saulot (saulot) wrote in kaizersultanate,

The Nizari sect of Islam became established when Hasan Ibn al-Sabbah refused to recognize al-Musta'li as the new caliph in 1094, instead supporting al-Musta'li's brother Nizar, who disappeared under suspicious circumstances. This sect is actually very well known around the world, but under a different name: the Assassins.

The name "assassins" derives from the term for "takers of hashish," a name given to them by their enemies. They became famous for their tactic of sending people on suicide missions to kill the commanders of armies which threatened to overrun their strongholds.

But, like many movements, the Nizaris mellowed with time and became less violent and more peaceful. Because they were persecuted in Iran, they began to move to the Indian subcontinent during the 14th century. Here they became to be known as Khoja (from the Persian word khwaja, meaning master).

The Nizaris gradually made many changes to their beliefs due to their Indian surroundings, and in the nineteenth century its popularity was fully revived after a long period of relative obscurity. Today it has a worldwide following, mostly consisting of businesspeople from the Indian subcontinent. The current Nizari Imam is the Aga Khan. Today there are about 20 million Khojas, with 2 million living in Pakistan.

Hasan bin Sabbah was born in a Shiite family on 428/1034 at Qumm. His father, Ali bin Muhammad bin Jafar bin al-Hussain bin Muhammad bin al-Sabbah al-Himyari, a Kufan of Yamenite origin was a learned scholar. From early age he acquired the rudiments of formal education from his father at home. When he was still a child, his father moved to Ray and it was there that Hasan bin Sabbah pursued his religious education. In his autobiography, entitled "Sar Guzasht-i Sayyidna" (Incidents in the life of our Lord), he tells his own story that, "From the days of my boyhood, from the age of seven, I felt a love for the various branches of learning and wished to become a religious scholar; until the age of seventeen I was a seeker and searcher for knowledge, but kept to the Twelver faith of my father."

Hasan bin Sabbah was an intelligent and proficient in geometry and astronomy. He learnt the Ismaili doctrines from a Fatimid dai, Amir Dharrab, who expounded him the doctrine of the Ismailis. Soon he was reading Ismaili literature, which so stirred him that when he became dangerously ill, he began to fear that he might die without knowing the truth. When he recovered, he approached an Ismaili for further clarification of the doctrines. Convinced that Ismailism represented ultimate reality, he embraced Ismailism at the age of 35 years in 464/1071 and afterwards, he came into contact with a Fatimid dai Abdul Malik bin Attash in Ispahan.

Hasan bin Sabbah writes in "Sar Guzasht-i Sayyidna" that, "In the year 464/1071 Abdul Malik bin Attash, who at that time was the dai in Iraq, came to Ray. I met with his approval, and he made me a deputy dai and indicated that I should go to His Majesty in Egypt, who at that time was al-Mustansir. In the year 469/1077, I went to Ispahan on my way to Egypt. I finally arrived in Egypt in the year 471/1078." In sum, Hasan moved from Ray to Ispahan in 467/1074. Later on, when al-Muayyad was the chief dai at Cairo in 469/1077, he set out from Ispahan for Egypt. He travelled at first to northern Azerbaijan, thence to Mayyafariqin, where he held religious deliberations with the Sunni theologians and denied the right of Sunni muftis to interpret religion, that being the prerogative of the Imam. As a result, he was expelled by the town's Sunni qadi. He proceeded to Mosul, Rahba and Damascus. He sailed through Beirut, Sidon, Tyre, Acre, Caesarea and finally reached Cairo in 471/1078. Imam al-Mustansir gave him audience and honoured him. Hasan asked him as to who would be the Imam after him. Al-Mustansir replied that it would be his son Nizar. He is reported to have stayed 18 months in Cairo, enjoying the patronage and favour of his master. He also learnt latest tactics of the dawa in Dar al-Hikmah, which was in those days the biggest learning centre of Islam. Hasan, thus profited much by his journey to Egypt. It is possible that he had a meeting also with al- Nizar in Cairo. Laurence Lockhart writes in "Hasan-i Sabbah and the Assassins" (BSOAS, vol. v, 1928, p. 677) that, "Hasan was well received at Cairo, and was treated with marked favour by the Fatimid Caliph al-Mustansir. It is said by some writers that Hasan received so many benefits at the hands of the Caliph that the courtiers became jealous, and eventually forced him to leave the country." Badr al-Jamali, the Fatimid vizir however was the foremost to breed suspicion, when he knew that Hasan was the supporter of al-Nizar bin al- Mustansir, therefore he got Hasan imprisoned in the fortress of Dumyat. The strong walls of the fortress collapsed one day, enabling him to escape. He boarded a vessel at Alexandria with a group of Franks for western waters, but the stormy winds tossed his vessel on the shores of Syria and he alighted at the port of Acre. Then onwards, he toured many cities; studied the economic, social and religious conditions of the people. He reached Ispahan in 473/1081 and began to propagate Ismaili faith in Yazd and Kirman for a while. He spent three months in Khuzistan before proceeding to Damghan, where he stayed about three years.

