Late twentieth century debates

From the 1950s to the 1970s, all religions including Islam were banned in China. During this period, no religious practice was allowed, therefore resulting in no debates.. However, at beginning of the 1980s, when China began to reform its policy towards religion, the mandate of banning was losing. As a result, all religions came to the surface. As more freedom was given, the religious debate took its course in continuation and the focus was on the following issues:

Mutual criticism among sects: As the religion and religious practice became legal, the Muslims showed unprecedented zeal to their religion. Imams (Ahongs) became very active and enthusiastic to preach Islam. This was almost lost during the past decades. Every sect, in order to attract new member and prevent old members from departing, tried the best possible way to justify its correctness and exposed deficiencies of others. All the old debates were repeated once again.  All the sects were in a state of controversy against each other. The Ikhwan criticized the Menhuan and the Salafiyya while the Menhuan criticized the Ikhwan and the Salafiyya. The Salafiyya criticized the Menhuan and the Ikhwan. The themes were what had been debated in the previous decades among them.

View on Islamic books in Chinese: In 1981, the translation of the Quran in Chinese by professor Ma Jian was published. This was followed by a publication of the translation of “Taj”, a Hadith Collection, translated by a prominent Ahong, Chen Keli. The average Muslims had a chance to read the scripture by themselves without the aid and explanation of Ahongs. The translations were done according to the literal meaning of the text in a way that when words, such as, Allah's hands and eyes, appeared in the text they were translated into the meaning used for human organs. The Ikhwan and the Menhua criticized all Islamic books in Chinese as being disseminating the Salafi ideology and prohibited reading any religious books in Chinese languages. Majority of Muslims saw the Chinese books as easy access to Islamic understanding.

Attitude towards learning Arabic language: From mid 1980s, private schools for learning Arabic were established in different places in China, starting from Linxia of Gansu province. The objective of the schools was to bring up Imams and intellectuals of the new generation in quack speed while the madrasas (religious schools attached to the mosques) were doing the same job in a very slow process. As students of Arabic schools focused more on Arabic language and paid more attentions to text of the Quran and the Hadith as Salafiyya did, the Ahongs felt a risk of Wahabinization of Islamic education. The Ikhwan Ahongs launched a campaign against learning Arabic calling it the language of the Saudi Wahabism. Some Ahongs from the Menhuan also followed the suit.

View on studying abroad: From mid-1980s, Muslim youth began to go abroad for further learning or study Arabic language in different Islamic countries. These countries included Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Libya. The students  in Saudi Arabia, were more or less influenced by the Wahabi ideology and therefore came back with a Wahabi tendency.  On the other hand, students from other countries were unable to reach what the people expected from them in terms knowledge and practice. The people started to suspect the role of sending youth abroad.  Many Ahongs from both the Ikhwan and the Menhuan began to criticize graduates of Islamic universities especially graduates of Islamic University of Madinah as either disseminating the Wahabi ideology or distorting Islam by their insufficient knowledge. As a result, they strongly opposed sending students abroad for learning.

Attitudes toward women's classes: With the increase in Madras and Arabic schools, women classes for basic knowledge of Islam were offered everywhere. However, a group of conservative Ahongs from Ikhwan strongly opposed the women classes. They argued that learning is not obligatory for women if they could perform the prayers.  If they cannot perform the prayers, their husbands should take responsibility to teach them, and if not, then the women can get out of the house for pursuing the necessary knowledge. Further, this can only be done under strict conditions that she should be disguised as a beggar holding a stick in the hand, wearing torn clothes, soiling her face and walk on the side walk. As soon as she acquires the necessary knowledge she should stop learning and stay at home. Whereas others viewed that learning was equally obligatory on men and women. They should be able to acquire knowledge as freely as men and should be able to learn as much as she could. They argued that it is not considered Haram when a woman goes shopping and visiting her relatives and friends. Similarly, they should not be prohibited from learning Islamic knowledge. The debate of the women education or girls’ schools is still going on in some places of Gansu and Qinghai confined within the Ikhwan.