The climax of Masonic wisdom, ( known commonly as the "Shriner" degree ) is neither original nor derived from the teachings of the previous "degrees",; but rather, it is a Europeanized and mangled version of Islamic ideologies. The merger of the esoteric Biblical foundations of the Christian "Knights of the Templar", with the mystical Quaranic teachings of Shia clerics, becomes evident in the 32 degree of Freemasonry.
For proper understanding of the cogs in the wheel that will eventually lead to the pervasion that is the Shriner degree; a fundamental understanding of those early days in Islam is essential. The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Abdul Muttalib (p.b.u.h), was born in Mecca in 570 AD. During his lifetime he established an Islamic Empire that covered almost all the Eastern world and Africa, and through him, the book of "Gods final revelation to all mankind", called the Quran. Soon after the death of Muhammad (p.b.u.h), many political and religious turmoils arose amongst the various Arab and Persian factions. Two main religious/political groups emerged; they were the Shias and the Sunnis. The Sunnis, whom take their name from their high reverence for the "traditions of the prophet", which in Arabic is referred to as the "Sunnah", were the majority ruling class in both aristocracy and economic power. The Shias, on the other hand , were a much smaller group of individuals, whom pledged undevoted allegiance to the Caliph Ali, and his family.
Ali ibn Abu Talib was the adopted child of Muhammad (p.b.u.h), and the only person to ever be born inside the Kaaba in Mecca, as well as the only male to grow up in the house of Muhammad. Islamic tradition and history, tells us that while growing up in the prophets household, he secretly collected in writing the revelation that would come from time to time to Muhammad. Shia historical records tell that this secretive collected information was not just any writings.. but rather, it was the entire Qur'an. This entire Qur'an, hoverer was different that the Qur'an that the masses were allowed to compile; it was complete with explanations of all meanings (both literal, allegorical, and future implications), of each and every verse. After the death of Muhammad (p.b.u.h), in 632 AD, new leaders were needed for the position of Caliph, and the Sunni majority chose them based more on economics and politics rather than following the Qur'an which would dictate that the " people of the House" ( Meaning Ali and his progeny), should be the heirs to Muhammads legacy. This lead to much bloodshed and the sequential murder of Ali, his wife, his two sons, and their sons as well; all at the hands of the "Sunni" ruling party. It is out this chaos that the secretive sects of Shia clergy will arise.
The Shia Muslims, considering themselves to be the only true Muslims, retreated heavily into Persia; ie modern day Iran. It is in these hills that the specific Ideology of the Shia school of thought, was beginning to brew. The first noticeable group of secretive knowledge seekers were called the Ismalites.
The Ishmalites were followers of the teachings of Jafar, whom claimed direct lineage to Ali, whom allegedly, held the source of all the keys to the unknown. The Ismaelites doctrine consisted of stages specifically referred to as "degrees", just as the stages in Masonry will later be called. Their order was based primarily on the deciphering of the laws of the Universe and man, as understood by utilizing the secret explanations of the Quaran, that had been passed down from shia teacher to Shia teacher.
While the old Ismalite teachings were being further defined into "degrees". The Ishmalites began to call themselves Assassins and( which in old Arabic implies gaurdians of some type of knowledge ) encorporating clandestine signs and well as symbology. They refined their secretive teachings into 9 clear-cut "degrees" with signs and password for each level. The Assassins, also refereed to in modern texts as the Druze's, also had the first three levels of their doctrine as the base of the following degrees.. as we will see later Europe[ean Masonry will duplicate. The leader of the initiates in the Druzes were referred to as Grand Master... this too would be later borrowed into Masonic, ( as well a Klu -Klux Klan , which is an offshoot of Clandestine Scottish Rite Masonry, terminology) "works"
In the eleventh century, the Crusades were the center of attention.; especially Jerusalem. The Knights Templar, as they were first called, were about to journey to Jerusalem. In 1118 AD, nine Knights, under direct and covert Papal tutorage and instruction banded together. The creation of this new, highly secretive and focused Holy order was called Sacracrean Honorable Knights Templar. Their original mission was highly accepted by the public; they were to combine the bravery of the fighting Knights, with the wisdom and Chastity of the Medieval Catholic monks.
The Knights Templar, claimed origin of their name from the ancient temple of Solomon. After the Christian victory of the second Crusade, they were sent to be the personal guards of the Christian King of Jerusalem, Baldwin I. Baldwin I constructed them a small palace near the site of Solomons temple.; thusly giving them the name of Knights of the Templar (Temple). Notice, that according to Masonic scholars " the building of Kings Solomons temple was the beginng of Freemasonry".. and thusly any teachings based on the study of the Temple of Solomon, is intrinsically Masonic, as were the Templars. They themselves, considered much of their own esoteric wisdom akin to that of the prophet Solomon.
