Squatting just inside the glass doors of his family store, Hassan watches the residents of the quarter walk by as they head home from work. Hassan is not an intimidating figure. He is a short, bony guy with a thin wispy goatee hanging from his chin. As he sees strangers come into view, he hops up and opens the door while waving us over.
We are excited to find someone who wants to talk. We have heard stories about the Huihui, but we are hoping to meet someone and hear directly about their history and culture. We quickly learn that Hassan is a teacher at the local mosque. He has traveled overseas to study Islam and is very comfortable talking about Islam and the history of his people.
Hassan believes the Huihui traveled to Hainan Island about 400 years ago from Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam. He does not consider them a separate people group from the Hui but does acknowledge they are different. For starters, the Huihui are generally more devout Muslims. Being such a small community, strong peer pressure exists to attend the mosque regularly and provide an opportunity for your children to go to the mosque and study. During our short stay in the Huihui district, we find that all are very knowledgeable about Islam and all are strongly committed to their faith. We do not find “cultural” Muslims. Our understanding is that this is because Malaysian Muslim missionaries have traveled to Hainan Island from time to time to provide teaching and training.
Hassan is very proud of how the Huihui district is developing as the single level residences are being replaced with large six level guesthouses. He boasts about how more than 50,000 Hui travel down to Hainan Island every winter and stay in their guesthouses, eat in their restaurants and attend his local mosque. Hassan is happy that the Huihui are able to provide such great hospitality to the Hui. However, though they are both Muslim they are not the same.
For decades Hui were unable to travel to Hainan Island to vacation whether it was because they were too poor or unable to receive permission. Then, the Huihui longed to meet and fellowship with their brothers and sisters in the faith on the mainland. However, as the economy grew and Hui tourists began traveling to Hainan Island, the Huihui were not impressed because most of the tourists were not as devout. They were not going to the mosque five times a day and their clothing was not as conservative. Instead, the only thing that identified many as Muslim was that they did not eat pork.
As is obvious by talking with Hassan, the Huihui are extremely proud they are “real” Muslims who understand Islam and follow the traditions and rituals. They do not want their faith to be watered down. They will gladly serve the many Hui who travel down for vacation and encourage them to attend the mosque, but they will be careful to not adopt the secular ways of the Hui.
- Pray that local Jesus followers will intentionally live and work among the Huihui and seek to be a light for Jesus.
- Pray that Huihui will have many opportunities to hear the Gospel this year!
- Pray that God will remove the barriers that are keeping the Huihui from hearing and following Jesus.