Abi Waqqas Mosque and Tomb: An Important Islamic Heritage Site
Guangzhou Abi Waqqas Mosque (Xianxian Mosque) holds the tomb of a highly revered Muslim sage. Find out about the largest mosque in Guangzhou here.
Housed in a tranquil area with many large trees and small gardens, the Abi Waqqas mosque complex is a place that holds a position of special importance. Not only is it the biggest of all mosques in Guangzhou with many believers converging towards it for the Friday prayer, it also houses the tomb of a very revered sage of the Muslims. People come from different areas of China and the rest of the world to visit this place and pay homage to the sage.
The Islamic Sage, Sa'ad bin Abi Waqqas
Sa’ad bin Abi Waqqas was one of the very first converts to Islam, accepting it at the age of seventeen. He was pious, just and honest. He was one of the best archers of the time and later became an accomplished soldier and commander. He is a relative (uncle) of the Prophet Muhammad and one of the ten blessed companions who were told they would attain paradise.
He was a brave man and as a commander, he led the Muslims to victory against the Sassanid army at the battle of Qassidiyya, and in the conquest of Persia in 636. He built the city of Kufa, Iraq, when he was serving as governor in the area.
Sa’ad bin Abi Waqqas was sent by the third Caliph Uthman on an official visit to China in AD 651, during the Tang Dynasty. His delegation was well received by the Tang emperor. He made other visits to China and it is said that when civil wars started among Muslims during the early Islamic era, he left Arabia and came to China where he continued preaching and practicing his faith quietly. He has the honor of introducing and establishing Islam in China.
Features of the Abi Waqqas Mosque Complex
The North entrance to the mosque is an archway with a green dome on top. The complex has a total area of 25000 square meters and is the largest mosque in Guangdong Province. More than a thousand years old, it dates back to the Tang Dynasty and is not very far from the Huaisheng Mosque which is the oldest mosque in China.
The entrance opens to a parking area and the path to the tomb and prayer hall is through a lush green area with old trees and paved pathways. Within the green gardens, one can spot ancient archways, tombstones, and graves, some centuries old, each with a story behind it.
It is interesting to note that while the city around was fast developing into a sprawling modern metropolis, most of the features within the walls of this complex have defied the vicissitudes of time and have maintained their originality, some for the whole millennium.
The Prayer Hall
The prayer hall is a hybrid of Arabic traditional design and Lingnan architecture, built mainly in red and green color. The floor is covered with beautiful prayer mats. Although the original mosque dates back to the Tang Dynasty, the present building is a recent one as it was was rebuilt in 2010 as one of the key projects of the Asian games. Thousands of Muslims from different countries around the globe gather here for Friday prayers.
The Islamic sage’s tomb, Ameer’ tomb, or Huihui tomb is a highlight of this place. It is said that the tomb belongs to the Muslim sage, Sa’ad bin Abi Waqqas.
Cantonese residents have also referred to it as the "Daren Mausoleum"; with Daren ('Great Person') referring to Waqqas. For centuries, this place has maintained a steady stream of visitors. The sage is remembered and revered by Muslims in China and around the world. They travel long distances to come here and pay homage. The serene passage to the tomb through a myriad of old trees, tombstones and archways gives the believers some time for introspection and for reflecting on the significance of the place they are in.
There is some controversy in the written records as to whether the tomb is of Sa'ad bin Abi Waqqas or some other person as the inscriptions just say 'Abi Waqqas'. However, according to Chinese records and the people from all over the world who come to visit it, it is believed to be the tomb of Sa'ad bin Abi Waqqas.
There are a number of other graves housed among the trees and green plants in the garden near the main tomb. They belong to 40 Arab Muslims and some Chinese Muslims.
The Ancient Well
A historic well that dates back to the Tang Dynasty is still present in the mosque complex. The well is more than 1,300 years old. Its water is clear and pure. People have been drinking from it and it has been in use ever since.
While walking through the pathways, you will come across a number of archways with Chinese writings.
- The “Sage Tomb Road” Memorial Arch lies to the South gate of the mosque and dates back to the Yuan era.
- The “Gao Feng Yang Zhi” Memorial Gateway to the sage’s tomb garden dates back to the 1st year of the Yongzheng Period (1723).
- The “Honorific Arch of Filial Piety” was built in the 2nd year of the Xuantong Period (1910) and is a memorial to the filial piety and loyalty to the state, of members of a Muslim family.
The Three Muslim Martyrs Pavilion
In 1650, when the army of the Qing dynasty encircled Guangzhou, three Muslim Hui generals lead their troops and fought bravely to death without the slightest show of surrender. Cenotaphs have been built for these generals in this complex to honor and remember them. The bodies could not be found during the fighting. The Three Muslim Martyrs Pavilion with a scripted plaque can be seen near these cenotaphs.
- Chinese name: 广州先贤清真寺 (Guǎngzhōu Xiānxián Qīngzhēnsì 'Guangzhou First Sage Mosque')
- Address: 901 Jiefang North Road, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou (广州越秀区解放北路901号) (see Guangzhou map)
- How to get there: Metro Line 2 to Yuexiu Park Station or buses to Yuexiu Park Station
- Timings: 8:30 to 5:00 for visitors to the the tomb area. The prayer hall is open from dawn to dusk for Muslims who come for the daily prayers.
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