Open main menu
Mausoleum of Ma Laichi, Linxia City, Gansu, China
Yu Baba Gongbei in Linxia

Khufiyya (Chinese: 虎夫耶; pinyin: Hǔfūyé, Arabic: خفيه, the silent ones) is a Sufist order of Chinese Islam. It was the first Sufist order to be established within China[1] and, along with Jahriyya, Qadariyya, and Kubrawiyyah, is acknowledged as one of the four orders of Chinese Sufism.[2]

Adherents of Khufiyya dwell mainly in Northwestern China, especially Gansu province. The order follows the school of Hanafi in terms of jurisprudence.[3] Traditional beliefs within the order claim the origin of Khufiyya to be Abu Bakr.[4] In addition, the doctrines of Khufiyya are influenced by Confucianism, the Confucian approach or way of expounding Islamic sacred texts known as "Yiru Quanjing" (以儒詮經).[5][6]


The origin of Khufiyya can be traced to the Naqshbandis of Central Asia, a Sunni spiritual order of Sufism, which in turn has its roots in Sham.[7] Their missions gave rise to the prosperity of Sufis in Bukhara and Samarkand. Makhdumi Azam, a 17th-century Naqshbandi leader, settled in Kashgar where his offspring promoted and cemented his teachings. Descendants of Azam were known as Miskiya and Ishaqis.[8]

Khufiyya in China was pioneered by a Ming dynasty mufti from Lintao named Ma Shouzhen (馬守貞). He was born in 1633, during the reign of the Chongzhen Emperor. In his youth, he was mentored by the Miskiya missionary Afaq Khoja, who visited Hezhou in 1672[9][10]and greatly contributed to the dissemination of Sufism in China.[11] At the age of 40, Shouzhen began his preaching. After 50 years, the order had grown into a sizable religious community.[2]

Ma Laichi can be seen as another founding member of the Khufiyya order. Under the guidance of Ma Taibaba, a contemporary of Ma Shouzhen, Ma Laichi was introduced into Sufism. After pilgrimage to Mecca, he returned to China and preached for 32 years in Qinghai and Gansu province. He later established the Huasi Menhuan, which remains an important menhuan, or denomination, of Chinese Sufism.[10][12][13]

In the early 18th century, Xian Meizhen, another pupil of Afaq Khoja, preached in the inner provinces of China. The Xianmen Menhuan denomination was founded by Meizhen.[14] Gradually, over years of religious practice and conversion, different denominations of Khufiyya formed Jiaofang (教坊)–units of residence where followers of a menhuan reside.[15] Just like those of Jahriyya, Khufiyyan Jiaofang were organized administrative divisions led by an Akhoond.[16]

Throughout the reign of the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing dynasty, the "old" orders of Chinese Sufism represented by Khufiyya encountered a wave of reformists led by Ma Mingxin, the founder of Jahriyya which was known as the "New order". Ma Mingxing opposed and criticized Khufiyyan menhuan's hereditary lineage and attracted followers from Gansu, Ningxia, and Qinghai.[16][13] In the later conflicts between Khufiyya and Jahriyya over both religious and political affairs, the Qing government supported Khufiyya and saw Jahriyya as a threat to its rule.[17]

During the Cultural Revolution, Khufiyya was among the many religious organizations that suffered persecutions and pressures. Many mosques were demolished during this time, religious practice was forbidden. The state-imposed ban on religion was lifted after 3rd Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.[18] In contemporary China, followers of Khufiyya live mainly in Linxia, Tianshui and Lanzhou of Gansu province.[19]


Like other Sufi orders, Khufiyya is characterized by the veneration of saints, the search for enlightenment, and dhikr (quiet repetition of devotional phrases or prayers). The dhikr of Khufiyya followers are in a low tone or even silent, which references the meaning of the "Khufiyya", which means "the silent ones" in Arabic.[20][21] In addition, Khufiyya was relatively conformist to the central government of China throughout different periods of history.[21]

The Khufiyya order rejects excessive practice of the abstinence from worldly desires. It advocates for a way of spiritual life which balances between one's secular affairs and spiritual endeavors.[22]

Disciples of the Khufiyya order are required to complete the reading of the Quran and Hadiths. Notably, the sufi Tariqa of reciting silent dhikr is a necessity. A teacher of Khufiyya disciples is known as Murshid.[23]


As of 1988, out of 6,781,500 Hui Chinese, 7.2% identify as Khufiyya followers. In Ningxia, there were 560 mosques affiliated with Khufiyya.[24] Adherents of Khufiyya can be found in most of the northwestern provinces of China, with settlements in the inner provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan, Henan, Jilin and Hebei.[23]


