History of Islam in Japan
ISLAM IN JAPAN
HSITORY, SPREAD, AND INSTITUTIONS IN THE COUNTRY
Prof. Dr. Salih Mahdi S. Al Samarrai
Islamic Center- Japan
1-16-11, Ohara, Setagaya-Ku,
Tokyo 156-0041, Japan
Tel: 0081-3-3460-6169 Fax: 0081-3-3460-6105
The light of Islam emanated from the Arabian Peninsula and spread eastwards to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Indian sub-continent, then to Malaysia and reached as far as China and Philippine. It continued spreading for a long time and reached different parts of the world but reached Japan only towards the end of the nineteenth century. In fact, Japanese, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, feel wonder why Islam was so delayed and did not reach Japan at the time it did reach to China and Philippine. In the present pamphlet, I would like to present a chronology of Islam in Japan, writing whatever information I have about each point in time, based on fifty years of my life which I spent in Japan and fifty years of research. The present work does not pretend to be exhaustive, but different writings on the subject will certainly provide a more comprehensive study. I hereby present my work, seeking the good pleasure of Almighty Allah. I pray to Allah (S.W.T.) for His Mercy and I beg my Muslim bothers for forgiveness.
Dr. Salih Mahdi S. Al Samarrai
The Era before 1900:
With the beginning of the era of Japanese Renaissance, known as the era of Meiji, started in 1868, only two countries in Asia enjoyed independence, namely the Ottoman Empire and Japan. As they both came under pressure from Western countries, they decided to establish friendly relations between them and consequently they started to exchange visits. The most important of these visits was the mission sent by Abdul Hamid II (reigned 1876-1909) to Japan on board Al Togrul ship which carried more than six hundred officers and soldiers led by admiral Uthman Pasha in 1890. On the homeward journey, after the mission was successfully accomplished in Japan and meeting Japanese emperor, a fierce hurricane fell on the ship while it was still in Japanese waters, causing the death of more than 550 people including the Sultan’s brother. The disaster deeply moved both sides and the survivors were carried on board of two Japanese ships to Istanbul. The martyrs were buried at the site of the accident and a museum was set up not far from the accident site. Japanese and Turks still celebrate this event until today at the same site of the accident every five years despite successive change of governments.
Along the ship with the survivors going home, a young Japanese journalist by the name of Shotaro Noda who raised donations in Japan for the martyrs families, left for Istanbul, handed these donations to Turkish authorities and even met Sultan Abdul Hamid II, who asked him to stay in Istanbul and teach Japanese to ottoman officers. During his stay in Istanbul, he met Abdullah Guillaume, an English Muslim from Liverpool, Britain who introduced Noda to Islam. Quite convinced after a lengthy discussion that Islam is the truth, Noda embraced Islam and chose to be named Abdul Haleem, as Turkish document at back of the present pamphlet shows. In fact, Abdul Haleem Noda could be considered the first Japanese Muslim. Soon afterwards, another Japanese called Torajiro Yamada went to Istanbul in 1893 to give donations he had collected back home to the martyrs families in Turkey. Following his conversion to Islam, being the second Japanese person to embrace Islam, he changed his name to Khaleel, or maybe Abdul Khaleel. He stayed in Istanbul several years doing business and kept friendly relations with Turkey after coming home until his death.
The third Japanese person to embrace Islam was a Christian merchant by the name of Ahmad Ariga. He visited Bombay, India in 1900. The beautiful sight of a Mosque there attracted his attention, he went in and declared his conversion to Islam. During this period, a number of Indian Muslim merchants lived in Tokyo, Yokohama, and Kobe, they are considered to be the first Muslim community in Japan.
PERIOD FROM 1900 TO 1920:
Muhammad Ali, one of Sultan Abdul Hamid’s envoys, visited Japan in 1902 with the intention of building a Mosque in Yokohama, as some documents have revealed, but he was not successful.
A Turkish general Pertav Pasha, an envoy of Sultan Abdul Hamid, also visited Japan to monitor the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05). He spent two years there, met Ottoman emperor and authored a three volume book in Turkish which I translated the first two volumes into Arabic language.
After the Russo-Japanese War, news came in the press that Japanese showed interest in Islam as well as in the Muslim world, prompted Muslims to call Japanese for Islam. Abbas Mahmoud Al Aqqad, a prominent Egyptian scholar, mentioned that some Egyptian officers were so impressed by Japanese victory against Russian forces that they volunteered to serve in Japanese army and later on married Japanese women who gave birth to children. Some of them returned home while some others stayed in Japan. Qari Sarfaraz Hussein, a famous Indian scholar, also visited Japan towards the end of 1905 and early 1906 and gave lectures on Islam in Nagasaki and Tokyo. The first Mosque was built in Osaka for Russian Muslim prisoners in 1905.
News in the Muslim world also announced in 1906 that a conference is to be held in Tokyo in which Japanese would conduct a comparison between various faiths in order to choose the right one. This news also prompted enthusiastic Muslims to travel to Japan to attend the conference.
Ali Ahmad Al Jarjawi, an Egyptian Shahriah lawyer and a graduate from Al Azhar University, claimed that he had attended the conference and wrote a book titled The Japanese Journey. Al Jarjawi, along with Chinese Sulaiman, Russian Mukhlis Mahmoud and Indian Hussein Abdul Munim, formed a society in Tokyo to call to Islam resulted that embraced 12,000 Japanese Islam.
Two or three years later, Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim, a Muslim traveler and noted caller of Islam from Russia, came to Japan in 1909 and rejected the claims of Al Jarjawi. This claim was also rejected by an Indian intellectual Muhammad Barakatullah who stayed in Japan for five years (1909-1914). In fact, the present author has for some years until now been trying to find out if Al Jarjawi really visited Japan or not, and has not found any tangible evidence to this effect, apart from the book written by Al Jarjawi.
Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim came to Japan in 1909 and stayed there for six months, during which he met a number of Japanese people, ranging from ministers to peasants. As a result of his Islamic activities, many young intellectuals, officers, and journalists embraced Islam. He also visited China, Korea, India, and Hejaz, Saudi Arabia, and wrote a thousand page long book in ottoman language, which the author of the present work translated and revised into Arabic language. It is in the press and will come out soon, inshaa Allah.
In fact, Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim was a prominent traveler, a caller of Islam, a politician, a man of letters and an erudite scholar. The late Dr. Abdul Wahhab Azzam of Egypt, mentioned that the book Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim had authored was far better than Bin Battutah’s book, as Dr. Muhammad Rajab Bayyumi mentioned in an article published in Al Azhar magazine.
Muhammad Barakatullah, from Bhopal, Indian, also visited Japan and was the first to teach Urdu in the University of Foreign languages in Tokyo. He also issued Islamic Fraternity, an Islamic magazine, for three years (1910-1912), and managed to convert a large number of Japanese people into Islam. In fact, I have managed to find only two issues of his magazine, and I am still trying to find the rest as they certainly reflect the early beginning of Islam in Japan.
Ahmad Fadli, an Egyptian officer, stayed in Japan and married a Japanese lady in 1908. He met Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim and worked closely with him. He also worked
closely with Barakatullah for six months and helped in producing his magazine. In fact, Fadli wrote The Secret behind the Japanese Progress in Arabic in 1911 and translated the Soul of Japanese into Arabic. He also visited Waseda University along with Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim and translated one of his lectures on Islam which lasted for three hours. Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim mentioned that there were about one thousand Chinese at Waseda University of whom thirty-nine were Muslims who published “Islamic Awakening” an Islamic magazine in Chinese which also bears the title in Arabic.
