There is no town or village in Egypt or the Thebaid that is not surrounded by hermitages as if by walls, and the people depend on their prayers as if on God Himself... Through them the world is kept in being. History of the Monks in Egypt, fourth centuryTarot Card: The Hermit
Egypt is the home of many monasteries, some of which are truly ancient chorist chantries. These orders have never been large or interested in the world outside, instead turning inwards towards the divine. Still, some of them retain ancient knowledge from the old eras, integrating it with their own beliefs in sometimes surprising ways.
It began in 270, when St. Antonius retreated to the desert for a life in contemplation. His example gathered many followers and monastic communities sprang up near the Red Sea or in the desert.
During the early Christian era choristers from Egypt were frequently in opposition to the Emperor in Constantinople and the choristers of the emerging Christian church. This resulted in several schisms such as the Arian and Nestorian heresies where different fractions of the Chorus debated the nature of the Avatar and its relation to the One; after the councils of Nicea and Chalchedon some choristers retired from the shaping of the Church and instead retreated to their monasteries in the desert, ignored by the church and eventually isolated from the chorus mainstream.
Since then they have retained their traditions almost unchanged, often with significant deviations from traditional Christianity. Some have retained elements from the old Egyptian religion in their teaching, and it is reputed that one chorist chantry in Wadi al- Natrun still knows the complete mummification ritual, slightly changed to a Christian context.
The monastics doesn't take part of in current struggles of the chorus, retreating to their own world instead of joining the fight. They have little to do with the Islamic choristers (in fact, they have closer contacts with the darwushim of the Ahl-I-Batini). The old treaty between the monastics, batini and Islamic choristers is however gradually breaking down, and sooner or later the monastics need to take action.
To the Muslim, history is a series of accidents that in no way affect the nontemporal principles of Islam. He is more interested in knowing and "realizing" these principles than in cultivating originality and change as intrinsic virtues. The symbol of Islamic civilization is not a flowing river, but the cube of the Kaaba, the stability of which symbolizes the permanent and immutable character of Islam. "Science and Civilization in Islam", by Seyyed Hossein NasrTarot Card: The Hierophant
The Islamic world is the becoming the strongest seat of the Chorus as the millennium draws close; there have even been whispers that the next Pontifex Maximus will be Muslim instead of Christian, and that in a not too distant future the Great Adytum will be moved to Teheran or Mecca. That may be an exaggeration, but it is not far from the truth: the chorus is rapidly becoming more powerful and aggressive in the region.
The Muslim choristers have had much contact with the Ahl-I-Batin, which they have sometimes struggled, sometimes supported. While the chorus have concentrated on the umma (congregation) and its people, the batini have sought their own insights on the fringes of religion, sometimes overstepping its bounds (like the case of Al- Hallaj, who was crucified in Baghdad for his blasphemous and ecstatic utterances). In general they have been tolerant of other faiths while working towards a balanced society guided by the truths of the Quran.
For a long time the chorus had absolutely no interest in politics or the material world: the only thing that mattered was the spiritual well-being of people. Harsh times were seen as merely trials sent by Allah, and it was more important to cultivate the proper humility and faith than to overthrow the often corrupt rulers. This introversion was a major reason why the Technocracy so easily could crush the traditions of Egypt.
As a reaction to the spread of the Technocracy, fundamentalism developed: a return to the basic teaching of the Quran, rejecting the often contradictory interpretations made by rulers and ulama (religious scholars, custodians of the shariah) through the centuries and turning to a more pure faith. The original fundamentalist movement (largely initiated by Muhammad Ibn'Abd al-Wahhab 1703-1792) turned away completely from western thought and technology, but modern neofundamentalism is more pragmatic: the tools of the Technocracy are not impure as long as they are used for the good of the umma and according to the Will of Allah.
Since the 30's, the chorus has resurged in Egypt, working ceaselessly to gain popular support for Islam. New mosques and independent preachers spring up everywhere, and gain an ever larger following. The widespread discontent helps the chorus immensely. Since many of the choristers are involved in very practical matters like transportation, housing, tuition, textbooks and providing help for the poor they have achieved a significant credibility.
The radical fundamentalist choristers seek to attack the Technocracy directly in a jihad, by gaining political power to fight the New World Order, islamize the economy (and thus destroying the Syndicate power) and turn society into a true Islamic state. The moderate choristers who do not support this are at best cowards, at worst the passive helpers of the Technocracy.
