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(A mini glossary of sorts is included at the end for any readers for whom terms used in this post may be new)

I do believe this is my first Muharram away from home, and while I thought that the closest I would get to any sort of Muharram programme would be online, watching and listening to the uploads from sicmtv (I miss you, Mahfil!), I couldn’t even get that due to extremely bad internet.

Luckily, a friend found out that the Iranian Embassy in Beijing is holding majlis for these nights, so we decided to go. (Tuesday was my first time there)

And I am so glad I did.

We may have been speaking different languages, but my surroundings were all too familiar; for those few hours, I was not in China at all.

I’ve been asked many times about the Muslim communities in Beijing, hopefully this can go partway to answering, but please leave comments/questions for anything else, and I will try my best to answer from what I know! So, I can happily say, totally against any expectations I had, I’ve now found some Shia here. In the ladies side, I estimate there were at least about 50 people, I was the only non-Iranian. That didn’t stop people from attempting to talk to me in Farsi though; apparently I would easily pass as an Iranian… Unfortunately, this did hinder communication somewhat, as (most of) the few I managed to talk to didn’t speak English nor any Chinese, but no matter! I was happy nonetheless!

Apparently, there were at least 100 in the mens side, which again, is far more than I expected, but from them, we did manage to find out that Dua Kumayl is read on Thursday nights there too, as well as functions for all the other bigger events in the Islamic calendar, such as Eid al-Ghadeer, and Milad un Nabi.  Needless to say, this did wonders for my mood! 🙂

Before now, I don’t think I fully appreciated what a binding thing religion can be. I may be on the other side of the world in Beijing. And this may be my first Muharram away from home. But I will not be commemorating it alone this year.


Muharram = the first month of the Islamic calendar, in which Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Holy Prophet, was martyred in the Battle of Karbala.

Mahfil the community/mosque I have been brought up in back home (aka, the best place in the world)

majlis = I think Wikipedia takes care of this one quite well – “special gatherings among common interest groups be it administrative, social or religious… Examples include remembrance of Husayn ibn Ali”

Dua Kumayl = a supplication traditionally read by Shia Muslims on Thursday nights

Eid al-Ghadeer = a day celebrated by Shia Muslims as it was the day on which the Prophet appointed Imam Ali to be his successor

Milad un Nabi = Birth anniversary of the Holy Prophet (also usually celebrated)


About Ibtehaal

I graduated with a degree in Chinese and Economics, which involved spending a year studying Chinese in Beijing. This turned out to be the hardest but most rewarding thing I think I have ever done. I've now returned to China for another year, to study in Shanghai and figure out my next steps.

4 responses »

  1. …always a pleasure to read ur blog ^_^ glad u found a familar place to frequent would be interesting to see. Lol i dont see why you couldn’t pass off as Iranian. X
    You could try speaking some arabic to them lol as they may understand that more…
    some useful farsi phrases:
    man farsi balad neestam – I dont know farsi
    balay – yes
    na- no
    merci – thanks

  2. Syed Muhammad Mujahid Ali Shah

    Dear Brother,
    Thank you for the information. I have been in Beijing for the past 4-5 years and every year in the month of Muharram, I was listening to majilis on the internet. I would appreciate if you could let me know more info about the majilis held at the Iranian embassy(language, topics, etc). It would be very helpful as this year I really want to visit the Iranian embassy for Muharram. Thank you

    • Salaam.
      I’m glad the information was useful to someone. The programmes at the embassy were all held in Farsi/Persian, and as I unfortunately do not understand much Farsi, I cannot tell you what topics the lectures were about exactly.
      I would suggest you just go to the embassy one evening in Muharram, and see for yourself, as this is the best way of finding out. If I recall correctly, the closest subway station was 马甸桥 (Madian qiao, in case you don’t read Chinese).
      Feel free to drop by again and share your experience.

      Ibtehaal (Miss.)


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