In about 1170, a fragile peace treaty was needed to attempt to stop the advancing waves of Muslim armies in Jerusalem. The new Christian king Baldwin II, decided to make an Alliance with the Persian leader Bahram, whom was also the leader of the current band of Assassins. It was this merger of the strange minds, that would lead to the entire body of Masonic "work", of which the 32 degree alone still testifies to its origins. It will suffice to say, that many other events took place, but later the Templars would return to Europe and the Assassins would merge back into secrecy. With a brief overview of historical events, it quickly becomes apparent what happened. Simply put: the Christian Knights came into contact with hidden Islamic teachings, as well as insights into prophets and Biblical scriptures that were common to both religions ( i.e. Solomon, Jesus, Aaron, etc. and their wisdom ). These knights then took what they had learned, combined it with European perspectives, and grew their own form of Ismalie doctrine in the heart of Europe! Let us now look at the result of this eventful mish-mash.
A Freemason is defined in Websters dictionary as the following: 10 a member of a widely distributed secret order...., 2) A member of a Medieval secret society of skilled stoneworkers having secret signs and passwords. This definition to the unaware reader is purposely quite vague, one even needs an understanding of Masonic terms to even understand this definition! Definition #2, seems very apparent when looked at form a historical perspective, as these Knights and their groups of followers reentered normal Medieval society, they passed the secrets they learned from the Eastern mystics, into new and evolving ritual cloaked and hidden from the common European. The necessity of passwords and secrecy signs quickly became a necessity as these sects of European men, began to be seen not as Christian scholars and knights, but rather as outright heretics. It seems that the acquiring of esoteric enlightenment amongst a few, was deemed detrimental by the same institution that was the source of their Origin, the Pope and the Catholic Church ( it wasn't until recently that the Catholic Church re-allowed Masons to be publicly part of the Church ! )
The result of the wisdom exchange, is modern day Freemasonry, although many Masons seem unaware of the whole thing. All Freemasons must pass through three universally recognized " degrees"... just as the 3 initial degrees in the original Ismaelite initialitions. In the first stage the intiate is exposed to such things as Solomons Temple, the Square and Compass, and the unsculpted cube, as well as the significance of the 90degree angle; he is also told some vague things concerning stone work. We can readily see that the references to stone work is directly related to the Medieval ancestors of the Knights of Templar, whom found active work in the construction of Catholic cathedrals. The symbology of the square and compass is a deteriorated blend, and mis representaion of the Islamic/Hebrew "Seal of Solomon". The only difference between the two is that the "horizontals" have been removed. This was born out of European necessity, during the Inquisitions of the latter Middle ages, when Masons ( stone cutters remember...) had to have a symbol that could be displayed openly, yet be understood secretly.
The second base, or foundation, as the Masons say ( the word foundation is a dualistic references to both the Medieval construction, and the ancient construction of the Prophet Solomons Temple), is the Fellow Craft degree. This degree teaches the initiate more correlations between man and God as viewed through the analogy of physical construction of stone structures. The final Blue lodge, or basic degree, is that of Master Mason, in which the initiate realizes he himself is a metaphor for Solomons temple, as well as being shown the Perfect Ashlar, which he is then told represents the opposite of the rough ashlar/cube that he was at the 1st level ( this symbology becomes more clear upon completion of the 32 degree, where we see the Islamic significance of this cube), and some non-Biblical inferences which are discussed in depth in the Qu'ran's ate finally pieced together. The Quarn, specifically uses these analogies, and in particular, Prophets Sulumains ( Solomons ), metaphors and symbologies to mankind; in this we see the realiance more on the Quaranical/Islamic view of Solomon as opposed to his Biblical Identity.
Although a few items are easily noticed in the lower Mason degrees, much of the intermediate degrees, are merely works of pure fiction, and ethnocentrisms incorporated with Christian Mythology. The last formal degree in York ( English ) Masonry is aptly called ... The Knight of Templar Degree. It wasn't until the late 1800's that the final "Cornerstone" was placed to show a revealing light on Masonries true Origins.
In 1860 an American comedian man by the name of William Fleeming while on a tour in Egypt, was found to be so amusing by the "Sultan", ( in Cairo ), that they became good friends. It is said that this "Sultan", allegedly showed him the body of material that is referred to as the Shriner degree. It is needles to say that the reports of an American unlearned in either Arabic, or Islam, or even History would have been initiated into the secrecies of the Assassin or the more acceptable Sufi mystics; and it would be a wiser conclusion to deduce that what he saw and translated was only a reference to this esoteric material. A shadowy figure named Yusef Churi, helped him to translate the works, ad it is this material that was brought back to North America. The Origin and final chapter of Masonic work had come full circle indeed!
It is interesting to note the self-incriminating words of a Masonic writer of the late 1920's; " The Shrine is not a Masonic body, but a Mohammedan Ku-Klux. Known in its full glory as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North America, it is a branch of the vigilante society founded by Kalif Alee,"the German cousin and son in law of Mahammad ....."" Notice the writer spelling of the words: Alee for Ali, Kalif for Caliph, Mahammad for Muhammad, and most appalling, the word Mohammedan for the term Islamic! The modern scholar can quickly see the lack of fundemantal concepts concerning Islam are apparent, as well as plain lies; i.e. Ali ibn Abu Talib aka Amir al Moaminum, was most definitely not German, and he was not the founder of the sects that were the Ismaelite and Assassins/DRuze... this was centuries later. If it were not for the validity that this stuff were taken for, it would border on the humorous. This is but a small example of the twisting of Eastern Ideologies to suit the taste of xenophobic and utter ignorance of international culture and history, that was the norm of 19 century America.
