The Shia Ismaili Muslim
sect, which once in history was labeled, "The Assassins
," is among the most misunderstood and misrepresented religous groups today. Ismailis are misrepresented both in western history as well as in many Muslim historical accounts. The most common, and most incorrect
, description of the Ismailis that they were fierce killers who were trained in tactics because of hashish
, as seen in such writeups as that of Mirabellia Crumbsuckler
, who states:
"Origionally they were the hashishans. Hassan I Sabbah, the old man of the mountain, had trained them through the use of hashish, to be highly trained killers."
The Ismaili's had their own political state and had quite a lot of political prominance within the Seljuq empire, mainly in Persia. The state was centered around the fortress Alamut, meaning Eagle's Nest. The state lasted 166 years until the fall at the hands of the Mongols. Hasan I Sabbah was the most prominent political leader of the Ismailis, who consolidated power in Persia and Syria. Hasan I Sabbah was not a religious leader, as this was the role of the Imam. The main myths about the Ismaili 'Assassin Legends' were due to encounters between the Crusaders and the Nizari Ismailis throughout the 12th century. At the peak of their power, the Ismailis under Rashid al-Din Sinan, at which point the 'Old Man of the Mountain' myths came about. These myths were gathered by Crusaders and European travellers who were not in contact with the Ismailis, but rather rival Muslim sects who were eager to harm the Ismaili reputation. The Crusaders and European chroniclers were not too interested in obtaining accurate information, and led to the fabrication of many legends about secret practices. For further reading about Ismailism, refer to A Short History of the Ismailis, by Farhad Daftary, Edinburgh University Press, ISBN 0 7486 0687 4.
The Ismailis today are a very prominent sect of Islam, currently under the leadership of H.H. Prince Karim Aga Khan. The Aga Khan is an important social and political individual in Western Europe in addition to his responsibilities associated with the leadership of a worldwide community. There are highly recognized Ismaili communities all over the world, including many in in the United States, Europe, South Asia, and everywhere else. The Ismailis do not have, nor do they want, a state of their own. Rather, Ismailis are taught and encouraged to respect and obey the laws of their lands. Many scholarly institutions devoted to Ismaili research exist, mainly the Institute of Ismaili Studies, located in London, UK. For more information on the Ismailis and their history and culture, visit http://www.ismaili.net.