Hasan UHO Hatano, who embraced Islam through Barakatullah, published an illustrated magazine named Islamic Brotherhood in 1918. He also published another magazine “Islam” in both Japanese and English in 1912. I have not found a single issue of these two magazines.
The first Japanese Muslim to perform pilgrimage was Umar Yamaoka in 1909, who accompanied Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim to the holy lands and then to Istanbul.
French magazine La Mound Mousol Man also published in 1911 some news to the effect that two Japanese people who were residing in China embraced Islam, and then returned to Japan, determined to spread Islam in their home country.
PERIOD FROM 1920 TO 1930:
The Japanese became more interested in the Muslim world for expansionist, economic, and cultural reasons. The meaning of Holy Qur’an was translated into Japanese, Islamic societies were set up, and Islamic and Orientalist books were written.
The Tatar Muslim emigrants then started entering Japan fleeing Communist rule in Russia and most of them ultimately settled in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Kobe. The second Japanese Muslim to perform pilgrimage in 1924 was the late Ippei Tanaka who had embraced Islam when he was in China. Umar Mita, the well known translator of the meaning of Holy Qur’an into Japanese, also embraced Islam in China.
Umar Yamaoka visited Egypt and went to Al Azhar University in 1924. A photo was taken of him in Al Azhar University gown, in which he appeared as though he is one of the venerable scholars of Indonesia or Malaysia.
PERIOD FROM 1930 TO 1940:
Abdul Hay Qurban Ali emerged as a religious leader of Tatar Muslims and published Yapan Makhbari, an Islamic magazine in the Tatar language which was distributed inside and outside Japan. He also established a printing house with Arabic letters, in which Islamic books were printed in Tatar language. The Qur’an was also printed in this printing house. This Holy Qur’an had been printed a few years before in the city of Kazan before the Communist rule. He also strengthened his relations with Japanese authorities and managed through their assistance and support to build first Mosque in Tokyo in 1938. Dignitaries who attended the inauguration of Mosque included late Hafiz Wahbah, the ambassador of Saudi Arabia in London on behalf of late king Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Saif Al Islam Al Hussein from Yemen, Mahmoud Fawzi, consul of Egypt in Japan who later became Egyptian foreign minister and then vice president of the Egyptian republic. The author of the present work is still keeping the speeches and their translations as well as the photos which were taken on the occasion.
Abdr Rasheed Ibrahim visited Japan for the second time in 1933 and worked closely with Qurban Ali in managing the affairs of Muslim community in Japan. In fact, Japanese officers whom he converted to Islam later occupied important positions in the country. He stayed in Japan until his death in 1944.
Noorul Hasan Barlas, a leading professor from India, came to Japan and was appointed a university chair of Urdu in the University of Foreign Languages in Tokyo from 1932 to 1949. He actively participated in Islamic activities and wrote a number of articles on “Islam in Japan” in Urdu, which the author of the present work, translated into Arabic. In fact, I met his son in Karachi, Pakistan in 1997 as well as his grandsons in Karachi, Islamabad, Pakistan and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Alimullah Siddiqi, a renowned scholar and caller of Islam from India, also visited Japan and gave a number of lectures on Islam in Tokyo. Alimullah Siddiqi was in fact one of the first travelers and caller of Islam who traveled world widely and established many Islamic Centers, wherever he went. I still have a copy of the lecture he gave on the position of women in Islam which he delivered in Orion Hotel in Ginza in the heart of Tokyo in 1936.
During this period, Indian Muslims founded a Mosque in Kobe in 1935, and the late “Firooz Japan wala”, made a handsome financial contribution towards its building. I also met his son in Delhi in 1995 and kissed his head in memory of his father. Tatar Muslims also built a Mosque in the city of Nagoya.
Japan also showed interest in East Turkistan, which is part of China, and for this reason it invited Muslim leaders and students to Japan. Among them “Ameen Islami” who held the position of Imam in Tokyo Mosque from 1938 to 1953. He then left for Taif, Saudi Arabia, then to Jeddah where he worked as a broadcaster and then in the Saudi Ministry of hajj. His children are still in Jeddah.
The late Mustafa Komura, another Japanese leader, also embraced Islam in this period and played a major role in Islamic activities and worked closely with Muslims in East Turkistan and Yunnan, a province of China. After the war, he formed two Islamic societies which were officially recognized, hence being the first Japanese Muslim to obtain official registration from the Japanese authorities, which was literally an extremely difficult task in the country. He also sent scores of Japanese students to Pakistan, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia and took an active part in translation of the meanings of Holy Qur’an to Japanese in Makkah Al Mukarramah, Saudi Arabia, and authored an extensive encyclopedia on the history of Islam in Japan, which we translated into English.
During this period, a large number of Japanese Muslims started performing Hajj. A few years later, late Salih Suzuki, a Japanese Hajj, had the honor of meeting the late King Abdul Aziz Al Saud who was in the habit of giving special care to Japanese pilgrims. Noor Tanaka performed Hajj for the second time in 1934.
In fact, Syed Amoudi who used to work in Muslim World League, Makkah Al Mukarramah, Saudi Arabia, informed me that Mr. Muhsin Japan Uglu, Mr. Qurban Ali’s brother in-law, visited Saudi Arabia and personally met the late King Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz in Taif in the mid thirties, explained to him the situation of Muslims in Japan and sought his help and support.
A Noted Lebanese businessman and a literary person Abdur Rahman Qulelat also came to Japan along with his family after a journey from Brazil and settled in Japan. In fact, he gave a great deal of assistance to Muslims in Japan. The DEBIS family, including their eldest member Abdul Hadi Debis, who was a big businessmen, also settled in Japan. The latter’s cousin, late Mr. Fuad Debis, as well as the entire Debis family made huge contributions towards the assistance of Muslims and Islam in Japan.
PERIOD FROM 1940 TO 1950:
Sheikh Abdullah Togai, Al Azhar University envoy as a caller to Islam, arrived in Japan in 1941 and stayed in Japan for only six months, and went back to Egypt which joined the Allies against the Axis during the Second World War. While still in Japan, he taught Mr. Umar Hayashi Arabic language. Hayashi is one of the elderly Japanese Muslims who work for a long time as a representative of Arab oil company in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and still active with Japan Muslim Association.
Abdul Kareem Tabbarah, a famous Lebanese stock trader, lived in Japan in 1941 deciphered the symbols and mysterious writings owned by the Ainu Tribes, the aboriginal inhabitants of Japan, after skilled Japanese linguists and anthropologists failed to do so. Then he provided a translation of these symbols and writings during a press conference which was held in Tokyo.
Japan joined the Second World War and occupied parts of Asia, affording Japanese the opportunity to come into contact with Muslims from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Philippine. Prominent Japanese persons embraced Islam, includingUmar Yukiba who converted to Islam in Malaysia, the late Abdul Muneer Watanabe, the late Sadiq Imaizumi, the late Faruq Nagase, Suda and Matsubayashi.
Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim, the leading Tatar scholar of Japan, passed away in 1944 and was buried in Tama Muslim graveyard on the outskirts of Tokyo.
Japan lost the war and three million Japanese returned to Japan including those who embraced Islam in Asia.