There are more than 20 menhuan (denominations). The following list shows some of the major menhuans of the Khufiyya brotherhood:[23]


  1. ^ 回族社会历史调查资料. Yunnan nationalities publishing house. 2009. ISBN 9787105087563.
  2. ^ a b Bai, Shouyi (2008). Huzu Renwu Zhi. Ninxia Renmin Press. pp. 898–903. ISBN 9787227020066.
  3. ^ Zhang, Shihai. Hui Chinese and Islamic study. Lanzhou: Gansu Minzu Press. pp. 165, 270–271. ISBN 9787542112675.
  4. ^ Ma, Tong (1983). 中国伊斯兰教派与门宦制度史略. Yinchuan: Ninxia Renmin Press. p. 210.
  5. ^ Lee, David (2015). Contextualization of Sufi Spirituality in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century China. Wipf and Stock Eugene. p. 189. ISBN 9781498225229.
  6. ^ 宁夏回族自治区概况. 民族出版社. 2008. p. 35. ISBN 9787105086054.
  7. ^ Liu, Yihong (2006). 回儒对话: 天方之经与孔孟之道. Zongjiao Wenhua Chubanshe. p. 191. ISBN 9787801238108.
  8. ^ Jin, Yiliu; Ho Wai, Yip, eds. (2017). Islam. Translated by Chan Ching-shing, Alex. Leiden: Brill. p. 148. ISBN 9789047428008.
  9. ^ Yang, Huiyun (1993). 中国回族大辞典. Shanghai: Shanghai Dictionary Publishing house. p. 114. ISBN 9787532602629.
  10. ^ a b Manger, Leif (2013). Muslim Diversity: Local Islam in Global Contexts. Routledge. p. 121. ISBN 9781136818646.
  11. ^ Jin, Yijiu (2008). Chinese religions and beliefs a series of contemporary studies in China: Islam. Minzu Press. p. 273. ISBN 9787105091096.
  12. ^ Papas, Alexandre; Wei, Ma (2015). "Sufi Lineages Among the Salar: An Overview". In Hille, Marie-Paule; Horlemann, Bianca; Nietupski, Paul K. (eds.). Muslims in Amdo Tibetan Society: Multidisciplinary Approaches. Lanham: Lexington Books. pp. 109–34. ISBN 9780739175309.
  13. ^ a b Stewart, Alexander (2016). Chinese Muslims and the Global Ummah: Islamic Revival and Ethnic Identity Among the Hui of Qinghai Province. Routledge. ISBN 9781317238461.
  14. ^ La, Binde (2009). Islam of Qinghai Province. Zongjiao Wenhua Press. ISBN 9787802541627.
  15. ^ Ma, Keling (2006). 回族传统法文化研究. 中国社会科学出版社. p. 142. ISBN 9787500454328.
  16. ^ a b Yu, Zhengui (1996). 中国历代政权与伊斯兰教. Yinchuan: Ningxia Renmin Publishing house. ISBN 9787227017011.
  17. ^ Min zu wen ti wen xian hui bian, 1921.7–1949.9. United Front Work Department. 1991. p. 876. ISBN 9787503502729.
  18. ^ County annals of Tongxin. Yinchuan: Ningxia Renmin Press. 1995. p. 653. ISBN 7227014371.
  19. ^ 甘肃省志, Volume 70. Gansu Renmin Press. 1989. p. 190. ISBN 7226025957.
  20. ^ Gladney, Dru C. (1996). Muslim Chinese: Ethnic Nationalism in the People's Republic (2 ed.). Cambridge: Harvard UP. p. 48. ISBN 9780674594975.
  21. ^ a b Dillon, Michael (2013). China's Muslim Hui Community: Migration, Settlement and Sects. Routledge. p. 115. ISBN 9781136809330.
  22. ^ Yang, Fenggang (2016). 田野歸來(下)──中國宗教和中國社會研究:道德與社會. Taipei: 台灣文藝. p. 184. ISBN 9789866131363.
  23. ^ a b c Ma, Tong (2017). "Basic Characteristics of Islam in Northern China". In Jin, Yiliu; Ho Wai, Yip (eds.). Islam. Translated by Chan Ching-shing, Alex. Leiden: Brill. pp. 323–47. ISBN 9789047428008.
  24. ^ Gladney, Dru C. (2010). "China". In Rubin, Barry M. (ed.). Guide to Islamist Movements. 2. Armonk, New York / London: M.E. Sharpe. p. 78. ISBN 9780765641380.