Afaq Khoja

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Afaq Khoja (1626 – 1694) (Uyghur: ئاپاق خوجا‎), born Hidayat Allah, a.k.a. Apaq Xoja, or more properly[1] Āfāq Khwāja (Persian: آفاق خواجه) was a religious and political leader with the title of Khwaja in Kashgaria (in modern-day southern Xinjiang). He was also known as Khwāja Hidāyat Allāh.

Spelling variants[edit]

In Chinese, Afaq Khoja is known as 伊達雅圖勒拉; Yīdáyǎ Túlēilā. His name is also written as 阿帕克霍加 (Āpàkè Huòjiā) or 阿帕克和卓 (Āpàkè Hézhuō) and occasionally just 阿帕霍加 (Āpà Huòjiā); Khoja may also appear as 和卓 (Hézhuō). In the Uyghur Latin alphabet it is written as Apaq Xoja and in Uyghur script as ئاپاق خوجا


Genealogy book showing Akaq Khoja as a sayid, a descendant of the prophet Muhammad

Afaq Khoja was a great-grandson of the noted Naqshbandi Sufi teacher, Ahmad Kasani (zh) (1461–1542) (also known as Makhdūm-i`Azam, "the Great Master"), and was revered as a Sufi teacher in his own right. Afaq was born in 1626 in Kumul, where his father Muhammad Yusuf Khoja preached. His mother Zuleiha Begum was the daughter of Mir Sayyid Jalil Kashgari, a rich bek from the village of Bashkerim in the Kashgar Region, who settled in Kumul after fleeing from Kashgar several years previously. In 1638, at the age of 12, he came with his father to Kashgar and settled there. Yarkent Khanate ruler Abdullah Khan (1638-1669) granted his father Bashkerim village and many inhabitants of Kashgar Region became disciples of the Ishkiyya Sufi order, a branch of the Nakshbandi Khojas founded by Muhammad Yusuf Khoja's father Khoja Kalan and whose followers were known as Ak Taghliks or White Mountain Khojas (zh). Among some Uyghur Muslims, Khoja Appak was considered a sayid or descendant of the prophet Muhammad. As a highly respected religious figure, he was in a clash with ruling elite of the Chagatai (Moghul) dynasty and this conflict had both a religious and secular nature. For the religious part he was an advocator of implementing Islamic Sharia law against Mongol Yassa law which was in force at that time while for the secular part he heavily criticized the luxurious lifestyle which the ruling elites enjoyed. This clash proved serious due to the fact that Chagatai Khan (c. 1185–1241 or 1242) had been appointed by Genghis Khan to see if the Yassa was observed [2] so it eventually resulted in expelling of Afaq Khoja by Ismail Khan (1669, 1670-1678), the later ruler of the Yarkent Khanate. Since the Ishaki Khojas were another offshoot of the Naqshbandi Sufis, Ismail Khan purposefully approached the Ishaki khojas (also known as the Kara Taghliks, i.e. Black Mountain Khojas (zh)) to balance Afaq Khoja influences and prevent dangerous propaganda against him by followers of Afaq Khoja. This clash between religious sects worked to Ismail Khan's advantage. However, the exiled Afaq Khoja had accomplished a diplomatic mission that had led to the collapse of Chagatai (Moghul) dynasty in 1678. In this diplomatic mission Tibet Muslims played a crucial role by convincing the 5th Dalai Lama to write a letter of introduction to the Dzungar Khanate.[3] Using this recommendation letter Afaq Khoja allied with the Dzungars and formed a strong coalition force which included some Chagatai (Moghul) royal family members such as Abdirishit Khan II, Muhammad Imin Khan and Muhammad Momin Akbash, who were against Ismail Khan. Moreover there were a significant numbers of followers of Afaq Khoja inside the Khanate so that the profile of the Afaq Khoja increased considerably. The Dzungar leader Galdan Boshugtu Khan then launched the Dzungar conquest of Altishahr, conquered the Yarkent Khanate and then installed Afaqi Khoja as one of their puppet rulers.

In 1691 a temporary alliance between Muhammad Imin Khan, son of Sultan Said Baba Khan, who was previously recalled from Turpan and elected as a Khan of the Yarkent Khanate on Kurultai of Kashgar and Yarkent Beks and who was a strong enemy of the Dzungars, and Afak Khoja came to an end. Muhammad Imin Khan expelled Khoja from Yarkent and prohibited all inhabitants of Yarkand Khanate to keep any relations with Khoja. In response, Khoja swore to exterminate all descendants of Chengiz Khan , called his son Yahiya Khoja from Kashgar with troops and attacked Yarkand. Muhammad Imin Khan retreated to Kargalik and from here to the place named Kulagan where decisive battle took place in 1692 between armies of Khoja and Muhammad Imin Khan. During the battle many supporters of Muhammad Imin Khan deserted him and came to Khoja, that resulted in Khan's defeat. Muhammad Imin Khan fled to the Mountains where he was captured and killed.

After this victory Afak Khoja declared his son Yahiya Khoja a Khan with the title Khan Khoja and made himself a powerful ruler controlling several cities around the Tarim Basin, including Khotan, Yarkand, Korla, Kucha and Aksu as well as Kashgar. According to sources from Ishaki khojas Afaq Khoja initially paid 100,000 tangas (silver coins) to the Dzungars for their military assistance and accepted the mandate of the Dzungars, led by Galdan Boshughtu Khan (1670–1697). Later the Dzungars demanded they pay them 100,000 tangas every year as tribute and this request was accepted by Afak Khoja.