Noorul Hasan Barlas returned to Pakistan after selling ancient stamps and used the money to buy tickets for himself and his wife. As I mentioned earlier on, I met his 82 year old son who had previously studied in Yokohama school.
PERIOD FROM 1950 TO 1960:
A number of Japanese Muslims including Umar Yamaoka, Umar Mita, Abdul Muneer Watanabe, Sadiq Imaizumi, Umar Yukiba and Mustafa Komura gathered and set up the first Muslim association in Japan in 1953 (Japan Muslim Association).
Members of Tablighi movement started entering into Japan from Pakistan between 1956 and 1960. Their first group visited Japan in 1956, and I managed to meet Shabir Ahmad in Lahore, the only surviving member of this group. In fact, they visited Japan four times and I accompanied them in the fourth time in 1960. Those zealous Muslims revived the spirit of Islam in Japanese Muslims, such as Umar Mita, and Mustafa Komura, and converted new persons to Islam, such as Prof. Abdul Kareem Saito, Khalid Kiba, Dr. Umar Kawabata, ZaKariya Nakayama, Ali Mori, and Amin Yamamoto. The last four were the greatest and leading daees (callers to Islam) in Shikoku Island, one of the four main islands of Japan.Sadiq Imaizumi helped convert a number of Japanese persons to Islam including Ramadan Isozaki, Zubair Suzuki, Sideeq Nakayama, and Yusuf Imori.
During this period a prominent daee (caller to Islam) emerged, namely the late Abdur Rasheed Arshad, a Pakistani engineer from the Tablighi movement, who also knew the whole Holy Qur’an by heart. He visited Japan on a training mission at the expense of Japanese government in 1959. He joined the third Tablighi mission and managed to convert a number of Japanese to Islam, including Khalid Kiba. It was actually Abdur Rasheed Arshad who encouraged me to come to Japan after I was introduced to him by the late Abul Hasan Ali Al Hasani Al Nadvi whom I met during one of his visits to Pakistan where I was studying agriculture in Layallpur (Faislabad). Upon Abdur Rasheed Arshad return from Japan, I met him in Raiwind, not far from Lahore, in 1959 during the annual meeting of the Tablighi movement. He used to encourage me to go to Japan, saying that it was like a blooming garden, full of ripe fruits where I could only go in and readily pick fruits and that the character of some converts to Islam was similar that of the Prophet’s companions (SAHABA).
In the early sixties, Abdur Rasheed Arshad supervised the project of setting up the telephone line between Makkah Al Mukarramah and Al Madinah Al Munawwarah and I informed him while I was in Japan in 1961 that Umar Mita embarked on the translation of meanings of Holy Qur’an into Japanese. In fact, I shared the same room with Umar Mita for approximately a year. Abdur Rasheed Arshad approached World Muslim League, Makkah Al Mukarramah which called Umar Mita as well as Mustafa Komura and the three of them formed a team to translate meanings of Holy Qur’an into Japanese. Abdur Rasheed Arshad died in a car accident between Makkah Al Mukarramah and Al Madinah Al Munawwarah in 1964 (or maybe early 1965) while in the company of Umar Mita and Mustafa Komura who survived the crash and managed to publish translation of Holy Qura’n.
Of the leading Japanese daees (callers to Islam) who embraced the Muslim faith during this period was the late professor Abdul Kareem Saito. He was converted to Islam at the hands of the Tablighi groups. He worked at Takushoku University and paved the way for scores of Japanese youth to embrace Islam. Actually, we together sent all these converts to Al Azhar University, Egypt, in the sixties and to Saudi Arabia in the seventies in order to master Arabic language and study Islam. Now they are teaching Arabic language in Japanese universities and working in companies, and some of them, such as Khalid Higuchi, Amin Tokumatsu, Japan Muslim Association’s president and Yahya Endo, are running Japan Muslim Association, the first Japanese Muslim organization.
PERIOD FROM 1960 TO 1970:
Foreign Muslim students from different Muslim countries, Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Arab world (including myself) etc. arrived in Japan at the end of fifties and beginning of sixties, and they set up the first Muslim Student Association in Japan. The managing committee of the association included Dr. Zuhal from Indonesia1, Muzaffar Uzay from Turkey, Ahmad Suzuki  from Japan, Abdur Rahman Siddiqi from Pakistan and Salih Mahdi Al Samarrai, an Arab. 
Muslim students set up a da’wah joint Board with Japan Muslim Association (Umar Mita, Abdul Muneer Watanabe, and Abdul kareem Saito who represented Japanese side) and (Abddur Rahman Siddiqi, Muzaffar Uzay and Salih Mahdi Al Samarrai who represented students). The Board carried out a number of activities including the following:
- It published booklets on Islam written byUmar Mita and translated and published Al Maudoodi, towards understanding Islam.
- Brother Farooq Nagase assisted the publication of fortnightly The Voice of Islam newspaper.
- It sent Japanese Muslim youths to Al Azhar University and organized intensive preparatory training courses.
- It undertook all da’wah activities after the Tabligh members had left Japan.
- It purchased the first graveyard for Muslims in Enzan (Yamanshi prefecture) with a handsome amount of money contributed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as well as some money from the late Abdul Kareem Saito. The graveyard later registered in the name of Japan Muslim Association.
- The board introduced Professor Abdul kareem Saito to the Muslim world, first, he visited Iraq, then Egypt, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and many other Muslim countries.
- The board inaugurated the first Islamic Center in Tokushima city, southwestern Japan, in Shikoku Island, in 1965 but it witnessed only one year of operation.
- It inaugurated the first Islamic Center in Tokyo in 1965 with the help and support of Al Sanie, the first Kuwaiti Ambassador to Japan. The Center lasted for one year and then closed down after the support was stopped following the Kuwaiti Ambassador’s leaving the country.
Late Al Mangoor, Saudi Ambassador to Japan, Mr. Muhammad Basheer Kurdi, Mr. Salah Al Husaini, (the son of the late Al Hajj Amin Al Husseini, the then mufti of Jerusalem) who worked in Saudi Arabia Embassy in Tokyo gave tremendous support to our Islamic activities in Japan. In fact, Mr. Al Manqoor would provide us with a generous amount donations on various occasions to support the different Islamic activities.
Indonesian students also had a huge residence in the heart of the Japanese capital, not far from its central Mosque, in which we used to celebrate the various Islamic events, particularly Eid Al Fitr festival. They would prepare a massive celebration with delicious food which would then be attended by Muslims and senior Japanese officials and even Japanese members of parliament. The celebration called AL HALAL BIL HALAL in Indonesian.
In the third part of this period, after most of the students had gone back home, and their Islamic activities witnessed a decline as a result, another eminent and unique caller to Islam by the name of Syed Jameel visited Japan. He was the chief accountant in Pakistani government and the president of Holy Qur’an Memorization Society in Karachi, Pakistan. In fact, he started from where others had left off and expanded the Islamic activities which started off by his predecessors. He also published some treatises on Islam in Japanese, and his activities included Korea as well.
The late Prof. Dr. Ali Hasan Al Samni, a highly qualified Egyptian professor, also came to Japan and taught Arabic to thousands of Japanese students in colleges of foreign languages as well as in other Japanese institutes from 1963 to 1978. He was consulted by leading professors in Japan and benefited from his vast knowledge. The Japanese emperor conferred the order of merit on him in appreciation of his services in the field of Arabic language and Islamic Culture. During the seventies of the past century, the late Abdul Kareem Saito, Ali Hasan Al Samni and the author of the present pamphlet would stay in Tokyo Mosque in afternoon of every Sunday to reply to the queries posed by the Japanese people about the Muslim faith.
