With the beginning of the era of Japanese Renaissance, known as the era of Meiji, started in 1868, there were only two countries in Asia enjoyed that enjoyed independence. They were the Ottoman Empire and Japan.
As they both came under pressure from Western countries, they decided to establish friendly relations between them and consequently they started to exchange visits. The most important of these visits was the mission sent by Abdul Hamid II, who ruled from 1876 to1909, to Japan on board Ertugrul ship which carried more than six hundred officers and soldiers led by Admiral Uthman Pasha in 1890, The World Bulletin News reported.
On the homeward journey, after the mission was successfully accomplished in Japan and meeting Japanese emperor, a fierce hurricane fell on the ship while it was still in Japanese waters, causing the death of more than 550 people including the Sultan’s brother.
The disaster deeply moved both sides, and the survivors were carried on the board of two Japanese ships to Istanbul. The martyrs were buried at the site of the accident, and a museum was set up not far from the accident site. Japanese and Turks still celebrate this event until today at the same site of the accident every five years despite the successive change of governments.
Along the ship with the survivors going home, a young Japanese journalist by the name of Torajiro Noda who raised donations in Japan for the martyr’s families, left for Istanbul, handed these donations to Turkish authorities and even met Sultan Abdul Hamid, who asked him to stay in Istanbul and teach Japanese to Ottoman officers. During his stay in Istanbul, he met Abdullah Guillaume, an English Muslim from Liverpool, Britain who introduced Noda to Islam. Quite convinced after a lengthy discussion that Islam is the truth, Noda embraced Islam and chose to be named Abdul Haleem, as Turkish document at back of the present pamphlet shows.
In fact, Abdul Haleem Noda could be considered the first Japanese Muslim. Soon afterward, another Japanese called Yamada went to Istanbul in 1893 to give donations he had collected back home to the martyr’s families in Turkey. Following his conversion to Islam, being the second Japanese person to embrace Islam, he changed his name to Khaleel, or maybe Abdul Khaleel. He stayed in Istanbul several years doing business and kept friendly relations with Turkey after coming home until his death.
The third Japanese person to embrace Islam was a Christian merchant by the name of Ahmad Ariga. He visited Bombay, India in 1900. The beautiful sight of a mosque there attracted his attention, he went in and declared his conversion to Islam. During this period, a number of Indian Muslim merchants lived in Tokyo, Yokohama, and Kobe; they are considered to be the first Muslim community in Japan.