If I were to imagine a great leader arising from the Empty Quarter, it would be someone like Tamerlane – “Timur” in the Wikipedia article quoted below.
Timur is considered the last of the great nomadic conquerors of the Eurasian Steppe, and his empire set the stage for the rise of the more structured and lasting Gunpowder Empires in the 1500s and 1600s…
As a means of legitimating his conquests, Timur relied on Islamic symbols and language, referring to himself as the “Sword of Islam” and patronizing educational and religious institutions. He converted nearly all the Borjigin leaders to Islam during his lifetime…
Timur’s armies were inclusively multi-ethnic and were feared throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe, sizable parts of which were laid waste by his campaigns. Scholars estimate that his military campaigns caused the deaths of 17 million people, amounting to about 5% of the world population….
OK, let’s stop right here.
Killing about 5% of today’s planetary population (2015) would be about 365 million dead. As a point of comparison, World War II killed about 100 million people, or about 4.3% of the 2.3 billion people on planet Earth at that time.
Could a very cunning and hyper-charismatic caliph arise in the impoverished worlds of the Empty Quarter – probably on Hebrin – and kill 5% of the sophonts of Charted Space? Doubtful, but very unlikely things have happened in history before. Killing 5% of the sophonts of Charted Space is roughly equivalent to sterilizing four full sectors, or wiping out 50% of the population of eight sectors, or 25% of the population of sixteen sectors.
Hmm… about those “multi-ethnic” armies. If a caliph of a highly Solomani (read: species/cultual supremacist) religion can somehow successfully re-engineer Islam to be a pan-species religion – perhaps by accepting all forms of nonhuman strict monotheism as “sufficently Islam”, and creating additional Hadiths to properly bring alien races into the fold, and aggressively suppressing the numerous Islamic teachers (and their followers) who would prefer to retain human supremacy (and despise uplifted dogs…) – then it could be done.
(And surely, the violent tendencies of the Blood Vargr are best put to work against the enemies of the Caliphate… who, by definition, are enemies of Islam. Obviously.)
Timur is regarded as a military genius and a tactician, with an uncanny ability to work within a highly fluid political structure to win and maintain a loyal following of nomads during his rule in Central Asia. He was also considered extraordinarily intelligent – not only intuitively but also intellectually. In Samarkand and his many travels, Timur, under the guidance of distinguished scholars, was able to learn the Persian, Mongolian, and Turkic languages. More importantly, Timur was characterized as an opportunist. Taking advantage of his Turco-Mongolian heritage, Timur frequently used either the Islamic religion or the law and traditions of the Mongol Empire to achieve his military goals or domestic political aims.
A military and political genius, able to weld wildly divergent nations into a single, obedient sword.A far different Caliph than the overemotional would-be Caliph that led the failed Hebrin Rebellion of the 800s.
This Hebrin Caliph would have to work in the shadows for about a decade, often in person, to get his dream, and often in person (to get his charisma to get in sync with the Vargr) : this is the best time for the Imperium (and PC agents, working on behalf of the Imperium) to catch him.
But if he is able to time things perfectly (and with a little help from Solomani Security), he could gather a major force – first in the Julian Protectorate, and then in the rimward-trailing Imperium – and declare his independence, timed exactly with the start of the Solomani Rim War.
If things get this far, it may be impossible for the Imperium to recover, and it’s quite likely that it would fall apart.
Islam fundamentally denies plurality: only unity is real. There is no free will, and everything is rigidly determined. While the Total, Unified State is one natural endpoint of Islam, the other endpoint is a kind of mysticism, where all is to be absorbed into the One Reality.
(See Rushdoony’s The One and the Many for details.)
The mystical side of Islam is not too far from Hinduism – and many Hindus would argue that they follow a monotheistic religion. (I’ll let them explain how “monotheism” and “330 million deities” are one and the same.) The Caliph may well prefer to bring the heretics in with a quick recital of the Shahada (to boost manpower and the workforce) than to kill them unnecessary.
Or maybe he will force the heretics to recite the Shahada, and then kill them. It depends on how the Caliph and his officers feel at the time.
As for the Hegemonic Last Man, let’s turn to Sufism for a way to integrate this into Islam:
According to Moojan Momen “one of the most important doctrines of Sufism is the concept of the “Perfect Man” (al-Insan al-Kamil). This doctrine states that there will always exist upon the earth a “Qutb” (Pole or Axis, of the Universe)—a man who is the perfect channel of grace from Allah to man and in a state of wilaya (sanctity, being under the protection of Allah).
The Caliph would persuade the Hegemony of Lorean that he is the Last Man, according to both Islamic doctrine, and the Cultus of the Last Man. Being able to pull this off (with the required bribes and assassinations) would net him a good number of violent fascist types: if the Caliph can get them to work with the Blood Vargr, and suitably equipped to TL 14 standards (preferably TL: 14/15, when fighting the Imperium) then you could have a very potent military force indeed.
The Bwap can easily be persuaded to see things the Caliph’s way: they just want the bureaucratic details to be obeyed, and don’t care too much on whether those details make sense or not, or if they are just or not. Like any bureaucrat, they know that it’s all about the letter of the law, not the spirit!
The Vilani can be brought in, if they see the Caliph as the way to Enforce Conformity across not only all human cultures, but all sophont cultures. It isn’t Vilani Tradition, but after enough beheadings, the pragmatic Vilani will no doubt see the wisdom of Submission.
In Stellar Reaches #12, the Hebrin Rebellion of 871 Imperial is instigated by the Duke of Hebrin, who, believing that a hostile Empress was going to eject all Sunni Muslims from the Sector Military, raised the flag of rebellion… and was crushed. This defeat was punishing enough to make a new rebellion in 993 – the “current year” of Stellar Reaches – a non-starter.
So, if you want to run a Tamerlane campaign, you’ll have to insure that the rebellion never happened in your timeline. A Muslim Duke who gritted his teeth and knelt (for now) could suffer a lesser defeat and humiliation (humiliation always brings agony to the Arab), but still retain much more of his power and traditional authority – and maybe even manage to shift the sector capital to Hebrin, in return for his vigorous support for the Iridium Throne.
(Most crucially, Hebrin would remain a purely Arab Sunni Muslim world, without a major die-off, and without a massive influx of unbelieving Vilani settlers and aliens to forever break up the heart of Islam in the sector.)
So, the Duke smiles and smiles, and obeys and obeys, and is rewarded with more and more Imperial power and honours…
…and works with the genetic engineers of the Last Man, to build a Superior Man as a combined heir for his throne, and to lead the Hegemony, and to unite that Faithful…
…and one day, a courier from the Hegemony arrives with a unique present: an embryo of himself and his favourite wife, upgraded to perfection. A boy that, after being secretly implanted in his wife’s womb and naturally born, is swiftly named Timur before the approving roar of the crowd…