There isn’t much bustle these days in this fertile valley nestled among the Elburz mountain range of northern Iran, overlooking the capital city of Tehran. – History of Hashashins Secret Society.
Nestled as it is by the province of Qazvin known for its history as a center of trade, calligraphy, and culture to the south, and the Mazandaran province known for its forests, bridges and as the birthplace of the last shah of Iran to the north, it’s as if the region is frozen in time. Sure, there are slightly more modern roads that steer through here, curving through the imposing crags, gullies, and hills; but even these seem foreboding in comparison to the densely huddled villages you leave as you make your ascent through the vastly impenetrable boulders and hills.
Even the rivers, ravines and lakes seem to hum more like a funeral chant than a natural, gurgling stream. The preternatural silence that crowns these stones, punctuated by the occasional lone cry of an eagle, is less a welcome solace than an omen warning to the unwary visitor that there are secrets drenched in blood and viscera buried deep within the ruins and rubble.
Frozen in time, the first impression you get upon taking in the surrounding mountains and boulders is that not very much has changed since the early 12th century. And for all ostensible purposes, it hasn’t. After all, bones have their secrets to keep as well.
Origins of the Hashashin
Perhaps the blueprint for all secret societies, an understanding of the role the Hashashin played is impossible without understanding the context in which they developed.
By the 12th century, Islam had splintered into several distinct branches, two of whom are still locked in a bitter conflict to this day: The Shia and the Sunni.
The Sunni, who represents the largest denomination of Muslims in the world, maintains that Abu Bakr, the father-in-law of the prophet Muhammad, is the first and rightful caliph of the direct political and religious successor to the prophet of the Muslim community. In distinction, Shi’ite philosophy declares that the prophet’s son-in-law and cousin Ali holds rightful claim to the title of caliph.
Within this divide, numerous sub-divisions occur, each claiming distinct lineages and successions as varied and conflicting as their tenets. Within the Shi’ite branch, the three largest subdivisions are recognized as the Imamiyyah, the Ismaili, and the Zaidi.
The Old Man of the Mountains
There is no accurate date or records for the birth of Hassan-i-Sabbah, and what little we know about his upbringing and early life stems from an allegedly autobiographical account quoted in the anonymously penned Ismaili chronicle Sarguzasht-e Sayyidnā.
The account states that Hassan was born in Persia in the 1050s to an Imamiyi family, and was raised with the tenets of that faith in the city of Rey, where the future Grandmaster also studied alchemy, philosophy, astronomy and it is rumored, certain occult doctrines practiced by renegade Muslim imams.
It was at Alamut in 1090 that Hassan formulated his grand strategy; to formulate a clandestine army and religious order of fedayeen (in Arabic, literally ‘the Men who accept Death’) devoted to the expansion of the Nizari Ismaili creed, structured in a hierarchal and initiatory structure.
Hassan served as the secretive and omniscient Grandmaster of the order for 35 years until his death in 1124, during which time it is said he only left his quarters twice to observe from his impenetrably constructed fortress (known as ‘the Eagle’s Nest’) the heavens from its rooftop.
The fall of the Hashishin empire came about with a Mongol attack at Alamut in 1256. Their fortress and paradise, seized. Their spirits and numbers, diminished substantially.
The few remaining members spread out into Syria, where they acted as mercenaries for hire by local sultans and emirs. There is some speculation that they continued their teachings and practices well into the fourteenth and perhaps even early fifteenth centuries.
And there is even some speculation that the influence of their internal teachings lives on to this very day, embodied in certain sects of the Iranian Mandaean faith and Kurdish Yezidi religion. But the prestige that the Hashishin enjoyed for almost two
Legacy of the Hashishin
As stated earlier, the Hashishin fell in the thirteenth century, yet their ethos of carnage and terror continues to this day. It was felt in the Duvalier regime of the 1960s and 1970s with the secret police of his elite Tonton Macoute corps.
It was in the killing fields of Cambodia of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge party and the unspoken corpses that lay buried in Chile as a result of the Pinochet administration.
And it is embodied in the more recent brutalities committed worldwide by such outfits as Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and Boko Haram. It is not exclusive to Islam by and large, peaceful religion, and claims allegiance to neither sect nor country. It is in the hearts of those who willingly perpetrate evil under the guise of an ulterior agenda and therein lays its strength. It is perhaps, the ultimate secret of any secret society. Power. At any given cost.