It is worth mentioning that the late Miftahuddin and Ainan Safa, two Imams of Tokyo Mosque, as well as Mr. Kalki, the then Imam of Kobe Mosque, who were amongst Tatar Muslim emigrants, also rendered great services to the Muslim community in Japan.
I would also like to stress here that during this period the main source of financial support of the general da’wah activities conducted by the joint Islamic Board came mainly from Kuwait through Mr. Abdullah Al Aqeel and the late Abdur Rahman Al Dosari who used to raise donations from Muslim philanthropists, most popular of whom were the late Abdur Razzaq Al Salih Al Mutawwa, Al Qinai, and Sheikh Abdullah Ali Al Mutawwa and many others. We pray to Almighty Allah to reward them abundantly for the services they rendered to Islam and Muslims in Japan.
The Seventies: PERIOD FROM 1970 TO 1980:
The late King Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia visited Japan in 1970 and met a number of Japanese Muslim delegates including Muslim delegates from Korea. Then Dr. Abdul Basit Al Sebai, the president of “Muslim Student Association in Japan” seized the opportunity and requested the Saudi monarch to dispatch Dr. Salih Mahdi Al Samarrai, professor at Riyadh University, to Japan to help da’wah work in Japan, and he kindly granted the request in 1973. May Allah reward him abundantly for his services to Islam and Muslims.
The late King Faisal also supervised translation project of the meanings of Holy Qur’an into Japanese which was undertaken by Umar Mita, and he allotted a large sum of money to this project with Saudi Arabia Embassy in Japan, ordering that the Embassy in Tokyo pay every necessary amount whenever the translation was out of print. Umar Mita mentioned in the introduction to this translation that Mr. Ahmad Suzuki and Dr. Salih Mahdi Al Samarrai assisted him with the final revision of the translation work in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia during the summer of 1970.
During 1971 and 1972, Syed Jamil continued the Islamic work in Japan and Korea.
In 1973, King Faisal assisted by late Hasan Al Shaikh the minister of education dispatched the author of the present work to help the da’wah activities in Japan along with six other persons, namely Khalid Kiba (Japanese), Asad Qurban Ali, the son of the late Abdul Hay Qurban Ali who founded Tokyo Mosque, Dr. Abdul Basit Al Sebai (Egyptian), Ali Al Zubee (Syrian), Abdur Rahman Siddiqi (Pakistani) and Musa Muhammad Umar (Sudanese). They had all studied in Japanese universities and had undertaken major Islamic activities in Japan. This team set up the first integrated Islamic Center in collaboration with other Japanese and foreign dignitaries who are active in Dawah, such as Umar Mita who translated the meanings of Holy Qur’an into Japanese, Abdul Kareem Saito, Mustufa Komura, Abdul Muneer Watanabe, Tamim Dar Muhit, Umar Daraz Khan, Ali Hasan Al Samni, Matloob Ali and Ainan Safa. We must not forget to mention here the great efforts made by the late Sheikh Hasan bin Abdullah Al Sheikh who was a great help to King Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz in this respect and helped support the various activities of Islamic Center-Japan and Islamic da’wah in Japan. The late Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz also played a major role in this regard. In fact, these two men helped shape the destiny of Islamic da’wah in Japan. May Allah reward them for their efforts.
Islamic Center-Japan was established at a critical stage in the history of Japan, namely the oil crisis in 1973 and the following years. The Japanese people started to show interest in Islam, as most of the oil exporting countries were Islamic. The establishment of this Center was a dream of every person who had been engaged in da’wah activities for a hundred years. In fact, all those who had visited Japan and engaged in da’wah activities whose writings we have read, such as Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim, Muhammad Barakatullah, and Noorul Hasan Barlas, were always hoping that an Islamic Center be set up in Japan where Japanese Mup dir=”LTR” align=”center”Alimullah Siddiqi, a renowned scholar and caller of Islam from India, also visited Japan and gave a number of lectures on Islam in Tokyo. Alimullah Siddiqi was in fact one of the first travelers and caller of Islam who traveled world widely and established many Islamic Centers, wherever he went. I still have a copy of the lecture he gave on the position of women in Islam which he delivered in Orion Hotel in Ginza in the heart of Tokyo in 1936.slims and anyone fluent in Japanese would call people to Islam and publish Islamic books in Japanese for the Japanese citizens.
- Islamic Center-Japan was frequented by huge numbers of Japanese who embraced Islam.
- The Center published numerous books and booklets on Islam in Japanese and issued Assalam magazine in Japanese.
- Its da’wah activities covered the entire country from the north to the south, and Islam reached the northern island of Hokkaido for the first time and opened new branches in a number of cities.
- It sent Japanese students to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Egypt for Islamic studies.
- In 1976, it set up the first council to coordinate the efforts of the various Islamic societies which numbered at that time twelve societies including Japanese Islamic societies in a number of Japanese cities as well as Indonesian community and Muslim Student Association in Japan.
- It organized the first symposium on the Islamic Law (Sharee’ah) in 1977 in collaboration with Muslim World League, Makkah Al Mukarramah and Chuo University, Tokyo on the initiative of Khalid Kiba. This event was attended by the uncle of the present Japanese emperor, members of the High Court and three hundred Japanese lawyers. It was also attended by the late Muhammad Ali Al Harakan, the general secretary of Muslim World League, Makkah Al Mukrramah. The symposium lasted for three days and its proceedings were published in Arabic, Japanese and English and paved the way for numerous studies on the Sharee’ah which are still going on.
- The Council also organized a number of cultural symposia which were attended by thousands of people in Tokyo and other Japanese cities under the auspices of major Japanese newspapers with wide readership in collaboration with Islamic Center-Japan and Riyadh University. These events were attended by His Excellency Dr. Abdul Aziz Al Fadda the rector of University of Riyadh and His Honor Dr. Tawfiq Ash Shawi.
- The Council also arranged for hajj missions which began in 1976 through the generous financial assistance of His Royal Highness Ahmad bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Vice Minister of the Interior of Saudi Arabia and the generous hospitality of Muslim World League, Makkah Al Mukarramah.
- When His Excellency the late Hasan Al Sheikh visited the Council in 1975, Islamic Center-Japan requested him to establish an Arabic Islamic institute in Tokyo to provide an Islamic knowledge in Japan and to teach Arabic and the Islamic culture to Japanese people. He referred the matter to Imam Muhammad bin Saud University, Riyadh which undertook, through it’s the rector, His Excellency Abdullah bin Abdul Mohsin Al Turky, to supervise the setting up of this lofty cultural edifice which has greatly benefited thousands of Japanese people by teaching them Arabic, Islamic culture and winning many of them to the fold of Islam. His Royal Highness Prince Saud Al Faisal gave up the site of the Saudi Arabia Embassy and all its premises in Tokyo to build Arabic Islamic institute, Tokyo whose inauguration we still celebrate. King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the Saudi monarch, contributed ten million dollars towards the construction project of the institute and added another million dollars for its completion. May Allah (S.W.T.) bless his soul.
