Hear now the triumph of Suleiman the Great, life, prosperity, health unto him, over the jinn and the downfall of the false gods, as told by Khaizuran the Poet, blessed of Suleiman. Suleiman the Great, life, prosperity, health unto him now and always, was born unto woman, flesh and blood wrapped around a divine spirit. Great though he would become, Suleiman was born a slave like his father and his father’s father before him back to the beginning. In those dark days, before the Haqq-Bari (Light of Guidance) shone upon us, all beings save for the Sphinxes were slaves unto the jinn, the foulest of dark races.
Low was the lot of man, forced to work in the dark mines so the jinn could grow rich, forced to build vast monuments so the jinn would be remembered in glory, forced to fight wars like pieces on a chessboard so the jinn would not have to soil their hands with blood. For generations before the Prophet of the Light came, the gods of our peoples had spurned our cries for help. Unto this hardship was born Suleiman.
Suleiman, blessed be his name, was gifted with much wisdom, even as a child. Where others saw problems, Suleiman saw solutions. When others saw violence as a means to end disputes, Suleiman saw peace. It is said that Suleiman could speak the language of all races even as a baby, and the language of the beasts was also known to his ear.
So great was his knowledge that even the jinn were in awe, and he was elevated to the position
of wizir, advisor to the Caliph of the Jinn. Suleiman served the jinn well and learned much magic, but none which rivaled the jinn. As Suleiman meditated on the wonders of the universe, he saw in his mind’s eye the Haqq-Bari, the way to defeat the jinn.
Armed with his new found knowledge, Suleiman approached his masters and ordered them to release his people. The jinn laughed and cast their magic, which had leveled cities of stone in the past, but Suleiman was unharmed. Unto the jinn Suleiman in return brought down many terrible curses, until at last they agreed to free the slaves.
Suleiman gathered the slaves and told them what had occurred. Many were blinded to the Haqq-Bari, and praised Suleiman as a priest of the Many Gods, whom men had worshipped in error since the Dawn of Time.
Angered at their blindness, Suleiman invoked the names of the Many Gods and called them to appear before him. By my own eyes, I, Khaizuran the Poet, witnessed the Many Gods appear and bow before Suleiman, calling him “Light of the Light,” and “Word of the One.” So it came to pass that the false light of the Many Gods fell from the eyes of men, who rejoiced in the Haqq-Bari.
Suleiman sought to lead the slaves into the desert in search of new lands, but the jinn, who speak no truth, sought to destroy them. Suleiman marched ahead of his followers and challenged the jinn. For forty days and forty nights the earth shook and the sky was the color of blood. Only then did Suleiman emerge from the desert, ready to lead his people to freedom, free from the pestilence of the jinn.
On the cusp of victory, Suleiman in his great wisdom, refrained from destroying the mighty jinn elders, for in death they would have no chance to repent their evil ways and find the eternal grace of Oneness. They were cast into copper jars, which Suleiman sealed with a secret mark. These he cast across the known world, never to be opened again until the Day of Judging, when Suleiman, as chosen by Asha to lead his cause, would return to redeem them.
The lesser jinn he allowed to remain in the world, but they were now slaves to those followers of the Haqq-Bari who knew the words of power to control them.
All this, I swear in the name of Asha, is Truth.
Day to Day Devoted
The animosity with the Caliphate that spawned several bloody wars and two centuries of oppression has been replaced with a more understanding view. Conflict has given way to trade, and cooperation is the new watch¬word. Wherever there are people with a different view there are bigots, but they are a tiny minority.
Every permanent settlement in the Sultanate has at least one kada. As well as serving as schools, they double as mediation centers and places of quiet meditation for those seeking answers to life’s problems. Although the ruling authority technically has jurisdiction over all matters of law, most elect to let the imams settle civil cases.
Purity & Decay
Fundamental to the Devoted’s belief in the opposed forces of Asha and Druj, order and chaos, are the notions of purity and corruption, growth and decay.
Suleiman wrote that the physical form is inherently corrupt. From the moment of birth the body is inexorably drawn toward decay. Though soul and body are separate entities, the needs of the flesh can quickly taint the spirit. Gluttony, vanity, addiction, sexual lust, sloth—these are evils of the flesh, not the spirit. By giving into them, the spirit also becomes impure. Not that the flesh is entirely to blame for man’s ills—impure matters of the soul, such as covetousness, jealousy, impoliteness, selfishness, and dishonesty, lead to further spiritual decay.
