and early 11th centuries. The number of followers began to increase as contacts with Sultanate of Malacca broadened in the wake of the 1471 collapse of the Champa Kingdom, but Islam would not become widespread among the Cham until the mid-17th century.

After the 1976 establishment of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, some of the 55,000 Muslim Chams emigrated to Malaysia. 1,750 were also accepted as immigrants by Yemen; most settled in Ta'izz. Those who remained did not suffer violent persecution, although some writers claim that their mosques were closed by the government. In 1981, foreign visitors to Vietnam were still permitted to speak to indigenous Muslims and pray alongside them, and a 1985 account described Ho Chi Minh City's Muslim community as being especially ethnically diverse: aside from Cham people, there were also Indonesians, Malays, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Omanis, and North Africans; their total numbers were roughly 10,000 at the time. 

There are two Muslim groups in Vietnam: Sunni Muslims and Bani Cham Muslims. The Sunni community has a wider in term of ethnicity (Cham, Viet, Malay, Khmer, Chinese, and Arab). Their population in 2006 was 25,000; mostly inhabiting in the southwest of the Mekong Delta, along with urban areas such as Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. The Bani branch is considered unorthodox because its practices are different from mainstream Islam, and heavily influenced by Cham folk and Hindu religion. Bani Muslims consisted entirely of ethnic Chams living particularly in the provinces of Ninh Thuận and Bình Thuận. 
Cham Musloms (Photo)
Cham Muslims are heavily depending on support from the outside. Most contributions come from Malaysia and Indonesia, and it is also there scholars in Vietnam get their teachings and degrees. Copying and distributing the Holy Quran and Islamic Scriptures are unofficially prohibited in Vietnam, and has from time to time resulted in merges between Buddhist rituals and Islamic teachings. The Muslim majority are the Cham Muslims. The second largest group are ethnical Vietnamese converts, and though Islam is slowly rising in the country, the Cham Muslims feel disconnected with the ethnical Vietnamese, as fragments of resentment between the once ruler and then conquer is still felt on both sides. [2]

Dring Communist regimes, the tiny Muslim population suffered from communist oppression. However, today, the Vietnamese regard the Muslim community with a favorable opinion due to its tolerance approach. It's notable that religious worshipping locations, whenever located, can be found easily and get less harassment despite the communist's atheist policy. Ho Chi Minh City already has five major mosques and a Muslim district.
Vu Thi Vui - reverted Muslim, now named Khadija (Photo)
There are revrsions to Islam among Vietnamese as most do not follow any prescribed religion. Vu Thi Vui (pictured above) is one such reverted Muslim. Vui’s conversion has helped her business, because many Muslim restaurants in the capital city that can only use halal meat buy it from her. After her reversion to Islam, she has been named Khadija (after the name of first wife of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ). Her family members were shocked by Vui's change in religion because it would upturn long-standing Vietnamese traditions. Under Islam, believers are not allowed to light incense for ancestors and parents, the argument being that a living person or a dead person cannot have a higher position than the Creator. Her father was aghast: "Who will pay respect to me after I die?" However, lately husband and children have also followed Islam.

As for the honesty and trust of Muslims, Khadija confides:
"At times for Muslim prayers, people just leave their shop (where they sell and work) and go to pray. Even the gold shop is not carefully locked and there was no fear of thieves. This made me curious and I started to learn about their religion."
The Muslim were praying on the yard of Al-Noor mosque on a holy Friday noon. Photo by VnExpress/Anh Trung/e.vnexpress

The Muslim meal is typical of that of most Vietnamese families, comprising vegetables, chicken and lamb, a favorite meat in the Middle East. Halal is permissible meat under Islamic Law, which involves slaughtering animals and poultry by cutting the jugular vein, carotid artery and windpipe. Visitors from Muslim countries all over the world, including regional ones like Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, will only eat halal food, which bans consumption of pork. [3]

As for living in Vietnam, Muslims have to make adjustments in their lifestyle to deal with differences in Islamic regulations and Vietnamese laws. For example they cannot have the right to some actions acceptable under Islamic laws. "Vietnamese followers of Islam abide by two sets of rules: Islamic rules and Vietnam’s laws," said Hussein, 27, an Imam (priest) who leads prayers at the Al-Noor mosque, adding that certain Islamic rules are not compatible with Vietnamese law. Interestingly, Muslims cannot practice polygamy in Vietnam.

Headscarves, long skirts and sleeves are common in Cham neighbourhoods but women leave their heads uncovered when they go to work, and may opt for jeans. They say this is partly out of a fear of discrimination by co-workers.
One of the many mosques in Vietnam (Photo)
Click here to see eight of the best masjids in Vietnam

Religious activity remains under state control in communist Vietnam but worship among a variety of faiths is flourishing. The scene of prayer time is unique in Vietnam. MV Media reports that the call to prayer from the minaret reaches out over tightly-packed alleys in a Ho Chi Minh City neighbourhood as men in white knitted skullcaps and colourful sarongs walk to their local mosque. The scene is more reminiscent of Malaysia, Indonesia or Brunei - not Vietnam and its Chinese-influenced culture where Muslims are a tiny fraction of the population. Ho Chi Minh City has more than a dozen imams, all trained in Vietnam. Foreign imams also visit, especially from Malaysia, and the Koran has been translated into Vietnamese. Reportedly, there are 16 mosques in Ho Chi Minh City, some of them built with assistance from Muslim nations. Many older Muslim residents make pilgrimages to Mecca, and most Cham have Arabic names on their government-issued identity cards. [4]

Watch a documentary on the life and religious activities of Cham Muslims in An Giang:
Disclaimer: The data for this post has been collected from the references as given below. If any one differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.

To know more about life of Muslims in other non Muslim countries, please visit our page: Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.
Photo  | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 |
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