- Before this period, we used to put the number of new converts to Islam between one thousand and three thousand people, but after that we began counting them by tens of thousands. Islamic awareness was spread among Japanese people. Islam used to be locally called Kaikyo but now it is called Isram, as Japanese language does not have L letter which it is replaced with R instead.
Towards the end of this period, the late Syed Jameel, a noted caller to Islam, came to Japan for the second time and carried out his final Islamic da’wah activities in Japan, accompanied by Sheikh Nimetullah Yurt who is still at the top of da’wah activities in Japan.
The major financial and cultural assistance for Islamic activities in Japan during this and later periods came mainly from Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, government and citizens, and Muslim World League, Makkah Al Mukarramah, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saltanate Oman, Egypt through Al Azhar University, and Libya which dispatched many callers of Islam in Japan. We mention of the numerous people who provided much needed assistance to Islamic activities in Japan, Hamad Al Hajiri, the first Qatari Ambassador to Japan who provided us with the first financial assistance during the establishment period of the Center, the late Sheikh Abdullah Al Ansari, president of Sharee’ah courts in Qatar, the late Abdul Aziz Al Mubarak, President of the Sharee’ah courts in United Arab Emirates, the late Abdullah Al Mahmoud in Sharja, the late Abdur Rahman Al Dousari of Saudi Arabia, the late Abdur Razzaq Al Salih Al Mutawwa, the late Abdullah Alli Al Mutawwa, Sheikh Yusuf Al Hajji, and Abdullah Al Aqeel of Kuwait.
PERIOD FROM 1980 TO 2009:
In the early eighties King Khalid bin Abdul Aziz donated a land for the purpose of setting a building office for an Islamic Center-Japan. Their Royal Highnesses Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz and Prince Ahmad bin Abdul Aziz sponsored the construction of this magnificent cultural edifice which became a major Islamic source of knowledge frequented by professors, students, journalists, media members and the public at large. The general public visiting center either embraced Islam or enquired about it. The Center still plays its central role and is continuously improving.
His Royal Highnesses Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz visited the Center in 1985 and so did His Royal Highness Prince Ahmad bin Abdul Aziz in 1986. Both of them extended financial and moral support to its various activities. May Allah (S.W.T.) reward them for their efforts.
The greatest development in the history of Islamic presence in Japan started in the mid eighties, namely the massive surge of Muslim emigrants who started coming in Japan, mostly from Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Iran, Afghanistan, Africa, Turkey, and the Arab world. They all came to Japan to earn a living. They married Japanese women after these embraced Islam and were consequently granted permanent residency. Some of them were granted Japanese citizenship and their children were Japanese by birth. These emigrants built Mosques, prayer halls, halal food restaurants and halal products shops and turned their homes and Mosques into centers for enlightening new Japanese converts in Islam and teaching them its sublime principles and practices.
In 1986 Tokyo Mosque was demolished to the dismay of Muslims in Japan, in order to rebuild it in the same site. The construction phase met with a number of obstacles. However, with the help of Allah (S.W.T.) and with Islamic Center-Japan’s continuous efforts and the support of well wishers of Muslims of Turkey and other countries, the construction of Tokyo Mosque was finally completed in 2000, following Ottoman architectural style. This splendid Mosque has ever since been visited by Japanese people who have queries about Islam. The religious Affairs Presidency in Turkey supervised most of the construction work. Islamic Center-Japan with Muslims in Japan and elsewhere had raised about one third of money towards the construction costs, and our Islamic Center-Japan raised most of it. The Turkish Religious Affairs Presidency is now in charge of running Tokyo Mosque.
An extension was also added to the ancient Kobe Mosque to act as an Islamic cultural center in southwest Japan, and again Dabis family, through Mr. Fuad Dabis, paid for most of the construction costs. This extension virtually represents another source of Islamic knowledge and enlightenment in that part of Japan and plays its role in a most efficient manner.
In Nagoya a new Mosque was built replacing the old Mosque which had been destroyed during the Second World War, and the construction process was supervised by the well known philanthropist Pakistani merchant Mr. Abdul Wahab Quraishi and was inaugurated by His Excellency Dr. Salih bin Abdullah bin Humaid, the general president of the affairs of Two Holy Mosques. This Mosque provided a meeting point of the local Muslims who engaged in matters of Islamic education and worship. Brother Abdul Wahab Quraishi also set up a school for Muslim children not far from the Mosque. May Allah reward him for the services he rendered Islam and Muslims.
Mosques set up by brothers from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Africa are in fact numerous. In addition to the Mosque founded by members of the Tablighi movement in Ichinowari and their other Mosques, we find those built by adherents of Pakistani Jamaate Islami, Otsuka Mosque which received handsome donations from His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz and inaugurated by His Eminence Dr. Umar bin Abdullah Al Subayel, Imam and orator of the Holy Mosque in Makkah Al Mukarramah, Toda Mosque which used to be a factory, and Isesaki Mosque. We also find many Mosques founded by African brothers. In fact, the Center has a list of all Mosques in Japan and will publish it along with Mosques maps and addresses. Brothers in Japan Muslim Association received generous donations from His Royal Highness King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz which allowed them to purchase their new headquarters.
In fact, the demolition of Tokyo Mosque was a blessing in disguise for despite the feeling of sadness which resulted from the demolition of this Mosque that used to unite Muslims in Japanese capital Tokyo, Almighty Allah provided better alternatives that encouraged Muslims, whose numbers had dramatically increased, to build more Mosques and prayer halls. The first alternative was Arabic Islamic Institute, Tokyo which provided ample room for worshippers during the five daily prayers as well as the two Eid prayers. May Allah (S.W.T.) reward its management committee members for their efforts. The Indonesian brothers had also taken in large numbers of worshippers in the prayer hall of their embassy and school. The Iranian and Malaysian brothers used their embassies for the same purpose. Indeed, it was the Tablighi adherents who were the first to found new Mosques in Japan, then the rest of Muslims followed suit. As a matter of fact, Islamic Center-Japan had borne half the expenses for renting halls in areas where there were more students and fewer Muslim merchants both in northern and southern Japan. Ebina Mosque in Kanagawa Prefecture whose location is not far from Tokyo represents the most modern Mosque in Japan. Its construction cost one million dollars but Muslims did not raise a single penny outside their prefecture.
One of the last center of Islamic da’wah to be founded in the country was Toheed Mosque which His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud built in Hachioji on the outskirts of Tokyo. This Mosque represents an addition to the series of Islamic projects supported by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, both government and people. May Allah (S.W.T.) reward them for the services they have rendered to Islam and Muslims.
In most recent years, Mosques were newly built in Sendai, Tsukuba, Fukuoka, Kyoto etc. without exaggeration almost every short lapses of time new Mosques are built.
One of the most important events that took place during this period was the symposium on “the Relations between Japan and the Muslim World and One-Hundred Years of Islamic History in Japan”, which was organized by Islamic Center-Japan (ICJ) in collaboration with the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in Jeddah in 2000 and received generous donations from the Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdul-Aziz, Muslim World League, Makkah Al Mukarramah (MWL), Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah (IDB), World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), and International Islamic Charitable Organization, Kuwait. The symposium was attended by about seventy representatives of Muslims in neighboring and concerned countries, including His Eminence Sheikh Salih bin Abdul Aziz Al Sheikh, the Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, Da’wah and Guidance. The symposium was also attended by a large number of Japanese intelligentsia and noted Japanese professors, Muslim and non-Muslims alike, who contributed invaluable researches. Various delegates also contributed researches and gave speeches, including the representative of Japanese minister of foreign affairs. Representatives from different Islamic societies inside and outside Tokyo also attended it and helped towards its success. The symposium lasted for three days during which time it highlighted the Islamic presence in the country. Japanese officials, especially in Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, warmly welcomed this event and requested the organizers to organize similar activities in order to deepen relations between Japan and Muslim world. On the other hand, Japanese ministry of foreign affairs organized later on almost every year symposium on the relations between Japan and Muslim world. Arabic Islamic institute, Tokyo followed on the same steps.
