Islam in Tibet

Islam arrived 1000 years ago in Tibet. During the reign of Umar bin Abdul Aziz (717-720) a delegation from Tibet and China requested Muslim missionaries. Caliph Umar sent Salah bin Abdullah Hanafi to Tibet. The Abbasid rulers also maintained re1ations with Tibet in the 8th and 9th centuries. Muslim migrants from Kashmir first entered Tibet around 12th century. Gradually marriages led to an increase in the population until a sizable community came up around Lhasa, Tibet's capital.

Tibetan Muslims trace their origin to immigrants from China, Kashmir, Ladakh and Nepal. Muslims are known as Khache among Tibetans. The arrival of Muslims was followed by the construction of Musjids. There were 4 in Lhasa, 2 in Shigatse and one in Tsethang. The fifth Dalai Lama granted Tibetan Muslims many privileges: They were permitted to settle their affairs according to Islamic Laws, exempted from the 'no meat rule' of the Buddhists, and were given their own burial places. With the Chinese invasion in 1959, Muslims were persecuted and many fled to Kashmir where they live today. There are 3,000 Tibetan Muslims and 20,000 Chinese Muslims in Tibet today with a few thousand in Kashmir and other areas.