Sep 11, 2009

Islamic school adds new meaning to life

Religious school adds new meaning to life 2005-06-25 08:02:15

BEIJING, June 25 -- Two years ago, Ablarti Wubuli failed the college entrance exam and didn't know what he wanted to do with his life.

Now, at 17, he knows. He hopes someday he can be like Mulla Aji.

From the age of 5, Mulla always knew what he wanted to do.

Students at the Islamic Institute in Kashi. (newsphoto)

He started studying the Koran, and now, at 65, he is a senior religious figure in the Idkah Mosque, one of the four largest mosques in China.

"I go to Idkah every day to hold religious services there," Mulla said. "On Friday, the number of people praying usually totals 10,000."

He also lectures on the Koran at the Kashi Islamic Institute, where Ablarti is a student.

"I like studying the Koran here and want to work as an imam in a mosque after my graduation,?Ablarti said through an interpreter. Imam refers to the Islamic clergyman who leads prayer services in a mosque.

"Our society needs this kind of service," he said, "and I am willing to do such work."

But the road for the 17-year-old ethnic Uygur boy has been a winding one. When he graduated from senior middle school in Maigaiti County in Kashi in 2003, his life was at a crossroads.

He failed the university entrance examination but did not want to continue living on a farm.

Fortunately, he got another chance and was allowed to sit the Islamic Institute exam, he passed the test and was enrolled in the institute. Like 150 others, he is spending three years to complete 17 courses.

The institute, established in 1991, built a new school in 2002 at a cost of 5 million yuan (US$600,000), according to Abdulla Aimaitijia, president of the institute.

It has a library and a special Islamic dining room as well as dorms for students.

Each student has to pay 1,900 yuan (US$230) each year to cover tuition fees and living costs, Abdulla said.

The institute has more than 400 graduates.

Of the 14 teachers, 11 are responsible for teaching the Koran. All of those lessons are taught in Arabic. The other classes ?including geography, history and law ?are taught in either Arabic or Uygur.

Ablarti can speak very simple Mandarin Chinese, but most of his classmates can抰 speak Mandarin at all.

Most of these students are ethnic Uygurs or Tajik, a smaller ethnic group. And they all come from the countryside around Kashi, Abdulla said.

And it is to that countryside the students return during busy farming seasons to help the parents with farm work.

Kashi, in the southwestern part of Xinjiang, is an old Silk Road city with a history of more than 2,000 years. It is clearly an Islamic city, and has been since the 10th century, when Islam replaced Buddhism as the dominant religion in the region.

Today there are nearly 10,000 mosques where people hold five prayer services every day. On Fridays, Muslims gather for their grand prayer meeting.

Source: China Daily
Original title was Religious school adds new meaning to life

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