This period also witnessed annual Islamic camps organized by Islamic Center-Japan in collaboration with World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). These activities received generous financial assistance as well as moral support from His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and benefited from the knowledge and guidance of His Eminence Sheikh Saad bin Abdullah Al Borek who represented His Royal Highness on the occasion. In fact, His Eminence Sheikh Saad bin Abdullah Al Borek played a major role during this camp as he revived the wok of the Council of Coordination between Islamic Societies which had been very active for the previous twenty years after its activities came to an end with the death of its general coordinator Professor Abdul Kareem Saito. Indeed, three hundred and fifty Muslim representatives from different parts of Japan signed a document in an effort to revive this council. Mr. Khalid Kiba, the noted Japanese scholar and member of the founding committee of Muslim World League, Makkah Al Mukarramah, and one of the directors of Islamic Center-Japan was appointed general coordinator of the council.
One of the main concerns of Muslims in Japan was the burial of their dead, especially after their numbers had dramatically increased. The cost of one single grave in Enzan graveyard which had come under the supervision of our brothers in Japan Muslim Association was almost fifteen thousand dollars. It was therefore for this reason that Muslims considered purchasing a land in one of the provinces neighboring Tokyo in which they could bury their dead free of charge, and so they started raising donations from members of the Muslim community in Japan. Then help came from the late King Fahd bin Abdul-Aziz donated U.S.$700,000, the amount required for the purchase of the land. The committee members of new Muslim graveyard, particularly its president Mr. Mian Aftab well known Pakistani businessman, among other Muslim businessmen in Yokohama who had also financially supported numerous Islamic projects, requested that the graveyard land be officially registered in the name of Islamic Center-Japan as the Center was the only religious body officially registered in the country, and given that the official religious body was the only body entitled to request the setting up a graveyard. Islamic Center-Japan granted the request and worked closely with the committee to own the land to set up a Muslim graveyard on it.
The Center also supervised the largest pilgrimage mission which comprised forty three Japanese male and female Muslims at their own expense under the direction of Al Hajj Muhammad Sawada well known Japanese caller of Islam, and sent along with them Sheikh Nimetullah Yurt and Abdur Rahman Siddiqi. It also arranged for the largest pilgrimage trip which was initiated by the Custodian of Two Holy Mosques during the 1999. The last pilgrimage trip organized by the Council was undertaken with the generous financial assistance extended by His Royal Highness Abdul Aziz bin Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. May Allah (S.W.T.) reward them all for their generous help and support. In 2008 two hundred from Japan performed Hajj on their expenses.
The Current Muslim Presence in Japan:
Muslims in Japan, Japanese and residents, cover more or less the entire of Japan, form the northernmost island in the country (Hokkaido) to the smallest island in the south of the country (Okinawa Island) neighboring Taiwan; and from the easternmost part of the country (Tokyo) to the westernmost part of it (Kanazawa, Shimane and Tottori). We can classify Muslims in Japan into the following categories:
1. Japanese Muslims:
They are distributed as follows:
a. Their Own Societies, which may include the following:
- Japan Muslim Association:
Japan Muslim Association is the first major Islamic association founded in 1953 by Pre-Second World War, Muslims who returned after their conversion in Indonesia, Malaysia and China, in addition to those early Muslims who were alive at that time. Graduates from Al Azhar University, Islamic University, Al Madeenah Al Munawwarah and Ummul Qura University, Makkah Al Mukarramah play an active role in the association, and its current president is Mr. Ameen Tukumatsu, a graduate from Al Azhar University. Mr. Yahya Endo, a graduate of the Islamic University in Al Madeenah Al Munawwarah, is also one of its active members, and so is Mr. Nooruddeen Mori, a graduate of Ummul Qura University in Makkah Al Mukarramah.
- The Islamic Association in Hokkaido (Mr. Abdullah Arai).
- Japan Islamic Friendship Association in Kyoto (Mr. Ali Kobayashi).
- Association of Islamic Da’wah in Osaka (Mr. Abdur Raheem Yamaguchi).
- The Islamic Association in Nara (Mr. Muhammad Nakamura).
- Muslim Women Association in Osaka and Kyoto (Sister Zeba Kume).
- Arabic Culture Association in Tokyo (Sister JameelahTakahashi).
b. Incorporated Groups which include Muslim student as well as Japanese and non-Japanese Muslims in general:
This type is somewhat widespread in all parts of Japan and in huge numbers. To give a few examples, Mr. Khalid Kiba who runs his own association in Tokushima southwestern Japan, he is also a member of Islamic Center-Japan, Professor Abdul Jabbar Maeda with the Islamic Association in Miyazaki in southeastern Kyushu Island, Brother Muhammad Sato is active with Muslim Student Association and Islamic Association in Sendai and member of Islamic Center-Japan, and Professor Murtada Kurasawa who is one of the directors of Islamic Center-Japan and at the same time a professor in Nagoya University.
Each one of these can be equaled to a number of people in terms of his Islamic activities. These represent the majority of Japanese Muslims. They run more than fifteen websites in Japanese in which they invite the Japanese people to Islam. The following are but a few examples:
- Sulaiman Hamanaka in Shikoku (He has a website and a Mosque).
- Professor Kosugi (Kyoto University). He has made many contributions in the major television network. Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai (NHK), as well as in conferences and lectures.
- Professor Onami (Kyoto University, Engineering Department). He has set up the translation of the meanings of Holy Qur’an in Japanese on his website.
- Late professor Shiro Tanaka who used to work in the College of Foreign language. He knows Holy Qur’an by heart.
- Professor Hisham Kuroda (The International University of Nigata) who has authored numerous books and was at one point one of the students of the late Ja’faar Izutsu.
- Ashraf Yasui (Professor of Arabic in Japanese institutes).
In fact, the situation of Muslims in Japan is relatively similar to that of Muslims during Makkah Al Mukarramah period, when new Muslim individuals were scattered in the various cities, villages and oases of the Arabian Peninsula. Some of them were hiding their beliefs, while others publicly declared them, inviting torture and harm upon themselves until they migrated to Al Madinah Al Munawwarah.
A question arises here: What is the number of Muslims in Japan? The answer is that there is no reliable census of Muslims in the country. In fact, there are more than one hundred Islamic societies and scores or even hundreds of Mosques and prayer halls through which many Japanese people embrace Islam almost every day.
In addition, seventeen millions Japanese leave the country as tourists every year. Some of them embrace Islam in Muslim countries while others do so in Europe and America. They contact us online to provide them with Islamic books and their requests are promptly granted. A Japanese Muslim woman once sent us an e-mail from Kula Lumpur saying that about fifty Japanese men and women were interested in Islam and requested us to send her Islamic books in Japanese.