Currently the radical fundamentalists are pressuring the more numerous moderates to follow them into battle, and are attempting to force the batini to choose sides: remaining neutral is no option - either they accept the pure faith and join the jihad, or be destroyed with the Technocracy. Already the fundamentalists have shown their power to hurt the batini, and it is uncertain how long the batini will remain neutral. Once they join the fold, the other choristers will be hard pressed to follow, and the jihad will begin in earnest.
The name is based on the five pillars of Islam plus two "extra pillars" relevant only for mages: Purity and Protection. Mages, the brotherhood argues, have been chosen by Allah for a special duty: to help and protect the sleepers from supernatural threats (including fallen mages) and to purify the world from evil influences. While some members take these ideas as the basis for witch-hunting, most see them more as an order to help the sleepers with their lives, not to strike indiscriminately against the supernatural.
The Brotherhood is the stronghold of the moderate choristers of Egypt. During the two centuries since its founding it has slowly helped restore Islam in Egypt, riding the wave of the fundamentalist movement. But recently they have more and more lost control to the radical choristers, centred around the Shayks of the White Night. They have steadily been loosing ground to the Shayks. One reason is that Abu Hasan is so good at diplomacy and persuasion; he has convinced several influential choristers to join him, and often makes the Brotherhood agree with him even on its own.
Another problem is lack of leadership. Traditionally the brotherhood has been led by the eldest and most enlightened master, but most decisions were made by consensus among the members. But now the Brotherhood is splintered, and Jeannie Samir, the current leader, is too non-political to help them against the radicals (the fact that she is a woman has also helped the radicals win the support of some conservative members).
The Brotherhood has two strengths: it is larger than the Shayks and has more public support (although this doesn't matter when it comes to magickal terrorism), and it is supported by the Chorus of Arabia, which still has some say over the Shayks. It still holds power over Al-Azhar, although the Shayks are doing much to turn the university through the Guardians of the Law in a more fundamentalist direction; should they win the effects would be subtle and profound: Al-Azhar is the most influential and prestigious university in the Islamic world. Most Moslem choristers at least visit the university once during their education and it has great influence on Islamic interpretation both among mages and sleepers. The Shayks would get a chance to spread their message unhindred.
Jeannie is a great example as a mage and human being, but she is not good at dealing with intrigue. Instead she almost completely devotes her time to helping the poor and needy on the streets of Cairo, helping without even expecting gratitude. Her humility is so extreme that it has given her significant Arcane: those she helps just remember the kindly but silent helper, not who it was. In fact, this has started rumours among the poor that there is an angel in Cairo. She seldom speaks (her master once gave her the affectionate nickname "the little rock" - she is hard and silent as a small rock). The only thing that really can make her speak up is if she witnesses a direct injustice. Then she immediately steps up to the wrong-doer and tells him on no uncertain terms his error.
Jeannie is one of the most powerful mages of Cairo, a veritable powerhouse of faith and energy. But she has turned it all to nurturing and helping, and resolutely ignores politics. "Allah will see to it" she once remarked when asked about the future of the Brotherhood, and then went back to washing the sick. Among the secret groups of Cairo Jeannie is regarded with awe - nobody would dare touch her. The fundamentalists admire her, the Priestesses of Isis regard her as a living embodiment of an aspect of their goddess (which is ironic since Jeannie would gently but firmly point out that there is only one god) and she is a noticeable counteracting influence to the entropy spread by the Dogs of Shaitan in the slum.
Quote: <loving silence>
... hence it is the duty of Islam to annihilate all such systems, as they are obstacles in the way to universal freedom Sayyid Qutb, Ma'alim fi'l tariqThe Shayks are a tightly knit, very dynamic cabal of fundamentalist choristers. The leading Shayks are all devoted choristers, sworn to fight for the faith against all its enemies. Some of them are secret members, not revealing their affiliation to the moderate groups they belong to, but most are very open and vocal about their views. Around them is a group of fanatic awakened or acolyte followers led by Mohammad al-Tahawi, ready to do their part in cleansing Egypt from the technocracy, and a circle of sleeper scholars, imams and lawyers sharing their fundamentalist sentiments.
The Shayks have been secretly stockpiling resources such as weapons, allies and information in preparation for the true jihad. At present they merely prepare the way for it by forcing the other Moslem mages join their crusade and building up the faith and tensions needed to bring the sleepers to open revolt against the technocracy. They are not yet ready to strike, but once they have enough power on their side they will.
