Sayyid Ajall Shams al-Din Omar and Yunnan

Sayyid Ajall Shams al-Din Omar al-Bukhari (Persian: سید اجل شمس‌الدین عمر‎‎; Chinese: 赛典赤·赡思丁; pinyin: Sàidiǎnchì Zhānsīdīng) (1211–1279) was Yunnan’s first provincial governor, appointed by the Mongol Yuan Dynasty.

Shams al-Din was of Central Asian origin,[4][5][6] being a Muslim Khwarezmian from Bukhara (in present-day Uzbekistan). When Genghis Khan attacked the city during the war between the Khwarizmi Shah and the Mongols, Sayyid Ajall Shams al-Din Omar’s family surrendered to him. He was allegedly descended from ‘Alī bin Abī Tālib and the Prophet, Sayyid Ajall’s father was Kamāl al-Dīn and his grandfather was Shams al-Dīn ‘Umar al-Bukhārī.[7] According to Marshall Broomhall This man, who was a native of Bokhara, is said to have been a descendant of Mohammed (twenty-seventh generation)[8] He served the court of the Yuan dynasty at Yanjing (modern day Beijing).[9] Later, he was in charge of Imperial finances in 1259,[10] sent to Yunnan by Kublai Khan after conquering the Kingdom of Dali in 1274.

The Yüan-shi gives many biographies of distinguished Muslims in the service of the Mongols. A number of them occupied high offices. In chap, cxxv, we find the biography of 赛典赤·赡思丁 Sai-dien-ch’i shan-sse-ding, called also 烏馬兒 Wu-ma-r. He was a Hui-hui and a descendant of the 别菴伯爾 Bie-an-bo-r. In his country Sai-dien-ch’i has the same meaning as 貴族 (noble family) in Chinese. There is a long biography of Sai-dien-ch’i.[11][12][13]

Policy during Governorship[edit]
Sayyid Ajall founded a “Chinese style” city where modern Kunming is today, called Zhongjing Cheng. He ordered that a Buddhist temple, a Confucian temple, and two mosques be built in the city.[14] Advocating Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Daoism and Confucians was part of the Mongolian religious policy.[15] The Confucian temple that Sayyid Ajall built in 1274, which also doubled as a school, was the first Confucian temple ever to be built in Yunnan.[16]

Both Confucianism and Islam were promoted by Sayyid Ajall in his “civilizing mission” during his time in Yunnan.[17] Sayyid Ajall viewed Yunnan as “backward and barbarian” and utilized Confucianism, Islam, and Buddhism for “civilizing” the area.[18]

In Yunnan, the widespread presence of Islam is credited to Sayyid Ajall’s work.[19]

Sayyid Ajall was first to bring Islam to Yunnan. He promoted Confucianism and Islam by ordering construction of mosques and temples of Confucianism.[20] Sayyid Ajall also introduced Confucian education into Yunnan.[21][22] He was described as making ‘the orangutans and butcherbirds became unicorns and phonixes and their felts and furs were exchanged for gowns and caps’, and praised by the Regional Superintendent of Confucian studies, He Hongzuo.[23]

Shams al-Din constructed numerous Confucian temples in Yunnan, and promoted Confucian education. He is best known among Chinese for helping sinicize Yunnan province.[24] He also built multiple mosques in Yunnan as well.

Confucian rituals and traditions were introduced to Yunnan by Sayyid Ajall.[25] Several Confucian temples and schools were founded by him. Chinese social structures, and Chinese style funeral and marriage customs were spread to the natives by Sayyid Ajall.[26][27]

The aim of Sayyid Ajall’s policy of promoting Confucianism and education in Yunnan was to “civilize” the native “barbarians”. Confucian rituals were taught to students in newly founded schools by Sichuanese scholars, and Confucian temples were built.[28][29] The natives of Yunnan were instructed in Confucian ceremonies like weddings, matchmaking, funerals, ancestor worship, and kowtow by Sayyid Ajall. The native leaders has their “barbarian” clothing replaced by clothing given to them by Sayyid Ajall.[30][31]

Both Marco Polo and Rashid al-Din recorded that Yunnan was heavily populated by Muslims during the Yuan Dynasty, with Rashid naming a city with all Muslim inhabitants as the ‘great city of Yachi’.[32] It has been suggested that Yachi was Dali City (Ta-li). Dali had many Hui people.[33]