Japanese Muslims are estimated at about 100,000 or even more, while non-Japanese Muslims are estimated at 300,000 or more. However, this remains a rough estimate which observers look at from different perspectives and accordingly give various estimates. It is worth noting, however, that the number of Muslims in Japan is on the increase and that the Japanese people are much closer to Islam than are any other nations in the world. In fact, Japanese people revere this religion and believe that it confirms their long standing ideals and traditions.
2. Muslim Emigrants:
- The early Muslims who came to Japan were from Indian Sub Continent before independence. They came to Japan towards the end of the nineteenth century, settled in Tokyo, Yokohama, and Kobe where they engaged in trade. They founded the first permanent Mosque in Kobe in 1935. This Mosque has stood the test of time in that it survived the Second World War which demolished a nearby church and the 1995 earthquake which also demolished the same church for the second time.
- The second generation of Muslim emigrants consisted of Tatars, or Kazan Turks, who came to Japan to escape Communist rule during the early twenties of the twentieth century. They lived along with Indian Muslims in Kobe and built a Mosque in Nagoya, which was demolished during the Second World War. They also founded Tokyo Mosque in 1938, and were led in their Islamic activities by the late Abdul Hay Qurban Ali. We can say that these emigrants represent the first Muslim community to settle in Japan. Some of their youth had migrated to Turkey, Europe, and America and very few of them are still in Japan.
- Indonesian and Malaysian Muslims represent the third group of Muslim emigrants to set foot in Japan. In fact, a doctrinal controversy arose between these and Tatar Muslims (Indonesians and Malaysians follow Shaf’i School of Jurisprudence, while Tatars follow Hanafi School of Jurisprudence). This controversy prompted the late Abdul Hay Qurban Ali, Tatar Muslim leader to write to Al Masumi, the Imam of Holy Mosque in Makkah Al Mukarramah, regarding this controversy, and the latter wrote a treatise in response. The treatise was titled Hadiyah Al-Sultan Ila Bilad Al-Yaban (The Gift of The Sultan to the land of Japan). This book published during the thirties of the twentieth century. This treatise has been reprinted many times and is still in circulation. Indonesian community remains the largest Muslim community in Japan. Its members have a school and a Mosque in Tokyo that played a major role when Muslims missed Tokyo Mosque.
- The largest immigration is the one that has been going on since the eighties of the past century. This migration consists of a number of nationalities and many of these emigrants settled in Japan after they got married to Japanese Muslim women. The new trend in this regard is Japanese men’s marriage after their conversion to Muslim women who come mainly from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Arab world. One of the latest marriages includes a Japanese man after his conversion to a Russian Muslim lady.
3. Muslim Students Coming from Muslim Countries:
The first Muslim students to come to Japan were Chinese. These students about forty studied at Waseda University in 1909, published Islamic Awakening, an Islamic magazine in Chinese which bears the title in Arabic. Three Ottoman students, including Ahmad Muneer son of Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim, a seasoned first class traveler and noted caller to Islam, joined Waseda University in 1911. During the Second World War large numbers of Indonesian and Malaysian students came to Japan, some of whom were martyred as a result of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, while some others survived. In fact, I met these victims a few years ago. Tatar migrant’s children attended Japanese schools and studied at Japanese universities. These include Dr. AlTinbai, Al hajj Tamimdar Muhit and his wife, Mr. Ramadan Safa, and Asad Qurban Ali. They established an Islamic association in the forties of the past century.
The largest numbers of Muslim students started coming to the country following World War II, precisely towards the end of the fifties, and are still on the increase. Most of these students come from Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Arab world, Turkey, Iran and Africa. They established, along with Japanese Muslims and other Muslims who are permanently settled in the country, Islamic gatherings in every city where they hired halls which included a library and a meat shop for selling halal meat in addition to areas reserved for prayers and meetings.
As a matter of fact, I had always lamented the fact that practically all Muslim ethnic groups had built their Mosques with the exception of the Arabs, in whose midst the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was raised. Finally, Arab Muslims, mostly from Egypt, set up a Mosque in their quarters on the outskirts of Tokyo (Shin Misato). Twenty five of them as well as other students performed the pilgrimage in 2000. Many students from other nationalities also performed pilgrimage this year.
4. Professionals from Islamic Countries:
Large number of professionals from Islamic countries visited Japan and stayed here from several weeks to a year. These professionals need to know about where to get halal food from as well as the prayer times. Many of them are also asked questions about Islam, and they request us online as well as by post and fax to provide them with books and to answer some of their queries, which we immediately granted. These professionals played a big role in introducing Islam to Japanese people and their very existence in the country paves the way for Japanese people to know something about Islam, especially if they are practicing and seek to live by the dictates of Islam.
5. Muslim Businessmen and Tourists:
The commercial relationship between Japan and Muslim world is very old indeed and still ongoing, and a large number of businessmen and tourists who play a major role in introducing Islam to Japanese people visit the country every year. Our Islamic Center-Japan is specialized in Islamic books and booklets in Japanese and provides the required Islamic material for all Islamic societies in Japan as well as for students, professionals, businessmen, tourists, and others. It also provides newly arrived professionals with the necessary information about Mosques, prayer times, halal foods, and Islamic gatherings.
We stress here again the fact that Japanese people enjoy good character. In fact, when a Japanese person reads about Islam he finds that it largely conforms to the ideals adopted by his or her society. If Allah (S.W.T.) wishes him or her guidance, He paves the way for him or her to embrace Islam. See the appendix on the good traits of Japanese people which they have inherited from Al Samurrai, members of a powerful military class in Japan in the past.
A young man sent us an e-mail saying that he had studied Islam and would like to embrace it. Should he learn how to perform the prayers before his declaration of faith or vice? Is circumcision obligatory? If so should only a Muslim doctor undertake it? Otherwise he is ready to get circumcised at any nearby hospital.
A lady also wrote us a letter saying that she had studied Islam in order to submit a paper on the subject to her university and found it to a great religion. She also said that she wanted to invite students in her college to Islam in a “scientific way”. “I know that the prohibition of pig meat is somehow related to hygiene” she said. Then she asked us if there are any scientific facts in Islam which modern science has confirmed so she would call students in college to Islam based on these facts.
As for Muhammad Dawud, he visited Jerusalem and Gaza two years ago and loved Islam. When he came back to Japan, he contacted Sister Zeba Kume, the well known Japanese caller to Islam. She taught him about Islam and he ultimately embraced it. I must say here that Sister Zeba may be equal to one hundred men, if not one thousand men, when it comes to Islamic activity.
Uthman is a student in the second year at the university in Kyoto. He visited Turkey for a week and fell in love with Islam. When he came back to Japan, he read the books of Islamic Center-Japan he obtained from Sister Zeba Kume, and he later converted to Islam.
Fatima Nakasone is a young girl studying in Bedford, England. She used to be Christian. She converted to Islam when she made friends with a British Muslim sister of Asian descent who talked to her about Islam. She now wears the full face veil even though she is in Britain.
Another lady e-mailed us from America saying that she wanted the meanings of Holy Qur’an in Japanese and we sent her what she wanted. When we asked her about the Muslim community in her area she said that she was among one hundred Japanese girls and that she was only Muslim lady and that she was looking forward to having a Mosque built in her area. She also mentioned in her e-mail that she was a music therapist in one of American universities.