Upon ascension to the 32 degree in Masonry, the initiate, ( whom by this stage in masonry, is well into his 50's or 60's ), is given a brief summary of all the previous "degrees", each summary taking place in symboligical Nomadic desert Tents. This symbol alludes to the true origins of Mason wisdom, in the desserts of the east, rather than the hills of Europe, as many Masons would want to believe. The candidate must be a 31 degree Scottish Rite Mason, or even more Ironic, he must have obtained the degree of Knights Templar if he is a York rite Mason! The candidate is then told several things concerning scales, and given the passwords of ***** and *****.. notice that these two passwords are two of the words on the Flag of Islam. ( Justice, Freedom, Equality, Independence). Part of the Shiners secret oath is as follows.." I do hereby, upon this Bible and on the mysterious legend of the Koran ( which should be correctly spelled Qu'ran ) and its dedication to the Mohammedan faith..". It would be clear to the general public that this "degree" has roots in Islam, if it were not for its self-imposed secrecy. The language and wordage, clearly shows an Islamic origin, however, it is just as clear, that a lack of respect or even knowledge of the religion of Islam is presented. To say Mohammedan implies followers of a man, rather than followers of the same doctrines that exist in the Christian Bible... Muslims are no more Mohammedans than Jews are Moseians. Lastly before being allowed to enter the final 33rd degree of the Shriner, is told my the "Grand Worshipful Master " ( notice the similarity to the title of the head Islamic Druze guru in the 11th century), is told the following: " In Makka ( which equate to the city of Mecca, in correct Islamic texts) we find a great symbol, the Kaaba, a cube......" it then goes on to discuss its relevance as being the true Perfect Ashlar that was alluded to way back in the 3rd degree of Blue Lodge Masonry.
Finally, the aged initiate has reached the climax of his lifetime pursuit of hidden knowledge; which in reality is but a poor characature of Islamic theologies. The degree s that of the Shriner who also call themselves ( within the walls of the lodge, that is!) Moslem shiners ( notice incorrect spelling). One of the password phrases and writings that decorates the lodge tapestries at this level are: El-Seleem-A Lekum; which is again, a Americanized version of the Arabic phrase, As Salaam Alakum ( meaning peace be upon you ). These "graduates" of Freemasonry also refer to each other in a secret recognition phrase, as "..Nobles of the Mystic Shrine of Ali..."; which clearly connects the whole things origin to not "temples" of Ali.. but rather "schools" of his followers. The symbol for the 32rd degree shrine is a pervasion of the Flag of Islam; it is the Islamic symbol, turned on its side ( 90 degrees, to be exact, because it is the Masonic angle of the Square! ) with a lone star. The crescent has the head of the Egyptian/Kemetic sphinx as the Masonic "Cornerstone" ( which is a Masonic word signifying the foundation... notice that this term has its origins in the sacred stone that lies in the western corner of the great black stone that is the Kabba in Mecca ), and above the whole thing is an Arabic Scimitar. The explanation of the symbology by The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, ( whom was a Mason/Shriner and student of Islam in the 30's, and later founded the Nation of Islam ) is worth mentioning: "Question 1:9 ----- Why does Muhammad make the devil study from thirty-five to fifty years before he can call himself a Muslim son ?..and wear the ..flag of Islam...and what its its meaning? Answer1:9------- "...after he goes through this labor for 35 to 50 years, we (Muslims) permit him to wear our Holy Flag, which is the sun, moon and star. He must add the sword on the upper part. The sword is the emblem of Justice, and it was used by the original man in Muhammads time. Thus, it was placed on the upper part of the flag so that the "unbeliever" can always see it, so he will keep in mind that any time he reaveals the secret, his head would be taken off by the sword.....". The symbology at the final and true Shriner degree, ( 33rd ) , is undeniably Islamic in both its outer appearance as well as its secretive rituals. The meetings of this level are called the Supreme Council, and its inner sanctum symbol it a double headed eagle with a sword in its claw and crown with a Russian Crown. There are 9 officers in this degree ( like the 9 degrees in the Ismahelite doctrine). There wearing of the Fez ( which was/is a sign of Islamic scholars, that started in 980 AD when the pilgrimage of the Muslims had to be re-re-routed because of the Crusades, and studied in Egypt and Yemen) is standard.
The relationship between Islam and Masonic is indeed indisputable, but rarely acknowledged, largely due to the large base of Masonic writings and works all having been done by Christians for Christians, and prior to this age of instant inter-global access to information. Why has not the general public, or even those Christians whom are shiners and 32 degree Masons sought out the historical implications of the cultural/religiously borrowed symbology and terminology , in something they consider to be strictly Christian? Is it that the acknowledgment of these things might lead to a re-evaluation of their own standards of truth and knowledge. It is the ostrich-with-its-head-in the-sand syndrome, I suspect.