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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Author Topic: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages  (Read 1744 times)
Trena Alloway
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« Reply #15 on: January 04, 2009, 10:53:33 pm »

p. 43

CHAPTER III.

Ali of Rei--His son Hassan Sabah--Hassan sent to study at Nishaboor--Meets there Omar Khiam and Nizam-al-Moolk--Agreement made by them--Hassan introduced by Nizam to Sultan Malek Shah--Obliged to leave the Court--Anecdote of him--His own account of his Conversion--Goes to Egypt--Returns to Persia--Makes himself Master of Ala-moot.

THERE was a man named Ali, who resided in the city of Rei, in Persia. He was a strenuous Sheäh, and maintained that his family had originally come from Koofa, in Arabia; but the people of Khorasan asserted that his family had always dwelt in one of the villages near Toos, in that province, and that consequently his pretensions to an Arabian extraction were false. Ali, it would appear, was anxious to conceal his opinions, and employed the strongest asseverations to convince the governor of the province, a rigid Soonite, of his orthodoxy, and finally retired into a monastery to pass the remainder of his days in meditation. As a further means of clearing himself from the charge of heresy he sent his only son Hassan Sabah * to Nishaboor to be instructed by the celebrated imam Mowafek, who resided at that place. What lessons he may have given the young Hassan previously to parting with him, and what communication he may have afterwards kept up with him, are points on which history is silent.

The fame of the imam Mowafek was great over all Persia, and it was currently believed that those


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who had the good fortune to study the Koran and the Soonna * under him were secure of their fortune in after-life. His school was consequently thronged by youths ambitious of knowledge and future distinction; and here Hassan met, and formed a strict intimacy with, Omar Khiam, afterwards so distinguished as a poet and an astronomer, and with Nizam-al-Moolk (Regulation of the Realm), who became vizir to the monarchs of the house of Seljook. This last, in a history which he wrote of himself and his times, relates the following instance of the early development of the ambition of Hassan. As these three, who were the most distinguished pupils of the imam, were one day together, "It is the general opinion," said Hassan, "that the pupils of the imam are certain of being fortunate. This opinion may be verified in one of us. So come, let us pledge ourselves to one another that he who shall be successful will make the other two sharers in his good fortune." His two companions readily assented, and the promise was mutually given and received.

Nizam-al-Moolk entered the path of politics, where his talents and his noble qualities had free course, and he rose through the various gradations of office, till at length he attained the highest post in the realm, the viziriate, under Alp Arslan (Strong Lion), the second monarch of the house of Seljook. When thus exalted he forgot not his former friends; and calling to mind the promise which he had made, he received with great kindness Omar Khiam, who waited on him to congratulate him on his elevation; and he offered at once to employ all his interest to procure him a post under the government. But Omar, who was devoted to Epicurean indulgences, and averse from toil and care, thanking his friend,


p. 43

declined his proffered services; and all that the vizir could prevail on him to accept was an annual pension of 1,200 ducats on the revenues of Nishaboor, whither he retired to spend his days in ease and tranquillity.

The case was different with Hassan. During the ten years' reign of Alp Arslan he kept aloof from the vizir, living in obscurity, and probably maturing his plans for the future. But when the young prince Malek Shah (King King) mounted the throne he saw that his time was come. He suddenly appeared at the court of the new monarch, and waited on the powerful vizir. The story is thus told by the vizir himself in his work entitled Wasaya (Political Institutes), whence it is given by Mirkhond.

"He came to me at Nishaboor in the year that Malek Shah, having got rid of Kaward, had quieted the troubles which his rebellion had caused. I received him with the greatest honours, and performed, on my part, all that could be expected from a man who is a faithful observer of his oaths, and a slave to the engagements which he has contracted. Each day I gave him a new proof of my friendship, and I endeavoured to satisfy his desires. He said to me once, 'Khojah (master), you are of the number of the learned and the virtuous; you know that the goods of this world are but an enjoyment of little duration. Do you then think that you will be permitted to fail in your engagements by letting yourself be seduced by the attractions of greatness and the love of the world? and will you be of the number of those who violate the contract made with God?' 'Heaven keep me from it!' replied I. 'Though you heap honours upon me,' continued he, 'and though you pour upon me benefits without number, you cannot be ignorant that that is not the way to perform what we once pledged ourselves to respecting each other.' 'You are right,' said I; 'and I

p. 45

am ready to satisfy you in what I promised. All that I possess of honour and power, received from my fathers or acquired by myself, belongs to you in common with me.' I then introduced him into the society of the sultan, I assigned him a rank and suitable titles, and I related to the prince all that had formerly passed between him and me. I spoke in terms of such praise of the extent of his knowledge, of his excellent qualities, and his good morals, that he obtained the rank of minister and of a confidential man. But he was, like his father, an impostor, a hypocrite, one who knew how to impose, and a wretch. He so well possessed the art of covering himself with an exterior of probity and virtue that in a little time he completely gained the mind of the sultan, and inspired him with such confidence that that prince blindly followed his advice in most of those affairs of a greater and more important nature which required good faith and sincerity, and he was always decided by his opinion. I have said all this to let it be seen that it was I who had raised him to this fortune, and yet, by an effect of his bad character, there came quarrels between the sultan and me, the unpleasant result of which had like to have been that the good reputation and favour which I had enjoyed for so many years were near going into dust and being annihilated; for at last his malignity broke out on a sudden, and the effects of his jealousy showed themselves in the most terrible manner in his actions and in his words."

In fact, Hassan played the part of a treacherous friend. Everything that occurred in the divan was carefully reported to the sultan, and the worst construction put upon it, and hints of the incapacity and dishonesty of the vizir were thrown out on the fitting occasions. The vizir himself has left us an account of what he considered the worst trick which his old

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schoolfellow attempted to play him. The sultan, it seems, wishing to see a clear and regular balance-sheet of the revenues and expenditure of his empire, directed Nizam-al-Moolk to prepare it. The vizir required a space of more than a year for the accomplishment of the task. Hassan deemed this a good opportunity for distinguishing himself, and boldly offered to do what the sultan demanded in forty days, not more than one-tenth of the time required by the vizir. All the clerks in the finance department were immediately placed at the disposal of Hassan; and the vizir himself confesses that at the end of the forty days the accounts were ready to be laid before the sultan. But, just when we might expect to see Hassan in triumph, and enjoying the highest favour of the monarch, we find him leaving the court in disgrace and vowing revenge on the sultan and his minister. This circumstance is left unexplained by the Ornament of the Realm, who however acknowledges, with great naïveté, that, if Hassan had not been obliged to fly, he should have left the court himself. But other historians inform us that the vizir, apprehensive of the consequences, had recourse to art, and contrived to have some of Hassan's papers stolen, so that, when the latter presented himself before the sultan, full of hope and pride, and commenced his statement, he found himself obliged to stop for want of some of his most important documents. As he could not account for this confusion, the sultan became enraged at the apparent attempt to deceive him, and Hassan was forthwith obliged to retire from court with precipitation.

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