The Assassins

The Assassins of Alamut were a group of Persian Isma-'ilis founded by Hasan ibn-al-Sabbah (also known as the Old Man of the Mountain). His followers were given hashish as a reward to induce absolute obedience and disregard of their own safety; hence the name Assassin, 'one who takes hashish'. Later, in the twelfth century, the Assassins spread to Syria where the Crusaders first came into contact with them. The tales which the Crusaders spread to Europe of the exploits of the Assassins were coloured with not a little envy; envy of the Assassins' ruthless murder of their opponents, their sense of brotherhood imitated by later chivalric orders such as the Templars, their belief in Muhammad and his daughter Fatima (faintly reflected in the later obedience supposed to have been given by the Templars to Baphomet). Lastly, their 'paradise' to which were escorted the flower of their guerrilla force, to spend a few days in the arms of both houris and hashish before leaving Alamut on their missions.

It seems likely that one of the recensions of az-Zanati's work, or possibly that of ibn Mahfuf may have made its way into the library of the Assassins, who had a mystical and cultural impact on their period wider than the merely political ramifications of their religious zeal. From Alamut they carried out raids on adjoining areas not only assassinating political opponents, but sometimes kidnapping scholars and others whom they thought might be of use to them.

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