Sixteener Shi’ism (or How Islam Beat the Fall)

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Toaster Commissar Toaster Commissar's picture
Sixteener Shi’ism (or How Islam Beat the Fall)

Hey everyone! Pretty new here, but I thought I'd post up something I wrote for my players in the game I run. One of them asked me why Islam seemed to do so well in comparison to Christianity post-Fall when Christianity seemed to have a more robust liberal stream. Instead of chalking it up to “it's the book, yo”, I tried to make a convincing argument for a vibrant techno-progressive Islamic movement and learned a ton of stuff about the religion along the way; Ali Shariati was a guy I didn't know existed, but I'm glad I do now! Basically, my idea was that thanks to events explained below, a syncretic “liberation theology" Islam composed of many heterodox sects (Baha’is reverted to Shayki Shi’ism, Ali Shariati’s “Red” Shi’ism, Alevism, Ismailism, and Zaydis make up the core) explodes onto the scene with 22nd century Earth’s autonomist insurgencies. Unlike most liberal Christian sects, the Sixteeners were not pacifists or quetist reformers but guerillas and revolutionaries, so they were making a lot of waves with the proto-autonomist movements despite their relative youth. With the fabulously wealthy Aga Khan (even the current one is loaded) financing a partial exodus into space and many others being sent up as convict indentures after being captured in the midst of their insurgencies, they ride the Fall out in space and grow alongside the Autonomist Alliance they so fervently support. Give it a read, any comments are super-welcome, since I may have screwed up my Eclipse Phase setting knowledge somewhere or some other rookie mistake.

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"If you've never been to the Nyhavn People's Mosque, it's worth the trip. Hearing a neo-crow use a quote from the Prophet's daughter Fatima and another from Silvia Federici in the same breath to lambaste the hypercorps in a fiery Friday prayer sermon is not your average religious experience."
--- Erika Karlsson, TAU sociology grad student

"And this is the last revolutionary wave of Alavite Shi'ism, Red Shi'ism, which continued for seven hundred years to be the flame of the spirit of revolution, the search for freedom, and justice, always inclining towards the common people and fighting relentlessly against oppression, ignorance and poverty."
--- Dr. Ali Shariati, old Earth political theorist, historian, and revolutionary

Islam, much like its older siblings from among the Abrahamic religions, has a long history of free-thinkers, liberalizers, and radical reformers from even its fledgeling days under the Rashidun Caliphate. For most of the faith's history, besides the flowering of rationalist Mu’tazila thought in the Abbasid-era Islamic Golden Age, these heterodox schools of thought had been marginalized by their more conservative co-religionists who controlled the metaphysical heart of the entire Ummah in Mecca and the ideological seat of Shi’ism in Karbala. Whether the “old guard” could have kept the lid on if not for certain political developments or the revival of these splinter schools was only a matter of time due to changes resulting from the generations of Muslim youth that grew up in the West is an interesting but ultimately pointless question; the spread of autonomist memes on Pre-Fall Earth set the stage for the Saadis’ashari or Sixteener Movement and ensured that where its fellow Abrahamics struggled to find a foothold, Muhammad's followers would adapt and even thrive.

The birthplace of the Sixteener sect was in 22nd century Iran, a place many older transhumans might remember as a very unlikely setting for a far-left religious reformation, but it had several factors that made it a prime breeding ground for rebellion. For one, it had a sizable amount of mistreated and restive minorities including Kurds, Iranian Arabs, and most importantly, Baha'is. Though the amount of Baha'is in Iran had continuously grown despite state repression, the Iranian community of Baha’is had become increasingly detached from the religious council at Haifa. The House of Justice seated in Israel continued to advocate the Baha’i tradition of not only strict pacifism but total separation from partisan politics altogether. The Iranian Baha'is saw this as simply suicidal in the face of open government violence and accused the House of taking holier-than-thou stances from the safety of their First World mansions. After long and acrimonious disputes, the homeland of the Baha’i faith where the bulk of its believers resided broke with the mainstream, turning instead to the revolutionary and communalist Babi and Shaykhi Shi’a roots of the religion. The renegades were branded Militants as a mark of shame by the House of Justice, but the Iranian Baha'is took the appellation for their own, using the Militant Baha’i label to refer to their Babist/Shaykhi spin on the faith themselves

