Fake Faith, The Legend of the Assassins

Karl Marx had once said that "religion is the opium of the people",  and since I never was one of his "followers/believers" I have never taken the time to see the context of this saying. But When I read a story that proved to me a point very close to it, I decided to look it up.

His argument was that man makes religions and not vice versa. He says:

"Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."

For someone who believes that this world is unfair, the dream of a paradise after death is what keeps them going. But not just this....

I have been reading about the Assassins' Paradise, reading a different version of the story. One that made more sense. This story reminded me of Marx's saying and let me think about it again. I'll share with you the two versions of the story and then tell you why I did.


The first, the well-known one, has been almost turned into a legend which had been changed through history. If you have read the biography of Omar El Khayyam you probably heard a good part of that version. It goes like this:

In a city called Nishapur, somewhere in Persia, there had once lived three young friends; Omar El Khayyam, Nizam El Mulk, and Hassan Sabbah. They made a promise that one of them may ever reach power or wealth, he'd keep the other two by his side. At that time most of their country was ruled by the Seljuk Empire with Isfahan as the capital. Nizam El Mulk became the grand vizir (the prime minister) of the Sultan and kept his promise.

Omar was only interested in math and astrology and asked for an observatory to watch his stars, his wish was granted. Hassan, like Nizam, wanted power and was also granted his wish by being the sahib khabar, or what we would call head of the intelligence Apparatus of Nizam El Mulk. Days passed and Hassan started to conspire against Nizam to take his place. But Nizam won the king to his side and Hassan was about to be executed. Omar couldn't see his friend executed and so asked the king to keep him alive but out of the empire, and so Hassan was exiled.

Hassan had taken some time to collect followers of very poor and uneducated people and took over a small village, Alamut, which was turned into the Assassins' fortress. There they made their own version of paradise and were taught that the happiest moments were to kill and be killed and go to the real paradise. It's been said that when they killed they were under the effect of hay (hasheesh) and hence came their name El Hashasheen. The name came from Marco Polo, who had also said that the origin of the word assassins was Hashasheen after the usual twist of words that are turned to English. It was also mentioned in the story that the Assassins were an order of the Ismalisis, but the significance of this was never even reflected on.

To be continued...

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