There was plenty of mission activity, pervasive throughout its length and breath in Iran under the control of Abdul Malik bin Attash. In about 480/1088, Hasan bin Sabbah seems to have chosen the remote castle of Alamut in Daylam as the base of his mission. He sent from Damghan, and later, from Shahriyarkuh, a number of trained dais, including Ismail Qazwini, Muhammad Jamal Radi and Kiya Abul Kassim Larijani to different districts around Alamut valley to convert the local inhabitants. Hasan, at length was appointed a dai of Daylam. In the meantime, the Seljukid vizir, Nizam al-Mulk (408-485/1018-1092), a well known implacable foe had ordered Abu Muslim, the governor of Ray to arrest him. Hasan however managed to proceed to Daylam in hiding. He then reached Qazwin (also called Qasbin or Qashwin) , and inspected the fort of Alamut in Rudhbar. He remained in worship within the fortress, and also converted the local people. He took possession of the fortress of Alamut in 483/1090 and established an independent Nizari Ismaili state.

The fortress of Alamut

The Justanid dynasty of Daylam was founded in 189/805, and one of its rulers, called Wahsudan bin Marzuban (d. 251/865) is reported to have built the fortress of Alamut in 246/860. The tradition in this context has it that once the ruler, while on hunting had followed a manned eagle which alighted on the rock. The king saw the strategic value of the location and built a fort on the top of a high piercing rock and was named aluh amut, which in the Daylami dialect, derived from aluh (eagle) and amut (nest), i.e., "eagle's nest" as the eagle, instead of following the birds, had built its nest on that location. According to "Sar Guzasht-i Sayyidna", the term "Alamut" is aluh amut i.e., the eagle's nest, and an eagle had its nest there. Ibn Athir (d. 630/1234) relates another tradition in his "Kamil fi't Tarikh" (Beirut, 1975, 10th vol., p. 110) that the eagle had taught and guided the king to this location, therefore, it was named talim al-aqab (the teaching or guidance of an eagle), whose rendering into Daylami dialect is aluh amut. The word aluh means "eagle" and amutis derived from amukhat means "teaching". The people of Qazwin called it aqab amukhat (the teaching of eagle). Thus, the term aluh amut(or aqab amukhat) later on became known as Alamut. The Iranian historians have drawn attention to the curious fact that, if one gives to each letter in the full name of Aluh Amut, its numberical value in Arabic, the sum total amounts to 483, which represents the year in which Hasan bin Sabbah obtained possession of Alamut.

Afterwards, the Musafirid dynasty, also known as Sallarids or Kangarids (304-483/916-1090) founded by Muhammad bin Musafir (304-330/916- 941), who ruled from the fortress of Shamiran in the district of Tarum at Daylam and Azerbaijan. Later on, Mahdi bin Khusaro Firuz, known as Siyahchashm, retained the occupation of Alamut in his hands. He was however defeated by the Musafirid ruler, Ibn Musafir in 316/928 and henceforward, there is no historical indication about the fate of Alamut following the death of Ibn Musafir in 319/931. It must be noted on this juncture that most of the sources write that Mahdi bin Khusaro Firuz had embraced Ismailism, which is quite an erroneous view. He had however espoused the dotrines of the Qarmatians, not that of Ismailis.