The transformation of the Iranian Baha’is into an insurgency wasn't the only or even the largest wave of religious autonomism to rock the Islamic Republic. In fact, the Twelver Shi’ism that the majority of Iranians followed and (ostensibly) formed the theocratic foundation of the country was no stranger to blending radical socialism with faith. One of the fathers of the Islamic Revolution that swept Iran in the late 20th centuries was a man named Dr. Ali Shariati. Dr. Shariati’s brand of Twelver Shi'a Islam was explicitly revolutionary, feminist, and drew heavily from Marxist thought (he often quoted Engels, Luxemburg, and Lukacs in his university lectures) as well as the old Mu’tazila rationalist traditions of Islam. He called his school of thought “Red" Shi’ism, both to commemorate his intellectual debt to Marxism as well as to contrast with the conservative and reactionary “Black" Shi'ism of the ayatollahs. Although his theories were discarded in favor of the right-wing theocratic dreams of his clerical opponents following his untimely death early in the revolution, the rise of autonomism sparked a 22nd century technosocialist-inspired revival of Shariati’s Red Shi’ism amongst disgruntled soldiers sick of fighting in Middle East proxy wars, poor workers in Iranian sprawls, university students, and Iranian women. This “Persian Spring” movement started out as a peaceful protest against the clerical establishment, it quickly turned into a violent guerilla war as the government cracked down and the ex-military personnel began firing shots back. Iran was already unstable with the Militant Baha’i taking up arms, so when the Red Shi'ites joined them in the trenches nothing less than total civil war broke out.

The two revolutionary faiths found themselves with far more similarities than differences, with Militant Baha’ism deriving a lot more from its Shia heritage than the older forms of the faith and Red Shi'ism being more like Bahai'ism than Classical Twelver Shi’ism in its liberal attitudes to Islamic traditions and techno-progressivism. In the fires of the Iranian Civil War and the other insurgencies that started in its wake, the current Sixteener Shi’ism began to emerge, taking a little of all of the heterodox Islamic sects that tool up the banner of revolution. The core of the religion was Iran's “Red Shi'ism with Baha'i Characteristics” as the guerillas jokingly referred to it, a technosocialist Red Shi’ism that accepted the Bab and Baha'u'llah as Imams, their writings as revered but mutable like the writings of the other imams, and acknowledged the unity of religions: all imports from Baha’ism. Turkish Alevis were enthusiastic supporters of the Movement and waged war against the neo-Ottoman Turkish government alongside secular anarchist groups, contributing their legacy of religious libertarian socialism, the concept of the Muslim Ummah as a whole being the fabled Mahdi instead of any one messiah, and the elevation to Imam of their historical leader Sheikh Bedruddin to the religion. Many Zaydis in Yemen, another group that had ascribed to a Marxist-inspired Islam during the Southern Movement of the late 2000s, threw in with their fellow Shi'as as well as large numbers of Nimatallahi and Bektashi Sufis who felt more at home with a Shia-inspired brand of Islam than the mostly Sunni-derived Neo-Sufi orders.

The elephant in the room for this syncretic Islam of Islams was the Nizari Ismailis. The large sect, what with its liberal interpretations of the Qur’an, hadith, and Islamic law, seemed like a natural fit for the Sixteeners, but the Ismaili adherence to the word of a hereditary living imam instead of being led by the community of believers themselves was anathema to the autonomist Sixteeners. This didn’t stop the Sixteeners from heavily borrowing from their zahin and batin concepts of the pillars and the Qur'an, however. The Aga Khan of the Ismailis, their hyperwealthy living Imam, did cautiously back the radicals while denouncing their violence. He quietly offered to send many of them to space to join the other libertines coalescing in the outer system, hoping that they'd become sedate and more reformist if given time to cool off away from Earth. This initial exodus from Earth, alongside the wave of convict ex-guerilla indentures shipped off-planet from countries that had suppressed their Sixteener revolts, is what gave the Islamic sect their disproportionate numbers in the Big Empty prior to the Fall. Happy to accept AGI and uplift converts, they fit in with the nascent autonomist rim cultures well and grew more radical if anything.