Since they are constantly on the run from the Technocracy they do not have any determined headquarters, but meet up at the homes of members or sympathisers, or at secret places in the desert during the full moon (hence the name of the group).
The Shayks are practically in control of the Guardians of the Law, the chorist council of Al-Azhar, giving them significant power over the university. They also have a wide network of pressured batini mages and sympathisers at high levels in society giving them access to sensitive information. They do not need much contact with militant Islamic organisations like Al-Jihad or al-Takfir wa al-Hijra; they simply give some information and suggestions to the right people and await the results.
He grew up in Alexandria at the turn of the century, the second son in a poor servant family. He was a quite normal boy, earning extra money by running errands and helping his parents, but he had a disturbing tendency to notice things. All was not right in the city, but he could not put his finger on what was wrong. When his father got a minor inheritance the family went on al-hajj al-akbar, the Great Pilgrimage to Mecca. The journey was long and dangerous, for the family had not enough money to travel safely or in comfort, but eventually they reached the holy city. It was there Hasan had his epiphany. As he wandered the seven turns around the Kabah, on each turn he saw a different angel standing above the great mosque watching over him with loving eyes, and when he finally on the seventh turn kissed the black stone he felt the burning light and mercy of Allah like a physical shock. The black stone spoke a single word to him: "taqwa" (to protect and/or save).
After the pilgrimage he was changed; he saw things, he felt the presence of God and the angels in the world, but also the horrid lack of faith many people had. He sought out teachers and listened to recitations of the Quran, and eventually found his way (guided by an angel) to the al-Azhar university where he met other choristers, a group called the Guardians of the Law. They recognised him as one of their own and welcomed him.
Through the years, Hasan has became known as a level-headed and clear-sighted man, but foremost as a uswah hasanah, a true example for other Muslims. He lives his life fully according to the Quran and upholds the five pillars of faith without wavering. As the leader of the Guardians of the Law, he has gained tremendous power over the ulama and their interpretation of the shariah, which he uses to guide them towards truth and to strike against the Technocracy. He also formed a group of leading choristers known as The Shayks of the White Night, which is the core of the fundamentalist movement in Egypt.
Perhaps surprisingly the Shayk does not regard technomagick as inherently evil; it could become a tool for the common people to survive in a harsh world. But its ties to western materialism has to be broken and replaced with true Islam. In fact, secretly the Shayk realises that in order to take control completely he will have to use the technocratic infrastructure and some of its methods to restore things to the true faith. The question is not whether this is desirable or not, but how to avoid becoming corrupted by the power. That is one reason he does not trust his son completely, young Muhammad is filled with too much anger and ambition.
Physically, the Shayk looks like an old man with a strong face. His gaze is hard to meet, it is filled with power, faith and love to an unbearable degree, revealing his mastery of Prime and Spirit. Most mages who do not know him expects a stern preacher or a raving fanatic, but he is neither. He is polite, firm and calm, often surprising his antagonists by listening attentively to what they have to say - and then explaining his view of things with great eloquence and conviction. He does not try to persuade people, he simply assumes everyone has the ability to choose between right or wrong, and within everyone there is a seed of truth that he can nurture. In many ways he is more dangerous when he listens than when he speaks.
The Technocracy wants him dead. All operatives have strict orders to kill him at any possible opportunity - he is simply too dangerous. But if he would be killed, then his moderate voice in the Shayks of the White Night would fall silent, and the jihad might become much bloodier under the leadership of his son.
Quote: "When travellers meet in the deep desert, they join and form a caravan for mutual protection and support. Those who foolishly decline the kind invitation of the caravan and set out on their own perish."
Muhammad grew up among the choristers, and it was clear that he was destined to become a religious warrior almost from the start. He was always listening to stories about the martyrs, following his military uncle into the desert to learn tracking and shooting and generally upsetting the more peaceful choristers around his father. But Shayk Hasan merely smiled and blessed his son in his endeavour.
Today Muhammad leads a small group of faithful in the ascension jihad. He carefully plans where to strike to maximise the effect and minimise the risk - he and his followers are fanatic, but they are not stupid. Usually they strike against those who should support the jihad but doesn't, like the batini, and things important to the Technocracy, such as tourism and economy. But they have found simple threats and agitation to be just as powerful weapons as violence. Even mages yield when threatened by mundane violence.
Quote: "My father is a peaceful man. I'm not. DIE, BLASPHEMER!"
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