When Hasan bin Sabbah arrived in Iran from Egypt, the fortress of Alamut was in possession of an Alid, called Hussain Mahdi, who had it as a fief from the Seljuq sultan Malikshah. Hasan Mahdi was a descendant of Hasan bin Ali al-Utrush (d. 304/916), one of the Alid rulers of Tabaristan, also known as al-Nasir li'l-Haq, who had established a separate Zaidi community in the Caspian Sea. It is related that a dai Hussain Qaini, working under Hasan bin Sabbah had created his friendship with Hussain Mahdi. The Ismaili dais also converted a bulk of the people around the territory, and became powerful to some extent. These Ismailis also began to come in the fortress. Knowing this, Hussain Mahdi expelled them and closed its doors. Finally, Hussain Mahdi was compelled to open the doors owing to the multitude of Ismailis in the vicinity.

Hasan bin Sabbah moved to Ashkawar and then Anjirud, adjacent to Alamut, and on Wednesday, the 6th Rajab, 483/September 4, 1090, he steathily entered the castle of Alamut. He lodged there for a while in disguise, calling himself Dihkhuda and did not reveal his identity to Hussain Mahdi, but as the days rolled away, the latter noticed that he was no longer obeyed, that there was another master in Alamut. The bulk of Alamut's garrison and a large number of the inhabitants had embraced Ismailism, making Hussain Mahdi powerless to defend himself or make their expulsion, but himself eventually left the fortress. Thus, Alamut was occupied without any massacre and was taken to be known as Daru'l Hijra (place of refuge) for the Ismailis in a congenial atmosphere.

Ata Malik Juvaini (1226-1283) had seen the fortress of Alamut when it was being shattered in 654/1256. He writes in "Tarikh-i Jhangusha"(tr. John A. Boyle, Cambridge, 1958, p. 719) that, "Alamut is a mountain which resembles a kneeling camel with its neck resting on the ground." It was situated in Daylam about 35 km. north-west of Qazwin in the region of Rudhbar. It was physically a large towering rock, with steep slopes hardly negotiable on most sides, but with a considerable expanse at its top where extensive building could be done. Situated in mountainous terrain, it approaches could be guarded with relative ease. Its present location lies about 100 k.m. north-west of Tehran, and situated in the high peak of Elburz mountain. Alburz generally was pronounced as Elburz, is the name given to great mountain range, dividing the high plateau of Iran from the low lands of Caspian Sea. The original Iranian word Alburz is derived from two Zand words, signifying the high mountain. The fortress of Alamut is 600 feet high, 450 feet long and 30 to 125 feet wide and is partly encompassed by the towering Elburz range. The rock of Alamut is known at present as Qal'ai Guzur Khan.

Hasan bin Sabbah's immediate concerns, however, were to refortify Alamut, provide for it food and water supply, construct cisterns and store-rooms for provisions, irrigate the field in the vally, acquire adjacent castles, erect forts at strategic points, institute economic and social reforms, unite the Ismailis by bonds of fraternity, and make every Ismaili feel himself a responsible member of the community and inseparable from it.

One of the principle myths surrounding Alamût involves the Library, which supposedly contained over 200,000 voumes on a myriad of subjects including political power, philosophy, religion and the control of spirits. When the Mongols invaded Alamut, record show that they were suprised at the number of books and scientific instruments that they found. In the summer of 1973, Brion Gysin visited Alamût and stated that "It wasn't big enough to put away 200 packets of vitamin B-1 ...". The Library of Alamût which was lost in the mongol invasion of 1256 was either stored in another manner or did not exist of this world.

The principle story of the Garden of Alamût is taken from Marco Polo. An initiate who is selected for an assassination is drugged and taken to a garden or valley close to Alamût where he spends a night thinking he is being given a taste of paradise. Here he is given a taste of sensuous delights such as fountains flowing with milk, honey, wine and a full assortment of houris, virgins promised in the Koranic Paradise. After a night in this paradise, the Assassin was again drugged an told that he would spend an eternity in this paradise once he completed his mission.

A close inspection of the area surrounding will quicky show that this it is highly unlikely that the Garden was a physical garden of this world. The terrain in this area is arid, rocky and at an altitude that would not support the vegetation that was described in the chronicles of Marco Polo. The Garden if it did exist was either an allegory for some sort of initiation ceremony or the garden was part of a spiritual vision to which the candidate was given access to.

