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Wednesday, June 8, 2011 | Rectifying God’s Name: A Chinese Muslim Approach to Remembering Allah | Lecture by James Frankel | 7 pm | Suggested Donation $10

Islam first entered China more than 1,200 years ago, but for more than a millennium it was perceived as a foreign presence.. A dramatic flowering of Chinese Muslim cultural and religious thought occurred between the 16th and 18th centuries that produced a network of scholars who wrote about Islam in classical Chinese to form a body of literature known as the Han Kit?b. The challenge of expressing Islamic religious concepts in a context devoid of any clear monotheistic principle tested the limits of their scholarship and linguistic finesse.

Looking at the diverse influences on the highly syncretic thought of Liu Zhi (ca. 1660 – ca. 1730), a Chinese Muslim literatus, we see the most systematic and sophisticated attempt to harmonize Islam with Chinese thought and provide a glimpse at Chinese Islamic metaphysics. Liu Zhi found in Sufi theories a bridge between the religio-philosophical traditions of East and West. Other references to both Chinese and Islamic sources remain obliquely embedded in his writing. A study of these various influences provides a sense of the eclectic sources of his syncretism, revealing traces of the Ibn al-‘Arabi school of thought and Wahdat al-Wujud (Oneness of Being) theory that suffuse Liu Zhi’s writings, alongside Neo-Confucian, Daoist and Buddhist concepts that approximate mystical ideas long debated in the Islamic world.

James D. Frankel holds a Bachelor’s degree in East Asian Studies and a doctorate in Religion from Columbia University. With his training in the study of religion and his specialization in Islam, his expertise is in the history of Islam in China, a field that draws upon and informs his scholarly interests in the comparative history of ideas, and religious and cultural syncretism. Dr. Frankel’s recent first book, Rectifying God’s Name: Liu Zhi’s Translation of Monotheism and Islamic Ritual Law in Neo-Confucian China (University of Hawaii Press, 2011) examines Chinese Islamic scholarship and literature of the early Qing (1644-1911) period. He has lived in China and has traveled extensively in Asia and Europe, where his research has included work with scholars and religious leaders of Muslim minority communities. As a member of the faculty of Religion at University of Hawaii at Manoa, Dr. Frankel teaches courses in Islam, comparative religion, and mysticism.

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