His son Nasir al-Din became Governor of Yunnan in 1279 after Sayyid Ajall died.[34][35]

The historian Jacqueline Armijo-Hussein has written on Sayyid Ajall’s Confucianization and Sinicization policies, in her dissertation Sayyid ‘Ajall Shams al-Din: A Muslim from Central Asia, serving the Mongols in China, and bringing ‘civilization’ to Yunnan,[36] the paper The Origins of Confucian and Islamic Education in Southwest China: Yunnan in the Yuan Period,[37] and The Sinicization and Confucianization in Chinese and Western Historiography of a Muslim from Bukhara Serving Under the Mongols in China.[38]

Sayyid Ajall’s oldest son was Nasir al-Din.[43] Sayyid Ajall’s 7th generation descendant was Sai Hazhi.[44]

Sayyid Ajall was a 26th generation descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and fifth generation descendant of Su fei-erh. In total, had had five sons. He had two tombs, one in Wo-erh-to in Yunnan and another memorial which contained his clothes in Xi’an in Shaanxi province. The author of “The Magnetic Needle of Islam”, Ma Chu (1630–1710), was a descendant of Sayyid Ajall. The d’Ollone expedition during the Qing dynasty recorded that Imam Na Wa-Ch’ing was the leader of the family of descendants of Sayyid Ajall.[45][46][47] Ma repaired Sayyid Ajall’s tomb. Another romanization of Ma Chu is “Ma Zhu”.[48] Sayyed Ajall’s descendants included 15th generation- Ma Zhu and 25th generation- Ma Dexin.[49]

Sayyid Ajall is the ancestor of many Muslims in areas all across China. Yunnan contained the greatest number of his descendants.[50]

One of his most prominent descendants was Zheng He.[51][52]

In the thirteenth century the influence of individual Muslims was immense, especially that of the Seyyid Edjell Shams ed-Din Omar, who served the Mongol Khans till his death in Yunnan AD 1279. His family still exists in Yunnan, and has taken a prominent part in Muslim affairs in China.[53]

He is identified as the ancestor of many Chinese Hui lineages in Yunnan’s Panthay Hui population as well as in Ningxia and Fujian provinces.

A Hui legend in Ningxia links four surnames common in the region – Na, Su, La, and Ding – with the descendants of Shams al-Din’s son named Nasruddin, who “divided” their ancestor’s name (Nasulading, in Chinese) among themselves.[54][55][56][57] The Ding family of Chendai, Fujian claims descent from him.[58] The Ding family has branches in Taiwan, the Philippines, and Malaysia among the diaspora Chinese communities there, no longer practicing Islam but still maintaining a Hui identity.

It was the Ming loyalist Confucian Hui Muslim scholar Ma Zhu (1640-1710) from Yunnan who traced many Hui lineage’s ancestry back to Sayyid Ajall, constructing genealogies for them, specifically claiming that Hui who were not surnamed Ma were descended from Sayyid Ajjall, like Hui surnamed Na, Su, La, and Ding, while tracing his own ancestry and other Hui in Yunnan who were surnamed Ma to the Ming Muslim official Sai Haizhi.[59]

The deputy secretary-general of the Chinese Muslim Association on Taiwan, Ishag Ma (馬孝棋), has claimed “Sayyid is an honorable title given to descendants of the Prophet Mohammed, hence Sayyid Shamsuddin must be connected to Mohammed”. The Ding (Ting) family in Taisi Township in Yunlin County of Taiwan, traces descent from him through the Ding of Quanzhou in Fujian.[60]

馬注 juren 馬师孔 《清真指南》 《咸阳家乘》[61] 《马氏家乘》 赛哈智 赛屿 白帝真君[62] 咸阳王 [63][64][65][66][67][68]

Su fei-erh is alleged by the Fa-hsiang to be the ancestor of Sayyid Ajall, however, some were skeptical of this claim and think it was a forgery to mask Sayyid Ajall’s arrival to China with the Mongols.[69][70] Chuan-Chao Wang of Fudan University studied the Y chromosomes of Sayyid Ajall’s present descendants, and found they all have haplogroup L1a-M76, proving a southern Persian origin.[71]