The Seljuqs were the ruling military family of the Oghuz Turkoman tribes, which ruled over wide territories in Central and Nearer Asia from 11th to 13th century. Among them, the following dynasties were sprouted:- The Great Seljuqs (429-552/1038-1157), the Seljuqs of Iraq (511-590/1118-1194), the Seljuqs of Kirman (433-582/1041-1186), the Seljuqs of Syria (471-511/1078-1117) and the Seljuqs of Asia Minor (571-702/1077-1302). The Seljuq had originated as chieftains of nomadic bands in Central Asian steppes, and appeared first in Transoxiana and Khorasan in the 5th/11th century. Mahmud Kashghari writes in "Diwan lughat al-Turk" (comp. 466/1074) that, "The leading tribe of the Oghuz, from whom the Seljuq rulers sprang, was Qiniq. The Seljuq family belonged to the Qiniq." Another report indicates that the progenitor of the Seljuq family was a certain Duqaq, which in Turkish language means "iron bow", a man of resources, discernment and competence, who alongwith his son Seljuq, served Yabghu. Eventually, Yabghu became jealous of Seljuq's power, and the latter was forced to flee with his flocks to Jand. In the last decade of the 10th century, the Seljuq family embraced Islam, and then turned to raiding against the pagan Turks. Some Russian scholars have expressed an opinion that the Seljuq family accepted Islam through Christianity, because of the Biblical names of his sons, Mikail, Musa and Israil. Over the next decades, Musa, Mikail and Arslan Israil, the three sons of Seljuq moved southwards for pasture for their herbs. Soon afterwards, Mikail's two sons, Chaghri Beg and Tughril Beg occupied Khorasan in 431/1040, and extended their influence in Iran, and founded rule of the Great Seljuqs. Henceforward, the Seljuq chiefs became the territorial rulers instead of a wandering band. Tughril Beg was the founder of the Seljuq rule, who adopted title ofSultan al-Muazzam (an exalted ruler). The Abbasids of Baghdad recognised the Seljuq rule in 447/1055. Tughril Beg was succeeded by Alp Arslan, the son of Chaghri Beg in 455/1063. He was also succeeded by his son, Malikshah (d. 485/1092), the contemporary of Hasan bin Sabbah.

Seljuqid operations against Alamut

When the news of Alamut fallen to Hasan bin Sabbah reached to the court of the Seljuq sultan Malikshah (455-485/1063-1092) and his vizir Nizam al-Mulk (408-485/1018-1092), they became highly perturbed, and began to hatch animosity against Hasan bin Sabbah. Malikshah held a series of meetings with his courtiers, and sent his deputation to Alamut, insisting Hasan bin Sabbah to confess the supremacy of the Seljuqids. Hasan bin Sabbah received the deputation with consideration and when they glorified the power and pomp of Malikshah and asked him to accept their supremacy, he told to them, "We cannot obey the orders of others except our Imam. The material glory of the kings cannot impress us." The deputation left Alamut of no avail, and at that time, Hasan bin Sabbah told to them last words, "Tell to your king to let us live at our cell in peace. We will be compelled to take arms if we are teased. The army of Malikshah has no spirit to fight with our warriors, who do not give importance to this little span of life." Thus, Malikshah and his vizir did not dare to attack on Alamut for two years.

Soon, Alamut came to be raided by the Seljuq forces under the command of the nearest military officer, and the governor of Rudhbar district, called Turun Tash. Von Hammer (1774-1856) writes in "History of the Assassins" (London, 1935, p. 78) that, "No sooner had Hasan Sabbah obtained possession of the castle of Alamut, and before he had provided it with magazines, than an amir (Turun Tash) on whom the sultan had conferred the fief of the district of Rudhbar, cut off all access and supplies." Since the stronghold could not be reduced by storm, the amir Turun Tash besieged it, devastated the fields and butchered the Ismaili converts. Within Alamut, the supplies and provisions were inadequate, its occupants were reduced to great distress, suggesting to abandon the fortress. There were some who looked upon it as a great hardship, thinking that they were being thrust into the very jaws of death. Hasan, however, persuaded the garrisons to continue resisting, declaring to have received an express and special message of Imam Mustansir billah from Cairo, who promised and portended them good fortune, and this is the cause that Alamut is also called Baldat al-Iqbal (the city of good fortune). Surrounded by a thick mist of disappointing circumstances, Hasan's eyes could yet perceive a ray of hope. Turun Tash directed many serious raids but shortly died. The starving garrisons, however, held out and the siege was broken. This was the first inimical operation against the Ismailis.

