The Secret Order of Assassins: The Struggle of the Early Nizari Ismai'lis Against the Islamic World

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Overview

The sect known as "the Assassins," a corruption of an Arabic word that means hashish smoker, is familiar to the West as a mystical cult of killers led by the "Man in the Mountain" encountered by the Crusaders. But it was not defeat at the hands of Christians that ended more than a century of Assassin rule; it was the massive and brutal invasion of Mongols from the East who conquered Assassin strong points and mountain fortifications one by one, crushing nearly all traces of this once fearsome sect. For nearly two centuries the Fâtimids, Shi'ite Muslims who believed Mohammed's daughter Fâtimah was his successor, attempted to control the Islamic world from their seat in Cairo.

Following the death of the Fâtimid caliphate al Mustansir in 1094, members of a faction in Persia that supported a deposed claimant to the caliphate, Nizâr, believed they now represented Fâtimid interests. These Nizârî Ismâî'lîs ended up separating themselves from mainstream Islam and creating their own state in parts of present-day Syria, Iraq, and Iran. In order to establish and maintain regional control, the Nizârî Ismâî'lîs used political murders and spies to subjugate or influence rival caliphates and the dominant Saljûqs.

Marshall Hodgson's first major book, The Secret Order of the Assassins remains the most complete history of the Assassins. Beginning the story with the separation of Sunnis and Shi'ites and the rise of Ismâî'lîsm, an offshoot of Shi'ism, Hodgson traces the long and complex history of power struggles within Islam that led ultimately to the separation of the Nizârî Ismâî'lîs and their direct challenge to Muslim leadership. Hodgson goes on to explain the principles of the movement, provides an examination of their sacred texts, and follows the history of the group from the pinnacle of power in the mid-eleventh century to its legacy in the form of small pockets of followers in parts of contemporary Syria and India. Long out of print and appearing for the first time in paperback, this book is an illuminating study in the history of Islam.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The essential work on the Assassins."—Times Literary Supplement
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812219166
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 428,386
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Marshall G. S. Hodgson (1921-68) taught history at the University of Chicago. A major scholar of Islamic civilization, he was the author of numerous books and articles, including The Venture of Islam.

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Table of Contents

I Introduction : the Ismaili heritage 1
Pt. 1 The onslaught against the Saljuqs
II Hasan-i Sabbah and the Ismaili crisis 37
III The Nizari revolt 62
IV War with the Saljuqs : decisive phase 79
V The Nizari state 99
VI Reaction of the Islamic world 121
Pt. 2 The gospel of the Qiyama
VII Stalemate and a new start : Hasan 'Ala Dhikri-hi s-Salam 143
VIII The preaching of the Qiyama 160
IX Qiyama times in Syria : Rashid ad-Din Sinan 185
X Rapprochement with Sunnism : the Satr 210
XI The last generation of freedom 239
XII The failure of the Nizari venture 263
App. I The popular appeal of the Qiyama : commentary and translation of the Haft Bab-i Baba Sayyid-na 279
App. II Hasan-i Sabbah's doctrine : translation from Shahrastani 325
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