Chaos is a state of being which lacks predictability or order. Most of us are uncomfortable when things are in chaos, We are most comfortable when things are predictable, even when they don’t always happen just as we expect. If we can never be sure what is to happen next, we don’t like it.

Very recently we have seen instances of chaos occuring on several continents.  The frequency of such occurances has been accelerating. What is even more unsettling is that chaos has been happening in places we do not expect it, the “civilized” countries such as England, France, and the United States. Americans can understand when it happens in Syria or Libya or in the Horn of Africa. We are not surprised as we shake our heads with disapproval.  We especially do not expect chaos in Milwaukee or Philadelphia, or our home towns. Chaos is rather like a huge fish about to swallow us whole, unpredictable and frightening.

Chaos has been a favorite throughout history with groups which want to change the status quo.  Each group has its own state of order with which it wants to replace the current order (government or culture). Communism had as part of its plan to become the  legitimate government the introduction of chaos in order to topple the then current government.

Chaos plays a part in religion also.  For example, parts of (Twelver)Shi’a Islam await the coming of the 12th Imam.  One of the attendant signs of his return is marked by chaos among the “enemies” of Islam. Part one is a very basic introduction to Islam.

Ialam shares with Christianity not only monotheism but a fragmentation into a variety of forms somewhat similar to denominations. As within Christianity, these groups have varied histories of persecution and being persecuted.

Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Mahdī (محمد ابن الحسن المهدى) (born c. July 29, 869; 15 Sha‘bān 255 AH) is believed by Twelver Shī‘a Muslims to be the Mahdī, an ultimate savior of humankind and the final Imām of the Twelve Imams. Twelver Shī‘a believe that al-Mahdī was born in 869 and did not die but rather was hidden by God (this is referred to as the Occultation) and will later emerge with Isa (Jesus Christ) in order to fulfill their mission of bringing peace and justice to the world. He assumed the Imamate at 5 years of age. Some Shi‘īte schools do not consider ibn-al-Hasan to be the Mahdī,

Islam has two main branches, Sunni and Shia. A major difference is the mechanism of who is, and how they became, the spiritual leaders, the imams, of Islam, and the subsequent bestowal of that position. This divergence in polity traces back to the Prophet Muhammad.

Shi’a adherents believe that there have been 11 Imams in the history of Islam. There is prophesied to be a 12th Imam who will establish a restoration of a unified Islamic Caliphate, a united Islam bringing a vital and fervent Islam to the entire world, all under Sharia Law.

The Five Pillars of Islam (arkān-al-Islām أركان الإسلام; also arkān ad-dīn أركان الدين “pillars of the religion“) are five basic acts in Islam, considered obligatory by Sunni Muslims. These are summarized in the famous Hadith of Gabriel.

The Qur’an presents them as a framework for worship and a sign of commitment to the faith. They are (1) the shahada (creed), (2) daily prayers (salat), (3) fasting during Ramadan (sawm), (4) almsgiving (zakāt), and (5) the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) at least once in a lifetime,

The minority Shi’i and majority Sunni both agree on the essential details for the performance of these acts, but the Shi’a do not refer to them by the same name (see Theology of TwelverShi’a 

Islam has some similarity with Christianity in that, besides monotheism it is fragmented in a variety of divergent schools, or “denominations”.   Perhaps 75% of Muslims belong to the various Sunni groups, followed by Shi’a.

Some Islamic schools

Sunni and Shi’a

Some of the small but  religiously important groups are the Druze, the Dervishes, and Ismaili islam.

There are also several somewhat important sects and movements, such as  Wahabiism, Moorish Science, Nation of Islam, and the Qua’ranists. 

Wahabiism is major form of Sunni found primarily in Saudi Arabia.  It is an extremely fundamentalist form of Sunni Islam which began with Abdul Wahhab in 1744 AD when this fundemental cleric allied himself with a then minor Arabian ruler, Muhammad ibn Saud who encourged Wahab’s fundamentalist preaching and writings.  

Eventually, in 1902 the house of Saud after years of defeat reconquered most of Arabia, and by 1932 conquered the entire Arabian peninsula and created Saudi Arabia as we know it today. Wahabi fundamentalist Islam remained strong over these 200 years, and the modern kings, all from the House of Saud, cemented their political position with an increasing alliance with Wahabi clerics. These clerics support the House of Saud as it allows them control of the religious life of Saudi Arabia.

Thus, today we have the odd example of a monarchy with thousands of Saudi royal progeny, supported by the state and contrasting in behavior with fundamenalists who speak “for the population”. It is a dicotomy which will most likely eventually disolve in chaos.

(also read Aspects of the Religion for Twelvers and Seven pillars of Ismailism).

Fr. Orthohippo  August 17, 2011

About Fr. Orthohippo

The blog of a retired Anglican priest (MSJ), his musings, journey, humor, wonderment, and comments on today's scene.
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