We aim to spread the forgiving Islamic sharia, in agreement with Japanese societal traditions
He studied at Al-Azhar, and since embracing Islam 50 years ago, works on propagation in his country, and as a result of long efforts, he achieved his dream with the establishment of the Islamic cultural center in Tokyo. Hajj Amin “Kimiaki” Tokumasu heads the Japan Muslims’ Society, which is a charitable society that does not indulge in politics in compliance with the law, and has hundreds of Muslims as members, both individuals and families.
“Islam came under a major distortion campaign because of wars in Muslim countries, the Sept 11 events, and what Daesh is doing today,” Tokumassu said. “The Japanese people are highly informed and follow all the news and this is why they got a negative image about Islam.” This is the reason that made him invest in a cultural center and not in building a mosque. “We attract Japanese youth, because we tell them to come and get educated, and they interact with us. We have designated one of the new building’s floors as a prayer area with the help of the Turkish government,” he said. Hajj Tokumasu said there are 100 Islamic societies and centers in Japan, and each of them has a mosque or prayer area. The largest mosque in Japan is the Tokyo Mosque, which was built by Turkey. He said the Japanese constitution permits religious freedom, and the government does not interfere in people’s worship and beliefs. The center operates freely, and it is only a lack of resources that limits its efforts. Building the center, for example, required nearly $2.5 million. $1 million was collected from members, and the rest from donations from Saudi Arabia, UAE and Turkey. This helped it to start construction. Most members are workers in companies, and each of them pays $80 annually, with $130 for families.
Tokumasu carries out the administrative duties after he retired, but said the society is not under an individual’s leadership - rather it adopts a monthly rotation system. “We were 3,000 Japanese Muslims 30 years ago, and today we are 10,000 and intend to increase the number through our commitment to what our religion requires,” he said. Tokumasu said the Japan Muslims’ Society was established in 1952 as the first Muslim society in the country, and gained official recognition in 1968. Its official premises is in Yoyogi Shibuya neighborhood of Tokyo.
The society aims at helping Muslims, practice peaceful Islamic rituals in a way that agrees with Japan society traditions, introduce Islam to the Japanese to familiarize them, strengthen their beliefs and support loving links with Muslims outside Japan.
The society has sent, since its establishment, students to Muslim countries so that they return with what they learn. It has published several publications, most important of which is the translation of the Holy Quran, translating all parts of Sahih Muslim and Tafseer Jalalain. The society is active in communicating with educational and cultural establishments in Japan and in the field of religious dialogue. The society runs a cemetery for Muslims where burial is done according to Muslim sharia. It organizes camps for its members and celebration of Muslim Eids. It also gives advice to those who wish to perform hajj, confirms the shahada for new Muslims and completes marriage procedures.
There are many stories and studies about introducing Islam to Japan, but the most notable information in this field is in the book “Islam in Japan” which is authored by Dr Saleh Mahdi Al-Samarrai and Dr Saleem Al-Rahman Khan, who said communications took place between the 17th and 19th centuries between Muslims and the Japanese, but the first official communication between Japan and the Ottoman state was in 1871, when high ranking Japanese officials visited Istanbul to strengthen relations between the two empires.
Sultan Abdelhameed II decided to send a ship with an Ottoman delegation onboard to Japan in 1889. The ship “Al Tughrul” arrived at Yokohama port with 665 people onboard under the leadership of Adm Othman Bashe, and it was received by the Japanese emperor. When the ship was heading back three months later, it faced a huge storm on the second day while still in Japan’s territorial waters, and sank with only 69 of its passengers surviving.
The accident shocked both empires, and a memorial was erected and still exists in Japan, and the Japanese mark their memory once every five years, once in Japan and once in Turkey. The Japanese held donation campaigns for the victims’ families, and with the delegation that went to hand over the money was a journalist called Ashturu Nuda, who met in Istanbul with the first English Muslim Abdullah Quilliam.
He embraced Islam and called himself Abdelhalim, and played a major role in developing Japanese relations with the Muslim world. He was followed by many Japanese including Ahmad Areeja, who embraced Islam in Bombay after entering one of the mosques, and Hassan Hanano, an officer and journalist who published the “Muslim fraternity” magazine later.
*Originally published on Kuwait Times on Feb. 9th, 2016.