Malikshah, on getting the news of the rout of Turun Tash's armies completely lost his balance. In 484/1091, he visited Baghdad, which was his second visit after 479/1087, where he discussed with the Abbasids the measures of extermination of the Ismailis. He was bent upon striking the Ismailis at their very existence. His vizir Nizam al-Mulk, an ardent and ruthless enemy of the Ismailis, infused him to dispatch two big armies, one to Rudhbar, and the other to Kohistan. Thus, Malikshah made a determined effort to root out the Ismailis and launched an expedition early in 485/1092.

In the meantime, the vizir Nizam al-Mulk began to incite the people and employed the pens of theologians against Hasan bin Sabbah and his followers. He compiled "Siyasat-nama" (Book of the art of Politics), showing the strong anti-Shiite tendencies. Besides being what its title says, is also a valuable, though biased source for studying the history and doctrines of the Ismailis. Indeed the Shiite resentment was the principal cause of Nizam al-Mulk's murder in 485/1092. "It is said" writes Ibn Khallikan in his "Wafayat al-A'yan"(1st vol., p. 415) "that the assassin was suborned against him by Malikshah, who was fatigued to see him live so long, and coveted the numerous fiefs which he held in his possession." Ibn Khallikan also writes that, "The assassination of Nizam al-Mulk has been attributed also to Taj al-Mulk Abul Ghanaim al-Marzuban bin Khusaro Firuz, surnamed Ibn Darest; he was an enemy of the vizir and in high favour with his sovereign Malikshah, who, on the death of Nizam al-Mulk, appointed him to fill the place of vizir."

The Rudhbar expedition, led by Arslan Tash, reached Alamut in Jumada I, 485 and had a siege for four months. At the time, Hasan bin Sabbah had with him only 70 men with little provisions, and was on the verge of being defeated; when a seasonable succour of 300 men from Qazwin enabled him to make a successful sally. It was dai Didar Abu Ali Ardistani, who brought 300 men in Qazwin, who threw themselves into Alamut, bringing adequate supplies. The reinforced garrison routed the besiegers in a nocturnal assault on their camps at the end of Shaban, 485/October, 1092, forcing them to withdraw from Alamut. It must be known that the Seljuqs forces were well equipped with skilled veterans, while Alamut had recruited those young fidais who were not yet experts in warfare. Neither in respect of number, nor in that of strength and skill, were the Ismailis a match for their enemy. It indeed kindled the flame of enthusiasm that glowed hidden in the hearts of Hasan's followers. The spirit of deep-rooted faith and the directions of Hasan bin Sabbah, provided them a resistible fillip before such large hosts. Thus, the designs of their enemy were frustrated. This operation against Alamut dealt on the one hand a smashing blow to the Seljuqs, while on the other, it strengthened the root of Ismailism at Alamut. It is also said that Arslan Tash continued the siege for four months and did not see any Ismaili resident of the fortress at all except one day when his army sighted on the top of the fortress a man clad in white clothes, who watched the army for a while and disappeared.

On other hand, the Kohistan expedition under Qizil Sariq had concentrated to capture the Ismaili castle of Dara. Malikshah died shortly afterwards at the end of 485/1092, about 35 days after the murder of Nizam al-Mulk; resulting the pending Seljuq plans for further expeditions abandoned. At the same time, the expedition of Kohistan, which had absolutely failed to capture Dara, withdrew in the field.

Upon Malikshah's death, the Seljuq empire was thrown into civil war and internal wrangles, which lasted for more than a decade, marked by disunity among Malikshah's sons. The most prominent one was the eldest son Barkiyaruq, while Malikshah's four years old son Mahmud had immediately been proclaimed as sultan. Barkiyaruq was taken to Ray where he was also placed on the throne. Mahmud died in 487/1095, and the Abbasids recognized the rule of Barkiyaruq, whose seat of power was in Western Iran and Iraq. He fought a series of indecisive battles with his half-brother Muhammad Tapar, who acquired much help from his brother Sanjar, the ruler of Khorasan and Turkistan since 490/1097. The intestine Seljuq quarrels gave the Ismailis a respite to make Alamut as impregnable as possible. Hasan bin Sabbah strengthened the fortifications and built up a great store of provisions. He held a number of fortresses in Daylam besides Alamut and controlled a group of towns and castles in Kohistan extending north and south over 200 miles. The Ismailis occupied the fortresses of Mansurakuh and Mihrin to the north of Damghan, and Ustavand in the district of Damawand. They also took possession of one of the most important strongholds, Girdkuh in Qumis. Girdkuh, the old Diz Gunbadan (the domed fort) and its district was very fertile, known as Mansurabad. In 489/1096, the fortress of Lamasar was conquered under the command of Kiya Buzrug Ummid.

