The One Hundred Word Eulogy: A Poetic Tribute to Prophet Muhammad PBUH by a Chinese Emperor.
BY: Shumaila Munib Shumail
Zhu Yuanzhang was the founder of the Ming and one of only two commoners to become emperors of China. Zhu Yuanzhang was born on 21 October 1328 in China into a very poor family on the Huai River, at a time when the Mongol Yuan was collapsing and chaos was spreading everywhere.
“The future Hongwu emperor was born in 1328 as Zhu Chongba, a poor peasant of Haozhou (about 100 miles [160 km] northwest of Nanjing, near China’s east coast).” (1).
He was not good-looking, but his admirable work is always remembered in China’s history. He died in June 1398 in Ming China.
The Ming dynasty:
The watershed moment came in 1368 when Zhu Yuanzhang proclaimed himself emperor, heralding the birth of the Ming dynasty and signaling the end of Yuan dynasty Mongol rule. He adopted the formal name “Hongwu” to symbolize the extent of his reign, while the era he ushered in became known as the Hongwu period. (The name “Ming” signifies a commitment to “brightness” and “clarity”, indicating his vision for a just and righteous administration.)
As an Emperor:
“The Hongwu emperor was cruel, suspicious, and irrational, especially as he grew older. Instead of eliminating Mongol influence, he made his court resemble the Mongol court, and the despotic power of the emperor was institutionalized for the rest of the dynasty.” (2)
“One of his political acts was to grant principalities to all his sons, ostensibly out of fear of another Mongol invasion, so that the imperial princes could be given military powers to aid the regular armies. A contributing factor was his interest in maintaining personal control over the empire through his sons’ principalities.” (3)
As a Reformer:
A number of reforms were set down by the Hongwu Emperor in order to solidify his authority and create a powerful, centralized government. His most noteworthy achievements are:
By redistributing land to peasants, Hongwu reduced the influence of aristocratic landlords and lightened the financial burden on general citizens.
He reduced the tax burden on farmers by establishing a unified and equitable tax system.
Hongwu continued to rule in the south from the former Yuan capital of Nanjing. He initiated reforms to restore war-ravaged agricultural lands, erase all traces of the Mongol past, and promote China’s power and prosperity. Hongwu’s agricultural reforms increased rice production and improved irrigation.
Hongwu instituted a merit-based, efficient civil service examination system that made government service possible for skilled individuals from all social backgrounds.
To guarantee the stability and security of his empire, he established a strong, standing army.
“In 1388, he led a strong imperial Ming army out of the Great Wall and won a decisive victory over the Mongols in Mongolia, effectively ending the Mongol dream of conquering China once again. Lan Yu was later killed by the Emperor, along with several others, in a purge of those deemed to be a potential threat to his heir apparent.” (4)
The Hongwu Emperor oversaw the building of Nanjing’s Ming Palace and the reconstruction of the Great Wall, signifying his dedication to both national security and strengthening China’s state.
The Ming dynasty supported Muslim sultanates in Southeast Asia, like the Malacca Sultanate, protecting them from Thailand and the Portuguese and allowing them to prosper. It also supported the Muslim Champa state against Vietnam.
The Hongwu Emperor, Zhou Yuanzhang, is an important figure in Chinese history, credited with founding the Ming Dynasty and implementing a series of major reforms that shaped China’s political and social landscape. His rise from humble beginnings to a position of immense power underscores his importance as a transformative leader in Chinese history, leaving an enduring legacy that continues to influence the nation to this day.
Respect for Islam and Muslims:
The reign of the Ming dynasty in China is the period when the European powers were weaving the fabric of the Neo-colonial system. In order to counter European colonialism and protect China from external influences, the Ming rulers adopted a policy of limiting international relations to protect China from external interference. The immediate effect of this new situation was that China and the Muslims living in the famous harbour and coastal areas migrated and spread across the length and breadth of the country. Likewise, when Mongol rule ended, foreign elements began to be viewed with suspicion in China. For these two reasons, this era in China was a period of extraordinary change with respect to Muslims. Historians write that until now, Muslims used to be a foreign group in China, but after the end of the Mongol era, the ties of Chinese Muslims with their co-religious nations settled in other areas were severed, as was the trust of the government of the time.” In order to achieve this, the Muslims of China started to adopt the local customs, traditions, and culture. In his period, Nanjing, the capital of the Ming Dynasty, quickly became the centre of Islamic sciences and arts. Hu Zhengzhou, a Chinese Muslim scholar, established an Islamic seminary in Nanjing and started promoting the Qur’an and Hadith. In this institution, Arabic and Persian were taught, and experts and scholars of various subjects and sciences were born. Islamic books began to be translated into the Chinese language. Muslims of the Hui generation greatly increased the Islamic literature in the Chinese language for the promotion and spread of Islam among the original inhabitants of China, namely the Han Chinese, and efforts to make the Chinese believe that Islamic education is not far from the concepts of Confucius. It was the preaching strategy that played an important role in strengthening and consolidating the roots of Islam in China, compared to Judaism and Christianity.
The descendants of the founder of the Ming Dynasty, the Honorable Hongwu, and the Ming rulers who sat on the throne for the next three centuries maintained a policy of closeness and love towards Muslims. In particular, your son Yongle followed in the footsteps of his respected father and treated the Chinese Muslims with special kindness and favor. He gave the written peace to the Muslims, the words of which were displayed in the mosques of Fuzhou and Guangzhou for centuries.
