From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

(Redirected from Ismaili)
Jump to: navigation, search

"I am led to believe, that among the Ismailites, those only were termed Hashishin, who were specially educated to commit murder, and who were, by the use of Hashish disposed to an absolute resignation to the will of their chief; this, however, may not have prevented the denomination from being applied to Ismailites collectively, especially among the Occidentals." --Silvestre de Sacy cited in The History of the Assassins: Derived from Oriental Sources (1818) by Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall

Related e



Ismāʿīlism is part of a severed branch of Shia Islam.





Very early in the empire's life, the Fatimids sought to spread the Ismāʿīlī faith, which in turn would spread loyalty to the Imāmate in Egypt. One of their earliest attempts was taken by a Dai by the name of Hassan-Al-Sabbah.

Hassan-Al-Sabbah was born into a Twelver family living in the scholarly Persian city of Qom in 1056 AD. His family later relocated to the city of Tehran, which was an area with an extremely active Ismāʿīlī Daʿwah. He immersed himself in Ismāʿīlī thought; however, he did not choose to convert until he was overcome with an almost fatal illness and feared dying without knowing the Imām of his time.

Afterwards, Hassan-Al-Sabbah became one of the most influential Dais in Ismāʿīlī history; he became important to the survival of the Nizari branch of Ismailism, which today is its largest branch.

Legend holds that he met with Imām Ma'ad al-Mustansir Bi'llah and asked him who his successor would be, to which he responded that it would be his eldest son Nizar.

Hassan-Al-Sabbah continued his Dai activities, which climaxed with his taking of Alamut. Over the next two years, he converted most of the surrounding villages to Ismailism. Afterwards, he converted most of the staff to Ismailism, took over the fortress, and presented Alamut's king with payment for his fortress, which he had no choice but to accept. The king reluctantly abdicated his throne, and Hassan-Al-Sabbah turned Alamut into an outpost of Fatimid rule within Abbasid territory.

The Hashasheen / Assassiyoon

Order of Assassins

Surrounded by the Abbasids and other hostile powers and low in numbers, Hassan-Al Sabbah devised a way to attack the Ismāʿīlī's enemies with minimal losses. Using the method of assassination, he ordered the murders of Sunni scholars and politicians whom he felt threatened the Ismāʿīlīs. Knives and daggers were used to kill, and sometimes as a warning, a knife would be placed onto the pillow of a Sunni, who understood the message that he was marked for death. When an assassination was actually carried out, the Hashasheen would not be allowed to run away; instead, to strike further fear into the enemy, they would stand near the victim without showing any emotion and departed only when the body was discovered. This further increased the ruthless reputation of the Hashasheen throughout Sunni-controlled lands.

The English word, assassination, is said to have derived from the Arabic word Hashasheen. It means both "those who use hashish," and one of the Shiite Ismaili sects in the Syria of the eleventh century. However, Amin Maalouf, in his novel Samarkand, disputes the origin of the word assassin. According to him, it is not derived from the name of the drug hashish, which Western historians believed that members of the sect took. Instead, he proposed that this story was fabricated by Orientalists to explain how effectively the Ismāʿīlīs carried out these suicide-assassinations without fear. Maalouf suggests that the term is instead derived from the word Assass (foundation), and Assassiyoon, meaning "those faithful to the foundation."

Threshold of the Imāmate

Nizar (Fatimid Imam)

After the imprisonment of Nizar by his younger brother Mustaal, it is claimed Nizar's son al-Hādī survived and fled to Alamut. He was offered a safe place in Alamut, where Hassan-Al-Sabbah welcomed him. However, it is believed this was not announced to the public and the lineage was hidden until a few Imāms later.

It was announced with the advent of Imām Hassan II. In a show of his Imāmate and to emphasize the interior meaning (the batin) over the exterior meaning (the zahir), he prayed with his back to Mecca, as did the rest of the congregation, who prayed behind him, and ordered the community to break their Ramadan fasting with a feast at noon. He made a speech saying he was in communication with the Imām, which many of the Ismāʿīlīs understood to mean he was the Imām himself.

Afterwards his descendants ruled as the Imāms at Alamut until its destruction by the Mongols.

Destruction by the Mongols

Mongol Empire

The stronghold at Alamut, though it had warded off the Sunni attempts to take it several times, including one by Saladin, soon met with destruction. By 1206, Genghis Khan had managed to unite many of the once antagonistic Mongol tribes into a ruthless, but nonetheless unified, force. Using many new and unique military techniques, Genghis Khan led his Mongol hordes across Central Asia into the Middle East, where they won a series of tactical military victories using a scorched-earth policy.

A grandson of Genghis Khan, Hulagu Khan, led the devastating attack on Alamut in 1256, only a short time before sacking the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad in 1258. As he would later do to the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, he destroyed Ismāʿīlī as well as Islamic religious texts. The Imāmate that was located in Alamut along with its few followers were forced to flee and take refuge elsewhere.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Isma'ilism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools