The Latter Days of the Assassins
From A History of Secret Societies by Arkon Daraul
(Citadel Press 1961/1989)
The ruler of one the most terrifying organizations the world has ever known was without
a lineal successor. He had had both of his sons killed: one for carrying out an unauthorized
murder, the other for drinking wine; certainly a case of "do as I say, not as I do".
He called his two most trusted lieutenants from the strongholds which they maintained
on his behalf: Kia Buzurg-
The Organization of the Order, under Hasan, called for Missionaries (Dayes), Friends (Rafiq) who were disciples, and Fidavis, devotees. The last group had been added by Hasan to the Ismaili original, and these were the trained killers. Fidavis wore white, with a girdle, cap or boots of red. In addition to careful coaching in where and when to place the dagger in the victim's bosom, they were trained in such things as languages, the dress and manners of monks, merchants and soldiers, any of whom they were ready to impersonate in carrying out their missions. The chief was known as Sayedna (Our Prince, Leader), and popularly (because of the mountain stronghold of Alamut), as the Sheikh of the Mountain. This is the figure referred to in Crusaders' writings as 'Sydney', or 'Senex de Monte', the first word being a literal translation of the word 'Pir': Persian for Ancient, or Sage. There were three Great Missionaries, who ruled three territories. After the Friends and Fidavis came the Laziks, aspirants who were being trained for membership of the society, but were as yet uninitiated.
Hasan reduced the original number of degrees of initiation from nine to the mystical number of seven. A similar number of regulations formed the rules of the Order. This, in fact, comprised the working plan of the spreading of the Faith. The First Rule was the the Missionary must know human psychology in such a way as to be able to select suitable people for admission to the cult; and was summed up in the mnemonic: Cast no seeds upon rocks. The second rule of procedure was the application of flattery and gaining the confidence of the prospective member. Third came the casting of doubt into the mind, by superior knowledge. Fourthly, the teacher must apply an oath to student never to betray any of the 'truths' which were to be revealed to him. Now he was told, as the fifth stage, that Ismailism was a powerful secret organization, supported by some of the most important figures of the time. After this, the aspirant was questioned and studied, to discover whether he had absorbed the opinions of the teacher and attached himself sufficiently into a position of dependence upon his ideas. At this stage he was asked to meditate upon the meaning of the reported saying of the prophet that "Paradise lies in the shadow of swords". In the final degree, many difficult passages of the Koran were explained in terms of allegory.
How is it that the rules of this extraordinarily successful Order are known in such detail? It so happened that when the Mongols eventually overthrew Alamut by force of arms, their chief Halaku ('Destruction') Khan, asked his chief minister to examine their library. This most learned man, 'Father of Kings' Jawani, later wrote a careful book in which he detailed the organization of the Assassins, whose name he attributed to the use of the drug Hashish, which they were said to use in stupefying candidates for the ephemeral visit to 'paradise'.
It is possible that recruits were made in another way than by selecting gullible, fully grown youths. Legend has it that Hasan, once master of Alamut, used to buy unwanted childern from their parens, and train them in implicit obedience and with the sole desire to die in his service.
The warriors of the Cross were in fairly effective control of an area extending from
the Egyptian border to Armenia in the north. Bahram, a Persian leader of the Assassin
cult from Astrabad, gained control of a mighty fortress in Syria, in the region known
as the Valley of Demons (Wadi-
The Crusaders had by now been about thirty years in the Holy Land, and the Assassins decided that they could usefully form an alliance with them aimed against Baghdad. A secret treaty was therefore made between the Grand Master and Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem, whereby the Ismaili Grand Judge would have opened the gates of Baghdad treacherously to the Crusaders, if the fortified city of Tyre were handed over to the Assassins for their part in the transaction.
Something went wrong. The judge had ordered an underling to open the city's gates. This servant had told the military commander of Damascus, who lost no time in killing the man, the Vizier and six thousand people believed to be secret Assassins within the city. The Damascus garrison fell upon the Crusaders and beat them back in a thunderstorm which the Christian warriors attributed to divine anger at their unworthy pact, and the Assassins as an attempt by the powers of Nature to allow the Crusaders into the city under its cover.
Meanwhile the Grand Master was indulging in an orgy of destruction of individual
rulers who opposed his creed; the list is interminable, but this is a fair example:
"The celebrated Aksunkur, Prince of Mosul, was a warrior equally dreaded by the Christians
and the Assassins. As this Prince, on his return from Ma'ara Masrin, where the Moslem
and Christian hosts had parted without venturing to engage, entered the Mosque at
Mosul to perform his devotions, he was attacked at the moment when he was about to
take his usual seat by eight Assassins, disguised as dervishes. Three of them fell
below the blows of the valiant Emir; but ere his people could come to his aid, he
had received his death-
The fanaticism which inspired the killers was shared, it seems, by other members
of their families, who had been thoroughly trained in the bloody creed: for the historian
Things thus continued for the fourteen years and a quarter of the Second Grand Master's
rule. When he died he nominated his son Kia Mohammed as his successor. Under Mohammed
the killings continued, a part of the sea-
But this most successful of secret societies soon showed that its strength ultimately depended upon a powerful leader: and Kia Mohammed was not such. Little by little it became obvious that his own son, Hasan the Hated, was the stronger personality. Now Hasan, through some magnetic power, was able to capture the imagination of the Assassins, soon having it believed that he himself was none other than the Power of All Powers, the Hidden Imam, who had been mentioned by the first Grand Master; an incarnation of all greatness. So important was he that he was the fountain of power, and others only held a measure of authority because he allowed them to have it.
This final absurdity was lapped up by members who had been conditioned to believe
in things which were not, shall we say, exactly self-
Never before had such an assembly of killers, fanatics and dedicated perverters of the truth been seen. Hasan, probably in a state of megalomania, assured them that he had received a message from the Almighty that as from now, all the bond of religion were loosed: everyone might do as he liked. It was not necessary to keep up the pretences. And, furthermore, he, Hasan, was none other than the Hidden Imam. His word was law; and he was a form of the divintiy, not merely relaying instructions from above.
There was one further obstacle. According to Ismaili doctrine, the Hidden Imam was
to be of the Family of Hashim, the blood of Mohammed the Prophet. Such descendants
were known and revered: and it was common knowledge that Hasan II was not one of
them. He overcame this difficulty by stating that he was not in fact the true son
of Kia Mohammed the Persian, but an adopted child of the Caliphial family of Egypt.
This pretence was carried on for four years, during which the crazed Hasan showed
that he was not as mad as he might have been, by consolidating quite efficiently
the power of the cult. Eventually, he was assassinated by his brother-
The Syrian branch of the cult grew in power, while the activities of the Eastern
Assassins were carried out much more quietly, with missionaries being sent to India,
Afghanistan, even the remote Pamir mountains which straddle China and Russia, where
even today adherents of the sect are to be found. Saladin had overcome the other
Ismaili branch and original home of Assassinism -
This period introduces Sinan as yet another strange and terrible Assassin leader.
He had decided that he was the incarnation of all power and deity, and that he would
live the part. Sinan was never seen to eat or drink, sleep, or even to spit. Between
sunrise and sunset he stood on a pinnacle of rock, dressed in a hair-
When Mohammed II died, he was succeeded by his son Jalaludin, who completely reversed
the orders that the Assassins were to have no outward religious observances. He felt
that he could do a great deal by adopting the cloak of orthodox piety, and sent ambassadors
far and wide to announce his maintenance of the true faith. He went so far as to
curse his predecessors publicly, in order to convince the incredulous that such a
people as the Assassins could turn over a new leaf. As a result of what would today
be called a long-
Jalaludin died in 1203, after twelve years of leadership of the cult, handing over
to Alaeddin (Aladdin), a child of nine years of age. Weak, inefficient, stupid, Alaeddin
made little mark upon history. It is said that his main activity was tending sheep,
to which he was passionately attached, and he even had a small hut built in a sheepfold,
where he spent most of his time. He was extraordinarily cruel, in spite of the contact
with the sheep, and continued to terrorize in time-
The Assassins' hands, ears and eyes were everywhere. Once fully initiated, a man might be sent to a place a thousand miles away, there to take up residence and live: waiting for the moment when orders came to him from Alamut to fulfil his fatal destiny. A story is told of the court of the Shah of Khwarism, thus: "The Ismaili ambassador spent some time with the Vizier. One day, after a splendid banquet when the wine which they had been drinking in violation of the law had mounted into their heads, the ambassador told the Vizier by way of confidence that there were several Ismailis among the pages, grooms, guards and other persons who were immediately about the Sultan. The Vizier, dismayed and at the same time curious to know who these dangerous attendants were, besought the ambassador to point them out to him, giving him his napkin as a pledge that nothing evil should happen to them. Instantly, at a sign from the envoy, five of the persons who were attendants in the chamber stepped forth, avowing themselves to be concealed Assassins, 'On such a day and at such an hour,' said one of them, an Indian, to the Vizier, 'I might have slain thee without being seen or punished; and if I did not do so it was only because I had no orders from my superiors.' "
The Vizier begged for his life. But word got the Sultan, who ordered the Assassins
to be apprehended and burned alive, and "the five chamberlains were cast on the falming
pyre, where they died exulting at being found worthy to suffer in the service of
the great Sheikh of the Mountain." The Assassins had the last laugh, for an order
arrived immediately afterwards from Alamut, that the Shah must pay ten thousand pieces
of gold as compensation for each man killed -
Another subsidiary activity which the Assassins delighted in was holding captive in Alamut of useful, rare and distinguished personages who could be of value to them in educational, military or other spheres. One was a physician, another a famous astronomer, a third the greatest painter in Persia, who worked to the order of the chief alone.
The end of chapter was near, for the Mongol hordes under Halaku, lieutenant of Chinghiz,
were steadily destroying all the civilization of Islam which lay in their inexorable
path westwards. Rukneddin, son of Alaeddin, succeeded him and tried at first to turn
the Mongol tide. After a series of encounters, pitched battles, intrigues and counter-
It was a long time until the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt was able to overcome the Mongol thrust. In 1260, however, he carried the banners of Islam victoriously against them, and restored the fortress of Alamut and other properties to the Assassins, who were strongly surviving underground. They soon found that they had exchanged one master for another, for the Egyptians were now employing them for their own purposes. Ibn Batuta, the great traveller of the fourteeth century, found them well entrenched in their former strong places, being used as the "arrows of the Sultan of Egypt with which he reaches his enemies."
The supposed suppression of the creed which followed the Mongol destruction did not in fact take place. Copying each other, historians have asserted that Assassinism died six hundred years ago. Now and again, however, fresh facts of their continued existence still come to light. In the eighteenth century an Englishman, the British Consul at Aleppo in Syria, was at pains to make this better known: "Some authors assert," he wirtes, "that these people were entirely extirpated in the thirteenth century by the Tartars... but I, who have lived so long in this infernal place, will venture to affirm that some of their spawn still exists in the mountains that surround us; for nothing is so cruel, barbarous and execrable that is not acted, and even gloried in, by these cursed Gourdins."
The Assassins were widely dispersed throughout Asia. The rise of the Thugs, the secret
society of assassination of India, followed the Mongol invasion of Persia. indeed,
at least one of the Thug recognition-
The modern phase of Ismailism dates from 1810, when the French consul at Aleppo found
that the Assassins in Persia recognized as their divinely-
The sect next appear to the public gaze through an odd happening. In 1866, a law case was decided in Bombay. There is in that city a large community of commercial men known as Khojas: "A Persian," the record tells us, "Aga Khan Mehalati (i.e., a native of Mehelat, a place situated near Khek) had sent an agent to Bombay to claim from the Khojas the annual tribute due from them to him, and amounting to about £ 10,000. The claim was resisted, and the British court was appealed to by Aga Khan. Sir Joseph Arnold investigated his claim. The Aga proves his pedigree, showing that he descended in a direct line from the fourth Grand Master of Alamut, and Sir Joseph declared it proved; and it was further demonstrated by the trial that the Khojas were members of the ancient sect of the Assassins, to which sect they had been converted four hundred years before by an Ishmaelite missionary, who composed a work which has remained the sacred book of the Khojas."
In the First Afghan War, the then Aga Khan contributed a force of light cavalry to the British forces. For this he was awarded a pension. Hitti, in his History of the Arabs, notes (p. 448, 1951 edition) that the Assassin sect, known as Khojas and Malwas, gave over a tenth of their revenues to the Aga Khan, who "spends most of his time as a sportsman between Paris and London."
The influence of the new form of organization and training, as well as initiatory
techniques, of the Assassins upon later societies has been remarked by a number of
students. That the Crusaders knew a good deal about the Ismailis is shown from the
detailed descriptions of them which survive. S. Ameer Ali, an Orientalist of considerable
repute, goes further in his assessment: "From the Ismailis the Crusaders borrowed
the conception which led to the formation of all the secret societies, religious
and secular, of Europe. The institutions of Templars and Hospitallers; the Society
of Jesus, founded by Ignatius Loyola, composed by a body of men whose devotion to
their cause can hardly be surpassed in our time; the ferocious Dominicans, the milder
Pasted from <http://www.phinnweb.org/neuro/assassins2.html>