Built Mosque for Muslims:
“The Hongwu Emperor ordered the building of several mosques in southern China and wrote a 100-character praise of Islam, Allah, and the prophet Muhammad. He had over 10 Muslim generals in his military. The Emperor built mosques in Nanjing, Yunnan, Guangdong, and Fujian.” (5)
As a result of the fusion of Chinese civilization and Muslim lifestyles, a new era of Islam began in China. Compared to the Jews and Christians living in China, the way of life of the Muslims became so attractive that, on the one hand, its popularity increased among the Chinese people, and on the other hand, the Jews and Christians living in China began to be attracted to Islam. Due to the extraordinary devotion of the Ming rulers to Islam and the successful efforts to integrate the Muslims living in China into the Chinese culture, the term “Chinese Muslim” became common instead of “Islam in China” or “Muslims in China”.
Chinese Muslims became an integral part of Chinese culture.
China has a rich culture, but his kindness towards Muslims is remarkable. In his period, the Muslims living in China, while maintaining their Islamic identity, introduced a new face to Chinese civilization, culture, and the fusion of Islam. The Muslims who migrated and settled in China from foreign regions started adopting local names: Sa for Saeed, Ha instead of Hasan, Hu instead of Hussain, and those with the name Muhammad adopted the names “Maya” and “Mo.”
Ali Akbar Khata’i wrote in his book Khataynameh: “The Emperor [Xiaozong-Hongzhi Emperor (1487–1505)] not only employed many Muslim officials but also had a marked personal inclination towards Islam. The Kin Tay (Zhengde, r. 1505–1521) had been very friendly with the Muslims and had Muslim warlords under his service. The eunuchs of the Chinese palace are all Muslims who can practice their faith without any limitations.” He also called the Zhengde Emperor as “Khan”.(6)
The Ming dynasty (1368–1644) is popularly thought of by Chinese Muslims as a golden age of Islam in China. During this period, Muslims grew as a community, not only because existing families thrived, but also because they attracted greater numbers of converts to the religion. These social changes gradually led to the emergence of a class of Chinese Muslims: literati and a new literary genre of translated and original Islamic texts in the Chinese language.
The overall success and well-being experienced by Muslims in China during the Ming was due in no small part to the Muslim-friendly actions and policies initiated by the dynasty’s founder, the Hongwu Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (r. 1368–1388). Throughout his life, Zhu surrounded himself with Muslims, both in his personal affairs and in connection with official matters of state. (7)
Marriage law between Muslims and the Ming family :
The Hongwu Emperor belonged to the Han dynasty, which is considered to be the most respected and respected ethnic group in China. The emperors of China who ruled China for nearly two thousand years until the Ming dynasty also belonged to the Han dynasty. According to the customs and traditions of the Han Chinese, it was forbidden to marry in other Chinese nations, but the founder of the Ming Dynasty, Honorable Hongwu, allowed Muslims to marry Han Chinese under Article 122.
Ming’s Muslims are loyalists.
He showed respect for Muslims, and then Muslims showed loyalty to him.
The Muslim Ming loyalists were supported by Hami’s Sultan Sa’id Baba and his son, Prince Turumtay. (8)
The Muslim Ming loyalists were joined by Tibetans and Han Chinese in the revolt. (9).
The One Hundred Word Eulogy:
The Hongwu Emperor of the Chinese Ming dynasty wrote the “One Hundred Word Eulogy,” which is also known as Baiwen Eulogy: The One Hundred Word Eulogy (百字讃; pinyin: BŎi Zì Zàn), a 100-character homage to Islam and the Islamic prophet Muhammad. It is accessible for viewing in a number of Nanjing, China, mosques.
Each verse in the poem, which is written in the style of a quatrain, has four words and four syllables. It is a lovely and succinct ode to Islam that emphasizes its main principles and teachings. The poem opens with the claim that God appointed a great faith-preaching man from the West from the moment the universe was created. This man is the Prophet Muhammad, who was given the thirty-part book known as the Holy Scriptures to lead all creation. In this poem, he says that he prayed five times a day, silently praying for peace, and that he had divine (God’s help) backing to defend his country.
Here I mention the poem in Chinese verses.
Poem in Chinese:
Translated by Sh. Musa Cerantonio:
Since the creation of the Universe,
God had decreed to appoint,
This great faith-preaching man,
From the West he was born,
He received the Holy Scripture,
A Book of thirty parts,
To guide all creation,
Master of all Rulers,
Leader of Holy Ones,
With Support from Above,
To Protect His Nation,
With five daily prayers,
Silently hoping for peace,
His heart towards Allah,
Empowering the poor,
Saving them from calamity,
Seeing through the darkness,
Pulling souls and spirits,
Away from all wrongdoings,
A Mercy to the Worlds,
Traversing the ancient majestic path,
Vanquishing away all evil,
His Religion Pure and True,
The Noble & Great one.(11)
Hong-Wu was a non-Muslim ruler, but in his poem, he paid great tribute to a great leader and ruler of the world.
4: Dun J. Li, The Ageless Chinese (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971), p. 27.
5: Tan Ta Sen; Dasheng Chen (2000), Cheng Ho and Islam in Southeast Asia, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 170. ISBN 978-981-230-837-5.
6: Hagras, Hamada (20 December 2019). “The Ming Court as Patron of Chinese Islamic Architecture: The Case Study of the Daxuexi Mosque in Xi’an”. SHEDET (6): 134–158. doi:10.36816/shedet.006.08.
7: (Praising the Prophet Muhammad in Chinese, page 11)
8: Dwyer, Arienne M. (2007). Salar: A Study in Inner Asian Language Contact Processes, Part 1 (illustrated ed.). Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 8. ISBN 978-3447040914.
9: lipman, Jonathan Neaman (1998). Familiar strangers: a history of Muslims in Northwest China. University of Washington Press. p. 55. ISBN 978-0295800554