Numerous significant connections were made between Freemasonry and Muslim activists during the 19th and 20th centuries, claims Angel Millar, author of The Crescent and The Compass: Islam, Freemasonry, Esotericism, and Revolution in the Modern Age (Numen Books, March 2015).
The Crescent and The Compass is the first and only book to demonstrate that prominent Muslim activists – including Sayyid Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, the grandfather of modern Islamism; and Shaykh Quilliam, a political agitator for the rights of Muslims, and the founder of the first mosque in Great Britain – were active members of the Masonic fraternity. The question is, why were they?
In some cases, such as that of al-Afghani, they saw in Freemasonry the chance to transcend national and religious boundaries, and an opportunity to pushback against colonialism in the Middle East.
In other cases, such as that of Shaykh Quilliam, Muslim activists drew on their own experiences of the fraternity and formed their own quasi-Masonic, spiritually-oriented and sometimes political societies.
Writers such as Idries Shah have concluded that Freemasonry emerged out of Sufism. While this is highly unlikely, and cannot be proven, there is no doubt that both some Freemasons and some Sufis have seen philosophical and spiritual similarities between the two movements. Both initiate their members through rituals designed to orientate the newcomer toward God, for example, and, as such, both make use of ritual items of clothing, symbolism, and so on, and both advocate an esoteric understanding of holy texts.
Islamic spirituality impacted Freemasonry. Founded in the second half of the 19th century, the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, for example, claimed that their fraternity (which only admits Freemasons) was descended from, and a form of, Sufism.
Islamic spirituality also had an impact on the life of Rene Guenon (a Catholic and Freemason who later converted to Islam), and, more recently, on Prince Charles (the current heir to the British throne), who is also influenced by Guenon.
The Crescent and The Compass includes the only in depth study of contemporary Islamist anti-Freemasonry. Beyond exploring the propaganda of Islamist and Jihadist organizations, Millar also looks at the terrorist bombing of a Masonic building in Turkey by an al-Qaeda-linked cell, and seeks to explain the role of anti-Freemasonry in anti-Americanism. However, the author is always careful to distinguish between ordinary Muslims and Islamic spirituality and Islamist, Takfiri radicalism.
The Crescent and The Compass: Islam, Freemasonry, Esotericism, and Revolution in the Modern Age is available from Amazon.com, here.
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