The Fall shattered many religions, but it was what welded together the last portion of the Sixteener Shi’ite alliance of misfits. Although their presence as some of the wealthiest citizens of Tanzania and various European countries allowed a number of Ismailis to escape the planet, their beloved imam and his family were slaughtered in a TITAN stalker attack similar to the assassinations of the British and Saudi royal families, leaving the community rudderless. Though wary of the Aga Khan's authority in life, the Sixteeners mourned his loss as deeply as the Ismailis. The wealthy, philanthropic, and aristocratic social democrat became a radical technosocialist, class traitor against his bourgeoisie roots, and people’s hero in the retelling, inspired by God to enable the new Ummah by sending them into the stars. He was posthumously elevated to the rank of Imam, the final person to hold the role before the Imamate passed to the community of believers as a whole. United by loss, but looking to the wide-open future amidst the anarchists, technosocialists, and mutualists of the Rim, the Ismailis joined their fellows (now officially known as the Sixteeners, after their 16 Imams) and the modern faith was forged. Modern strongholds of the Sixteener Shi'ites are often found amongst heavily Muslim stations in the Outer System like Salah and Profunda, but they also boast many converts from amongst the working-class indentured Indonesians of Elysium, the maker nomads of the Martian north (who tend towards the Alevi-inspired anarchist stream of the religion), and the Islamic-influenced town of Isra on Portal. Unsurprisingly, considering their longtime love affair with technosocialism, Sixteeners also make up one of the largest religious communities in the Titanian Commonwealth.

o11o1 o11o1's picture
Confused but appreciative

I think I like this write up how pre-fall Islam operated in the Eclipse Phase verse, as well as their reaching out into space. As a filthy westerner, I'm not very good at keeping track of Islamic style names so towards the middle everything sort of started blending together in my brain.

I may have to come and reread this in a bit.

A slight smell of ions....

Zensunni_Wanderer Zensunni_Wanderer's picture
Feedback and questions

Longtime lurker here, but since I'm Baha'i from an Iranian family myself, I thought I'd toss in my two cents.

Your description of the Western-Persian Baha'i schism is a very possible development for pre-Fall Iran, especially considering how revolution and repression-filled 22nd Century Earth seems to have been in all the sourcebooks. There already were rumblings of a split during our real-world Iranian Revolution, with many local Baha'is wanting to join with Shariati’s guys in taking down the Shah. It's also nice to see some recognition of Islam's diversity of belief...even if discussing it become an alphabet soup of sects like o11o1 noted.

One small correction: Shariati's Red Shi'ism never really disappeared in full. There was/is a couple of armed groups that claimed to uphold his vision of the revolution, including the Mojahedin-e Khalq or the People's Mojahedin. Khomeini's crackdowns sliced into their numbers and made them pretty insular, but I could see the autonomist movements reinvigorating them and making them the core of the new Red Shi'ite guerrilla forces.

Questions, both for Toaster Commissar and anybody who knows more about the Titanian Commonwealth/Martian authentics than I do:

One, Ismaili Muslims were one of the groups mentioned in the little blurb about authentic clades, so how would the Sixteeners (especially the former Ismailis) see people emulating the old Ismaili lifestyle? Neutrally? As lapsed fellow travellers? As impersonators sullying the memory of their late Imam?

Two, how would the Titanians and other autonomists react to what is basically a militant socialist religion preaching in their stomping grounds? Politically, they're on the same page, but could even an anti-clerical faith be too much hierarchy for the anarchists or too insurrectionary for the Titanians?