Even witnessing impure acts and not correcting or combatting them leads to corruption. A person who wit¬nesses a crime and does not try to prevent it, for instance, will suffer spiritual corruption for his sin of indifference. Hence Suleiman’s decree that both good thoughts and good deeds are required to achieve Oneness.
In the eyes of most Devoted, and as written in the Hamad, spiritual corruption is all-but guaranteed if the body is corrupt. It is for this reason they are supposed to practice abstinence from excessive consumption and physical pleasure, avoid eating too much meat (flesh be¬ing corrupt) or drinking alcohol (which taints the spirit, as evidenced in the behavior of drunks), and keep their body and clothes clean. Certain ascetics, branded as odd by the majority of Devoted and heretics by fanatics, argue that cleanliness is actually a physical need, and thus leads to spiritual cor¬ruption. Those who follow this belief are easily detected by their long hair, unwashed skin, and pungent odor. The diseased, those suffering from madness, and citizens whose work involves regularly handling corrupt materials such as dung, urine (tanners), or corpses fill the lowest class in society because they are considered the most spiritually tainted. Of course, no sane person chooses to suffer disease, and someone has to clear away filth for the betterment of the majority. Thus, generosity and kindness toward them are expected norms, espe¬cially those who did not choose their current state.
This deep-rooted belief also explains the use of cre¬mations. Flesh can never be entirely pure, for without the spirit it rapidly decays. Even with the spirit it decays slowly, as evidenced by aging. In doing so it not only cor¬rupts the area around it, but gives rise to creatures long associated with Druj, such as maggots and flies. A corpse also attracts carrion eaters, creatures that by their very nature are corrupt. Even mummification cannot stave off eventual corruption of a corpse.
Suleiman wrote that an ordered society promotes growth, and is thus spiritually enlightening. By com¬parison, a chaotic society fosters corruption, leading to spiritual decay. The two are not mutually exclusive, of course. Few citizen of Al-Wazir doubt the Sultanate is ordered, but most agree the stench of corruption hangs heavily in the air.
As mentioned in Land of Fire, magic is a manifesta¬tion of self-belief, not a gift from the gods. Practitioners are without doubt more enlightened in many ways, but they are also constantly in danger of spiritual corruption. Magic is powerful, and power can be addictive. Sorcerers who cast spells like they are going out of fashion, who use their magic to dominate or kill others, or who simply believe themselves better than non-magicians suffer from spiritual corruption to a greater or lesser degree.
Asha and Druj are not omnipotent gods, nor do they predetermine the actions of the races. Devoted believe that a man’s fate is directly influenced by his previous thoughts and actions. One whose spirit is closer to Asha will, in general, have better fortunes than one closer to Druj. As the old saying goes, “One who means well does well.” Of course, bad things still happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people.
Individuals are not isolated entities. Suleiman taught that the universe is an endless sea, and the actions and thoughts of individuals are stones. As each stone is dropped into the water, it creates ripples. A large enough stone will generate ripples that affect those of people far away. If a stone represented a good action, others would benefit. A bad action would blight others. What no man knew was where his stone might land in relation to the stones of others. Suleiman also said that men should not seek to forcibly control the actions of others in a bid to prevent evil deeds, for that action would itself lead only to greater corruption. Thus, Devoted are quite pragmatic when it comes to fate, and concentrate more on ensur¬ing their own thoughts and deeds are of good intent.
Devout Devoted pray three times a day. Such prayers are made not to Asha or Druj, but in the name of Sulei¬man. It should be noted that Suleiman the man is not a focus for veneration—Devoted worship no gods or spir¬its of any kind. Rather, in keeping with their creed, it is his deeds people honor. In this way they remember the path to Oneness—dedication and righteous behavior.
At dawn they pray in memory of his early life. They re¬member his enforced servitude, and yet honor the drive that saw him acquire great wisdom in the face of adver¬sity. At midday they pray to remember his war against the jinn, when he overcame his greatest foe. At dusk the prayers honor his achieving Oneness, and the writings he left behind so that others might walk the same road. The prayers are largely formulaic, having been laid down over successive generations. They serve as com¬mon mantras, putting the speaker in the right frame of mind to cope with daily life.
Which direction Devoted should face when praying is much debated by imams, as it has been for centuries. Ideally, they’d like to face either Suleiman’s birthplace, the place he achieved Oneness, or his tomb. Unfortunately, not even the greater jinn know for sure where these are located. Thus, alternatives were put forward.
