During the nineteenth century, many Sino-Muslim scholars were seeking a more robust relationship with their Arab co-religionists. The efforts of Ma Dexin 馬德新 (1794–1874) exemplify this shift to strengthen ties with the Muslim community outside China and situate Sino-Islamic scholarship in widespread Islamic discourses. Ma's writings provided Sino-Muslims with discursive and pragmatic tools for engaging a global Muslim community. For Ma, Muslim cooperation was negotiated through the means of religious education, which was enabled through travel and language. In this paper, I demonstrate how Ma Dexin modelled the importance of global connections of inter-Asian networks of religious learning by exemplifying the value of Middle Eastern travel and fluency in Arabic. I employ Ma's Chinese and Arabic written works in relation to those of Wang Daiyu 王岱輿 (circa 1590–1658) and Liu Zhi 劉智 (circa 1670–1724) to illustrate how he differed significantly from previous Sino-Muslim authors with regard to the use of Arabic within the Sino-Islamic intellectual tradition and in his emphatic urgings to perform the hajj pilgrimage. Finally, I briefly show how his divergent position was embraced, as exhibited through the efforts of one of his intellectual inheritors, Ma Lianyuan 馬聯元 (1841–1903).
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