It is a point worth consideration that "Kitab al-Naqd" by Nasiruddin Abdul Rashid al-Jalil, speaking of the radical situation after the death of Malikshah in Ispahan that the manaqib-khwans, a group of Shiite singers who extolled the virtues of Ali and his descendants in the streets. To counterbalance the manaqib-khwans' influence, the Sunnite regime employed fada'il-khwans (singers of virtues), who exalted the virtues of Abu Bakr and Umar and insulted the Shiites. This created religious agitations in the Seljuqid empire.

According to "Seljuk-nama" (Tehran, 1953, p. 41), which was compiled in 580/1184 by Zahiruddin Nishapuri, "In 486/1093, the people of Ispahan apparently moved by a rumour that a certain Ismaili couple had been luring passers-by into their house and torturing them to death, rounded up all the Ismaili suspects and threw them alive into a large bondfire in the middle of the town." There are few other incidents that had been curiously coloured against the Ismailis in the Seljuqid sources. Carole Hillenbrand writes in "The Power Struggle between the Saljuqs and the Ismailis of Alamut" that, "The Sunni sources of the 6th/12th and 7th/13th centuries generally try to inflate the Saljuq achievement against the Ismailis of Alamut. This is especially the case with sultan Muhammad." (cf. "Mediaeval Ismaili History and Thought" ed. Farhad Daftary, New York, 1966, p. 216)

The sources at our disposal suggest that the sons of Malikshah, with the exception of Muhammad did not like to continue fighting with the Ismailis, but were compelled to do that in order to avoid the accusation of being conciliatory to the Ismailis. When Barkiyaruq bin Malikshah ascended in 487/1095, he did not show any enthusiasm for fighting with the Ismailis. On one occasion in 493/1100, when Barkiyaruq was fighting with his brother, he is said to have recruited 5000 Ismaili warriors into his army. The mob and the theologians accused Barkiyaruq of favouring the Ismailis, therefore he purged them from his forces, and at the end of his reign, he evoked harrowing persecution. In 494/1101, Barkiyaruq in Western Iran and Sanjar in Khorasan came to an agreement to regard the Ismailis as a threat to Seljuq power, and to act against them. He died in 498/1105 and Muhammad Tapar became the undisputed sultan, and Sanjar remained at Balkh as his viceroy in the east. With the advent of Muhammad, the dynastic disputes ended and the Seljuqs made greater headway against the Ismailis. He turned fiercely towards the Ismailis in 500/1107 to capture the fort of Shahdiz, lying on a mountain about 8 km. to the south of Ispahan, the capital of the Seljuq empire. In 494/1101, dai Ahmad bin Abdul Malik bin Attash had occupied the fort of Shahdiz and converted 30,000 persons in Ispahan, and made Shahdiz as the Ismaili mission centre for Fars as Alamut was the centre in Khorasan. When the fort of Shahdiz was stormed, the Ismailis were massacred mercilessly. He held out with about 80 men in what remained standing of the largely demolished fortress Shahdiz, who fought bravely and were killed. His wife, decked in jewels leaped over the wall to death, but did not submit. Dai Ahmad bin Abdul Malik was taken prisoner and paraded through the streets of Ispahan. He was mocked, pelted with stones and flayed alive. His son was also scourged to death. Another Ismaili fort, named Khanlanjan, about 30 k.m. south of Ispahan was also razed by the Seljuqs.