One faction claims the supplicant should face east, the direction of Suleiman’s Stone (in the city of Akhmim, City of the Devoted), for this is where Suleiman ordered the first city to be created after the former slaves’ long wandering in the desert. Another claims Devoted should face north, toward the Mirrorsands, for here the great mage defeated the jinn, an act which paved the way for his new teachings. There is no official direction. Some Sultans favored east, others north, and during their reign their choice became the accepted norm. The incumbent Sultan has wisely ruled that the choice of direction, like the path to Oneness, is a personal decision, and cannot be set in stone by any man.
While every city holds its own festivals and ceremonies throughout the year, there are some that every citizen of the Sultanate recognizes as common to the Devoted faith. These common festivals are listed in order of the date on which they are held.
Day of Oneness (Baot Yaus al-Maat Amt Alak Arkhet): No exact date exists in any text for when Suleiman attained Oneness. All that was known is that it occurred sometime before Suleiman confronted the jinn and demanded they release the races from slavery. The date was set by the first Sultan. The day is spent reading the Hamad and reminding oneself of the difficult road that is Oneness. Citizens also endeavor to solve trouble¬some problems affecting their lives on this day, believing they have a better chance of success. It has also become a “lucky” day to die or be cremated, for it is said Suleiman will guide those deserving to Oneness in person.
Ascension Day (Amt Yaus al-Nefar Baot Alak Paret): Marking the day the first Sultan ascended the throne, and thus the birth of the Sultanate, the festival has become the de facto occasion for marking the enthronement of all subsequent Sultans, regardless of the actual date of their coronation. Except in Al-Wazir, City of Spires, the day is marked only by adding the Sultan’s name to one’s daily prayers.
Suleiman’s Birthday (Anshi Yaus al-Maat Amt Alak Shemu): No one actually knows when Suleiman was born—the date was chosen by the first Sultan and has become enshrined in teachings ever since. Devoted spend the day reading the Hamad, and the evening swapping folklore concerning the great mage.
Liberation Day (Amt Yaus al-Nefar Alak Suha): Held the same time as the Faithful festival of the same name, Liberation Day marks the day Suleiman defeated the jinn. It is a public holiday for all Devoted, and even slaves are given the day off (in theory, at least). In many communities effigies of jinn are burned.
Jinn remember this day as well, though for them it is a day of sadness at the loss or subsequent imprisonment of so many of their number. Most choose to spend the day in hiding, and with good reason—all magicians gain +1 to arcane skill rolls targeted against jinn on this day.
Day of Black Ash (Tamith Yaus al-Maat Alak Suha): Though the cakali were not Devoted at the time their ancestral homelands were destroyed, many converted afterward. That they once sided with the jinn to ensure their own culture survived is largely forgotten except by scholars and the cakali.
Citizens are expected to burn something precious to them on this day. This serves to help them remember he terrible price the cakali paid for refusing to halt the slaves’ progress, and remind themselves that love of ma¬terial possessions is a sign of spiritual corruption.
The universe is not a perfect place, and neither are the physical beings who dwell in it. Chaos and disorder, the tools of Druj, are everywhere, and achieving Oneness is a life-long struggle against constant temptation and adversity. It is even harder for most adventurers, for the taking of any life, no matter how evil the creature, corrupts the spirit. Undead, demons, elementals (but not jinn), constructs, most spirit beings, and such like don’t count, as they are not truly living creatures accord¬ing to the Hamad. Very few citizens, even those who live sedate, boring lives, are saints, and few who die are ever completely pure in spirit.
Fortunately, Oneness does not require absolute purity—if it did, Druj would certainly have won the battle already. So long as the spirit has more purity than cor¬ruption, more order than chaos, more growth than de¬cay, it attains Oneness. Whether or not there are varying degrees of this blissful state cannot be determined by mortals. To those used to struggle, any amount of spiri¬tual cleanliness and freedom from want and suffering is better than the life they left behind. Thus, gravespeak cannot be used to find absolute answers to spiritual and philosophical questions.
Faithful & the Sultanate
Faithful citizens are permitted to erect temples and worship their gods without prejudice, and largely without hindrance. In a bid to make money, however, Sultan’s of old decreed that taxes would be levied on every temple based on the size of the its ground footprint.
In most small communities, the Faithful opted to construct a single structure shared by many cults. Each cult pays a share of the tax based on the amount of space allocated to it. In the great cities, clerics exploited a loophole, and elected to build temples to a single de¬ity, but with multiple floors. Both practices continue to this day. The Sultanate has chosen to label temples as businesses as well as religious institutions. Thus, their income is taxable. More recent Sultans have reduced the levy to promote better cooperation and integration. The current Sultan has set it at 10%.