Chinese laborers working on the Haramain Rail project have spoken of their joy after embracing Islam.
There are 4,600 Chinese nationals working on the scheme, which when completed will link the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah via Jeddah and Rabigh. Among them, 370 are already born Muslims.
Last year, over 600 of them embraced Islam, causing controversy with a section of the international media slamming it as a public relations stunt.
At the time, there were calls from sections of Saudi society to replace the non-Muslim workers, who represent the majority Han community in China, with minority Muslims.
Hamza, 42, said he embraced Islam after he saw the Holy Kaaba for the first time on Saudi television.
“It had an electrifying effect on me. I watched the live transmission of prayers at the Grand Mosque and the circumambulation of the faithful around the holiest shrine in Islam,” he said.
“I asked my Muslim colleague the other day about all these things. He took me to the Call and Guidance Office for Foreigners (Jaliyat) at our company site, where I had the opportunity to learn about the various aspects of Islam.”
Hamza said he feels happier and more relaxed now that he has become a Muslim. Fifty-one-year-old Ibrahim is another Chinese worker who embraced Islam in September last year.
“While we were in China, we did not have any opportunity to learn about Islam. When I reached Makkah, I was very impressed by the behavior of many of its residents. Their equal treatment of Muslims and non-Muslims had a big impact on me,” he said.
Ibrahim, who is working with the maintenance section of the state-owned Chinese Railway Company, says that he, like Hamza, became a Muslim when he saw the Kaaba.
Abdullah Al-Baligh, 51, was inspired to embrace Islam after seeing the positive changes in his colleagues. “Six months after I arrived in Makkah, I noticed that my colleague, who was already a Muslim, had totally changed and his behavior and conduct were exemplary. I realized that Islam was the guiding force behind these changes,” he said.
“When I asked him, he told me that he had known nothing about the religion while in China. Now, he had a proper understanding of Islam and wanted to become more of a role model.”
Younus, another worker, says that he became a practicing Muslim only after his arrival in Makkah.
“Islam in China is lacking. I realized about this only after coming over to the Kingdom. Many of my Muslim colleagues and I only truly learned about Islam in the holy city, thanks to the commendable work of the Call and Guidance Office,” he said.
Zaid Al-Osaimi of the Jaliyat office in Al-Sharaie district in Makkah told Arab News that he sought permission from the Chinese Railway Company to open an office at their site.
“The company officials responded positively to our request. We erected two tents inside the site. Religious classes are being held in one of these tents while the second one is meant for recreational purposes as well as allowing our workers and the laborers to get together,” he said.
“The office holds open meetings on every Thursday. We continue to conduct study classes to teach the fundamental principles of Islam as well as helping workers memorize the Holy Qur’an,” he said.
He added that there has been a tremendous response from the Chinese workers, while the office has also been distributing Chinese translations of the Holy Qur’an as well as Islamic books and booklets free of charge.