Russian Victoria also wrote us from inside Japan saying that she was looking for an Islamic bank in which to keep her money in order to avoid dealing with usury (riba), and we sent her address of Pakistani National Bank. We also talked to her on the phone to where she resides not far from Tokyo and we found out that she was married to a Japanese Muslim. We questioned her with appreciation that after seventy years of Communist rule, we could now see a Russian Muslimah who was interested in keeping her money in a bank that did not deal in riba. That was indeed one of the miracles of Islam. We then sent her a copy of translation of the meanings ostrongf Holy Qur’an in Japanese as well as the Center’s publications so that her Japanese husband would read them, and she thanked us for that.
Sheikh Nimetullah Yurt called one of the neighbors of Tokyo Mosque while it was still under construction one morning to Islam and gave her a copy of Al Maududi’s What is Islam? which bore the e-mail address of the Center. Later on, she sent us the following letter: “I was brought up as a child in a house near Tokyo Mosque…The view of its shiny dome before sunset was really captivating…I felt very sad when the Mosque was demolished…Now that the Mosque is being built, I am really elated with joy…” She wrote this e-mail in a green background, which Japanese believe is the symbol of Paradise. In fact, such incidents occur on a daily basis in Islamic Center-Japan, Arab Islamic Institute, Tokyo Mosque, Kobe Mosque as well as in the other Islamic societies and associations.
In fact, many Islamic gatherings in Japan pave the way for new Muslims to visit them and learn about the Islamic way of life there. Islamic Center-Japan is rightly a beacon of guidance which helps guide whomever wishes to know anything about Islam as well as Muslims who come to Japan. Our website is easily accessible. Anyone who types us the words “islamcenter.or.jp” in the search engine will immediately get it. We promptly respond to queries and requests. We retain all e-mails that we receive, and all correspondents thank us for our prompt responses.
An Arab student from Seattle in west central Washington State wrote to us that there were many Japanese students in his college who were interested in Islam and requested us to send him books on Islam in Japanese. He also mentioned that a Japanese female student returned to Japan and requested us to send her some Islamic books to her address which he mentioned in his letter. We promptly sent the translation of the meanings of Holy Qur’an in Japanese and some Islamic books both to him and to Japanese student. In reply, he thanked our prompt response, saying that in one million Muslims there was one like you who does your task.
Our Islamic Center-Japan is also considered to be one of the oldest Islamic Centers in Japan and is known to the Japanese government, the media, the universities, schools and religious groups, making it a major source of Islamic knowledge in the country. We thank Almighty Allah for affording us the opportunity to call to His religion and carry out this collective duty on behalf of the Muslim Ummah. We also thank all those who have given us assistance and support to facilitate our duty. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “That Allah guides through you one man is better for you than the red camels” (which were the most precious property a man would wish to have in those days). Another narration mentions: “that doing this is better than the entire world”.
The Second Generation of Muslims: Their Problems and Future:
The most important problem facing Muslims in Japan is that of the second generation children who come from mixed marriages: non-Japanese Muslim men with Japanese Women, non-Japanese Muslim women with Muslim Japanese men and the children of Japanese Muslims in general.
Education in Japan is mandatory and essential, and there is not a single Islamic school in Japan while there are thousands of Muslim children who need education in an Islamic environment. If we do not provide something for them to acquire Islamic education, they will certainly dissolve in this non-Islamic society. What actually happens is that a Pakistani or Bangladeshi man sends his Japanese wife and children to his country for education purposes, and due to the huge economic and social differences between Japan and these countries, many problems arise, leading in some instances to marital breakdowns, hence the importance of solving this problem.
Islamic Center-Japan is now considering the establishment of first Islamic school in Japan. It has purchased a land neighboring Tokyo Mosque and intends to build an Islamic school on it in order to remove the barrier of hesitating to build Islamic schools in the country, as it removed the barrier of hesitating to build Mosques in the country before. If we concern ourselves with the second generation children, they will certainly present Islam to Japanese people far better than us, for they are Japanese and their language is Japanese as well, and these two factors are very important indeed. We thank His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud for the assistance his charitable society has given towards the purchase of the land for building the school. Thanks also go the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah for offering to assist with one third of the construction costs.
A Word of Thanks:
Finally, I would like to thank Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the assistance it has, and is still, extending to Islam and Muslims in Japan. In fact, a large part of Islamic work in Japan is a blessed seedling plated by Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We also thank the Gulf countries and the other Arab countries for their support of Muslims in Japan.
I would like to thank Japanese academics and professors who are concerned with Islamic culture and try to present it to their own people in an objective and impartial manner without being affected by any Western influences. We would like to thank the leading academics and professors, such as Professor Itagaki, Professor Katakura, Professor Komatsu, Professors Sugita who share the same surname from Tokyo University and Professor Goto as well as the rest of the academics and professors. I would also like to thank the Japanese government for giving Muslims in Japan complete freedom and for caring about them and trying hard to deepen understanding between Japan and Muslim world. In particular, we would like to thank His Excellency former Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Kono and Japanese police in general for their readiness to cooperate with Muslims, individuals and groups. We also thank Japanese people who revere Islam and receive its publications with great respect. In fact, studies conducted by Japanese government on foreigners in the country have shown that Muslims are the coolest and most collected community with the least troubles.
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of all the worlds.
Dr. Salih Mahdi S. Al Samarrai
- 1. Dr. Zuhal is now a rector of Al Azhar University of technology in Jakarta and was previously a minister in his country. In fact, he raised a handsome sum of money to help rebuild Tokyo Mosque in 1998.
- 2. Ahmad Suzuki was one of Al Azhar University graduates. He belongs to the second generation of Japanese Muslims, as both his father and maternal uncle were Muslim.
- The author of the present pamphlet.
Traits of Samurai, the Warrior Class in Japan
These traits were mentioned by His Excellence Dr. Musa Muhammad Umar on 04 March,1978 during a meeting held by the Muslim Youth Association in Kanazawa, on the Sea of Japan opposite Korea. The association comprised one hundred Japanese Muslim youth who were the students of the late Mustafa Komura, who assisted the late Umar Mita with translation of the meanings of Holy Qur’an into Japanese and authored a huge encyclopedia on the history of Islam in Japan. In fact, he sent some of these youth to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Qatar, and now they are occupying posts in universities, companies, and free trade in all parts of Japan. We Muslims admit that we have neglected the duty of keeping in touch with them. Dr. Musa was and still is one of the directors of Islamic Center-Japan and was the Sudanese ambassador to Japan.
About the Samurai:
- They do not forget favors.
- They abstain from alcohol, women and overeating.
- They respect their parents and obey them and never feel annoyed no matter what they do to them.
- They wash their hands and feet in the morning and in the evening. They also take a warm bath and like to keep their bodies and appearance nice and clean.
- They never preoccupy themselves with things that do not concern them or even talk about them.
- They take an interest in discipline and military training.
- They feel duty bound to engage in good works and acceptable actions and avoid unacceptable and wrong actions.
- They are trustworthy not out of fear of people or that they might be caught out doing something that contradicts their principles.
- They have to take an interest in studies and the acquisition of knowledge and never waste their time.
- They lead a dignified life, do not do harm to others, nor are they dependent upon them.
- They do not get into bad company.
This is a copy of a document Dr. Salih Mahdi Al Samarrai received from the late Bakir Barq, one of the leaders of Annoor Group in Turkey who worked as a broadcaster for a long time for the Turkish program in Saudi Arabian Radio, Jeddah.