Afak Khoja died in 1694 and left his son Yahiya Khoja as actual ruler of the Yarkand Khanate (r. 1694-1695). After Yahiya Khoja's death (he was killed by Apak Khoja's wife Khanam Padshah, who was a daughter of Sultan Said Baba Khan, ruler of Turpan and Chalish), Muhammad Mumin Sultan (Akbash Khan, r. 1695-1706) restored the Chagatay (Moghul) dynasty of Yarkand, attempting to get rid of the Dzungar mandate, but finally he fled to India. Kashgaria was soon reconquered by Dzungar Khan Tsewang Rabtan in 1713.

Influence on Islam in China[edit]

The shrine complex (gongbei) around the grave of Ma Laichi in Linxia City

Afaq Khoja's influence spread far outside of Xinjiang. From 1671-72, he was preaching in Gansu (which then included parts of modern Qinghai province), where his father Muhammad Yusuf had preached before. On that tour, he visited Xining (today's Qinghai province), Lintao, and Hezhou (now Linxia), and was said to convert some Hui and many Salars there to Naqshbandi Sufism.

According to the Chinese (Hui) followers of the Qadiriyya Sufi school, when Afāq Khoja was in Xining in 1672, he gave his blessing to 16-year-old Qi Jingyi (later also known as Hilal al-Din, or Qi Daozu (1656–1719)), who was then to introduce Qadiriyya into China proper. His two other spiritual descendants, Ma Laichi and Ma Mingxin, went to study in Central Asia and Arabia, and upon return to China founded two other Naqshbandi menhuans (brotherhoods) there: the Khufiyya and the Jahriyya, respectively.[4]

The Afaqis[edit]

Main article: Aq Tagh

Khoja Afaq's descendants, known as the Āfāqi khojas, or the Aq Taghliqs, i.e. 'White Mountaineers', played an important part in the local politics south of the Tian Shan range for almost two centuries after Afāq's death. They first ruled Kashgaria as Dzungars' vassals, but after the death of Dzungars' Galdan Khan managed to gain independence for a while.

The next strong Dzungar ruler, Tsewang Rabtan (1697–1727), subjugated Kashgaria again; to stay on the safe side, Dzungars this time were now to keep the Afaqi Khojas as hostages in the Ili region, and rule Kashgarian cities through Afaqis' rivals, the Ishaqi khojas -Karataghliks, i.e. 'Black Mountaineers'.

In the 1750s, two Afaqi Khoja descendants- brothers, Burhān al-Dīn and Khwāja-i Jahān, who had been held by Dzungars as hostages in Ili, aided the Manchu Qing emperor Qianlong in annihilating the Dzungars ( from spring 1755 till summer 1757 around 300,000 Dzungars, no subject to gender and age, were massacred by the invading 300,000 (?) Qianlong Army, which executed an official order, given to General Jiao Hui in spring 1756 by the Son of Heaven, to liquidate the whole Dzungar nation till last baby, those who survived were killed by the following epidemic of smallpox, total loss of the population in Dzungaria reached 1,000 000, transforming it eventually into the Land without people; at the same time Khoja Jahan, executing Khoja Burhan ad-Din order, razed to ground in 1755 both Dzungar temples, Golden and Silver, in Ghulja and Kainuk cities of Ili River Valley, that were built by Galdan Boshugtu Khan and represented the sacred symbols of Dzungar Power)[citation needed] and establishing Qing hegemony over Dzungaria and the Tarim Basin in which they waged in 1755-1756 a bloody war against their old rivals- Karataghliks, who previously took total control of Kashgaria since 1752, having terminated annual tribute payments to Dzungars. However, as the two eventually victorious khojas began to seek more independence for themselves, they soon ( in autumn 1757 ) came into conflict with the Qing power. Having lost Yarkand and Kashgar to the Qing armies in 1759, they fled to Badakhshan, where they were promptly killed by the local ruler, Sultān Shāh, who sent their heads to the Qing.

According to a legend, Iparhan, granddaughter of Apak Khoja was given to emperor Qianlong as concubine. Under Qing auspice, Khojijan rulers of city states often fell out of favor of the hegemonic power and had to flee to Uzbek protection in the Khanate of Kokand.

By 19th century, prominent Afaqi Khojas (Khojijans) in exile in Kokand sought to influence their former domains through preaching or allying with new imperialist powers of Russia and Great Britain. It was during the 1800s that two major attempts were launched from Kokand to claim the "Six City State of Tarim Basin" ( Altishahr ) from Qing domination. These were the British-supported Jihangir Rebellion (1826–1828) and the usurpation of Kashgaria by Kokand retainer Yaqub Beg (1864–1877) who recognized Ottoman suzerainty.

Well into 20th century, there were still local princely families of Khojijan descent. The Chinese warlord and Military Governor (Duban) of Sinkiang general Sheng Shicai (April 12, 1933- August 29, 1944) restored the status of several of these local rulers to facilitate his rule.

Afāq Khoja Mausoleum[edit]

Main article: Afāq Khoja Mausoleum

Afāq Khoja's mausoleum is considered the holiest Muslim site in Xinjiang. It is located at 39°29′26″N 76°1′23″E / 39.49056°N 76.02306°E / 39.49056; 76.02306 in Haohan Village (浩罕村), a northeastern suburb some 5 km from the city centre of Kashgar. First built ca. 1640, initially as Muhammad Yusuf tomb, the beautiful tiled mausoleum contains the tombs of five generations of the Afāqi family, providing resting places for its 72 members, both men and women.


  1. ^ Khwāja Āfāq, or Khoja Afaq, is a spelling preferred by modern schlars, e.g. Kim (2004) or Gladney (1999)
  2. ^ "Mongol Laws: the Yassa". Retrieved 2013-06-02. 
  3. ^ 安瓦尔, 巴依图尔. 略论阿帕克和卓 (PDF). China Academic Journal Electronic Publishing House. 
  4. ^ Gladney (1999)