Fake Faith, The Other Version of The Paradise of the Assassins: The Beginning

The original story, or at least one that seems closer to reality than the legend, was told by Amin Maalouf in his timeless book, Samarkand. It is based on what had remained of the diaries and chronicles of the Assassins at that time.

Before I go on with Maalouf's version of the story, let me just tell you a little about the background of the Middle East at that time. At the turn of the millennium, some time around the 1080s, most of Persia was ruled by the Seljuks who were Sunni Turks. Most of Persia was also Sunni back then except for three cities one of which was Qom, Hassan Sabbah's hometown. So yes, Hassan was a Shiite. At that time Shiites and Sunnis were enemies; a man with a Sunni name like Omar would think twice before going to one of the Shiite cities where Omar was almost a swearword (in relation to Omar Ibn El Khattab, who is believed by Shiites to have taken the place of the great Imam Ali Ibn Aby Taleb, Prophet Mohamed's cousin, as the second Khalifah of Muslims ).

These were the Shiites, but there were also the Ismailis, a branch of the Shi'ia. At that time, Egypt was under the Fatimid rule, which was also an Ismaili rule. Al Azhar was the most popular place to learn Ismailism and is one of the reasons it spread. The main difference between normal Shiites and Ismailis, who are both waiting for Al Mahdy Al Montazar to come put back order to the world, is revolution. Shiites' idea is to sit and wait for Al Mahdy to put back order, while Ismailis ready the world for his arrival. Ismailis wanted to conquer the world, spread Ismailism through missionaries and even sometimes by killing the enemies to make their own empire that would be ready for Al Mahdy when he arrives.

Nizam was around 30 years older than Omar and Hassan and so could have never been their childhood friend. Also Since Hassan was a Shiite, and Nizam and Omar were Sunnis, they could have never been brought up in the same city. It was a well-known fact that Omar was a native of Nishapur, and it was also and known, and made a lot of sense, that Hassan was a native of Qom. For these reasons, this story makes more sense than the legend that starts by them being childhood friends.

Hassan, native of Qom, came from a normal Shiite (Twelver) family and converted to Ismaili on the hands of a missionary and learned in Al Azhar. The Ismailis of that time felt it unfair to be ruled by Sunni Turks, and wanted to change this. Moreover, they saw Nizam El Mulk as a traitor for being Persian and working under the Turks. Hassan left his city on the way to Isfahan with a plan to work under Nizam until he'd be able to get rid of him, take his place as the grand vizir and break the empire into pieces. At that time the Seljuks  were very powerful and prosperous and it was all because of Nizam who was the actual ruler.

Hassan met Omar El Khayyam on his way to Isfahan. Omar was also on his way to meet Nizam who had sent for him, and they both became friends.  Although Hassan was a Shiite (Omar didn't know he was an Ismaili) and Omar a Sunni, they were good friends. Omar saw in Hassan a young man who loved learning and had already learned a great deal, and this he respected.

When they reached Isfahan, Nizam offered Omar an observatory and a monthly pension and also to become his sahib khabar. But Omar, not wanting to work in politics, introduced Hassan who took the job. The part about the conspiracy is the same as the other version of the story with the aim of breaking down the Seljuk Empire. After Hassan was exiled he spent his following years on da'awa to convert people all over the empire and in the neighboring Abbasid Empire. His followers and believers who have converted to Ismailiah increased by the day. They spread through cities, converted many, terrorized those who would not convert. Some had to flee their cities, others had to die, others who were lucky were left alone.

Nizam's army had decided to act and of course the killing increased. Many of Hassan's believers were killed, and soon afterwards Hassan knew that he could never fight Nizam's army, army to army. And so the Assassins' Paradise was created.

To be continued...


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