In 501/1108, Sultan Muhammad sent a military expedition to Alamut under the direction of his vizir, Ahmad bin Nizam al-Mulk. The fortress of Alamut was stormed, but the attack fissiled out and could not attain its end. But sultan Muhammad continued to be inimical to Ismailis. According to Bernard Lewis in "The Assassins" (London, 1967, p. 56), "The capture of Alamut by direct assault was clearly impossible. The sultan therefore tried another method - a war of attrition which, it was hoped, would weaken the Ismailis to the point where they could no longer resist attack." In 503/1109, the reduction of Alamut, therefore, was charged to Anushtagin Shirgir, the then governor of Sawa. He destroyed the crops in Rudhbar and besieged the fort of Lamasar and other castles for eight consecutive years. He also laid a siege over Alamut, inflicted a severe hardship on the Ismailis, forcing Hasan bin Sabbah and many others to send their wives and daughters to Girdkuh, where they were to earn their keep by spinning. He never saw them again, nor did he thereafter permit women to enter the castle. Hasan bin Sabbah had to ration the food among his men to a bread and three fresh walnuts for each person. Anushtagin Shirgir got regular reinforcement from the Seljuqid amirs of various districts. In 511/1118, when Anushtagin reared mangonels and was on the verge of reducing Alamut, whose garrison was almost exhausted by bombardment, and the provision was about to dwindle in three days, the news at once arrived of the death of sultan Muhammad. Hence, the Seljuq armies were obliged to lift the siege and left Rudhbar, paying no attention to Anushtagin's pleas to fight longer. He was also obliged to abandon his siege of Alamut, and lost many men while retreating. The Ismailis came into possession of all the supplies left behind by the Seljuq armies. Bundari compiled "Zubdatu'n Nasrah wa Nakhbatu'l Usrah" (ed. M.T. Houtsma, Leiden, 1889) in 623/1226 and writes that the Seljuqid vizir Qiwamuddin Nasir al-Dargazini, a secret Ismaili, may have played a seminal role in preventing the Seljuqid victory and in procuring the withdrawal of Anushtagin Shirgir's army from Rudhbar.

Sultan Muhammad's death was followed by another period of internal disputes in the Seljuqid empire, which provided the Ismailis a respite to recover from the severe blows and hardships inflicted upon them during last eight years. Sultan Muhammad was succeeded by his son Mahmud in Ispahan, who ruled for 14 years (511-525/1118-1131) over western Iran. He had to face with other claimants for the throne. In time, three other sons of sultan Muhammad, viz. Tughril II (526-529/1132-1134), Masud (529-547/1134-1152) and Suleman Shah (555-556/1160-1161), as well as several of his grandsons, succeeded to the sultanate in the west. Mahmud's uncle Sanjar, who controlled the eastern provinces since 490/1097, now became generally accepted as the head of the Seljuq family. In this capacity, Sanjar exercised a decisive role in settling the succession disputes. At the outset, Mahmud had to face an invasion by Sanjar, who defeated Mahmud at Sawa. But in the ensuing truce, Sanjar made Mahmud his heir, while taking from him important territories in northern Iran, Sanjar continued to dominate these territories. Meanwhile, Mahmud's brother Tughril rebelled and occupied Gilan and Qazwin.

As the power of Alamut increased, the hostility of the Seljuqs augmented in virulence, therefore, Sanjar also continued to follow footprints of his predecessors. He dispatched troops against them in Kohistan and himself moved against Alamut with a strong force. Hasan bin Sabbah tried sundry times to dissuade the sultan from his designs with much persuasion, appealing for peace, but all in vain. The menace and insolence of the Seljuqs forced Hasan bin Sabbah to order one of his fidais to fix a dagger on the side of the sultan's bed with a note around its hilt, which reads: "Let it not deceive you that I lie far from you on the rock of Alamut, because those whom you have chosen for your service are at my command and obey my direction. One who could fix this poniard in your bed could also have planted it in your heart. But I saw in you a good man and have spared you. So let this be a warning to you." The sultan took fright having filled with great awe. He ordered the raising of the siege, and desisted from his inimical designs and concluded a pact of peace with Hasan bin Sabbah in 516/1123, recognizing an independent state of the Nizari Ismailis, and concluding to Hasan the right of collecting revenues of Qumis and its dependencies. It also granted to the Ismailis the right to levy toll on the caravans of traders passing beneath Girdkuh. Other terms of the treaty were that the Ismailis should not build new castles; should not any more buy armaments and should not enlist any new convert to their faith after the date of signing the treaty.

The reemergence of the Nazari Faith and it's dabblings in corporations intrigues me. Perhaps the movement survived and just went underground.

Reminds me a bit of some the Templar cults, such as the Resocrutions claim to descend for them Templars. And the Masons too... gives credence to my theory that secret societies have more power then people realize.
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic