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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Author Topic: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages  (Read 4522 times)
Trena Alloway
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Posts: 2386

« Reply #15 on: January 04, 2009, 11:00:35 pm »

p. 93


Keäh Mohammed--Murder of the Khalif--Castles gained in Syria--Ismaïlite Confession of Faith--Mohammed's Son Hassan gives himself out for the promised Imam--His Followers punished--Succession of Hassan--He abolishes the Law--Pretends to be descended from the Prophet--Is murdered.

THE policy of the society underwent no alteration on the accession of Mohammed. The dagger still smote its enemies, and as each victim fell, the people who maintained the rights of Ismaïl, and who were kept in rigid obedience to the positive precepts of the Koran, beheld nothing but the right hand of Heaven made bare for the punishment of crime and usurpation. The new mountain prince had hardly taken the reins of government into his hands when Rasheed, the successor of the late khalif, eager to avenge the murder of his father, assembled an army and marched against Alamoot. He had reached Isfahan, but there his march terminated. Four Assassins, who had entered his service for the purpose, fell upon him in his tent and stabbed him. When the news was conveyed to Alamoot great rejoicings were made, and for seven days and seven nights the trumpets and kettle-drums resounded from the towers of the fortress, proclaiming the triumph of the dagger to the surrounding country.

The Syrian dominion of the Ismaïlites was at this time considerably extended. They purchased from Ibn Amroo, their owner, the castles of Cadmos and Kahaf, and took by force that of Massyat from the

p. 94

lords of Sheiser. This castle, which was situated on the west side of Mount Legam, opposite Antaradus, became henceforth the chief seat of Ismaïlite power in Syria. The society had now a line of coast to the north of Tripolis, and their possessions extended inland to the verge of the Hauran.

The reign of Mohammed presents few events to illustrate the history of the Assassins. It was probably in his time that the following confession of the Ismaïlite faith was made to the persons whom Sultan Sanjar sent to Alamoot to inquire into it *:

"This is our doctrine," said the heads of the society. "We believe in the unity of God, and acknowledge as the true wisdom and right creed only that which accords with the word of God and the commands of the Prophet. We hold these as they are delivered in the holy writ, the Koran, and believe in all that the Prophet has taught of the creation, and the last things, of rewards and punishments, of the last judgment, and the resurrection. To believe this is necessary, and no one is authorized to judge of the commands of God for himself, or to alter a single letter in them. These are the fundamental doctrines of our sect, and if the sultan does not approve of them, let him send hither one of his learned divines, that we may argue the matter with him."

To this creed no orthodox Mussulman could well make any objection. The only question was, what was the Ismaïlite system of interpretation, and what other doctrines did they deduce from the sacred text; and the active employment of the dagger of the Fedavee suggested in tolerably plain terms that there were others, and that something not very compatible with the peace and order of society lay behind the veil. Indeed the circumstance of the Ismaïlite chiefs

p. 95

professing themselves to be only the ministers and representatives of the invisible imam was in itself highly suspicious; for what was to prevent their enjoining any atrocity which might be for their interest, in the name of their viewless master? They are ignorant indeed of human nature who suppose that a prompt obedience would not be yielded to all such commands by the ignorant and bigoted members of the sect.

The ill leaven of the secret doctrine displayed itself before very long. Keäh Mohammed, who appears to have been a weak, inefficient man, was held in little esteem by his followers. They began to attach themselves to his son Hassan, who had the reputation of being a man of prodigious knowledge, learned in tradition and the text of the Koran, versed in exposition, and well acquainted with the sciences. Hassan, either through vanity or policy, began secretly to disseminate the notion of his being himself the imam whose appearance had been promised by Hassan Ben Sabah. Filled with this idea, the more instructed members of the society vied with each other in eagerness to fulfil his commands, and Keäh Mohammed, seeing his power gradually slipping from him, was at length roused to energy. Assembling the people, he reprobated in strong terms the prevailing heresy. "Hassan," said he, "is my son, and I am not the imam, but only one of his missionaries. Whoever maintains the contrary is an infidel." Then, in true Assassin fashion, he gave effect to his words by executing 250 of his son's adherents, and banishing an equal number from the fortress. Hassan himself, in order to save his life, was obliged publicly to curse those who held the new opinions, and to write dissertations condemning their tenets, and defending those of his father. By these means he succeeded in removing suspicion

p. 96

from the mind of the old chief; but, as he continued to drink wine in private, and violated several of the other positive precepts of the law, his adherents became only the more convinced of his being the imam, at whose coming all the precepts of the law were to cease to be of any force.

Hassan was obliged to be cautious and conceal his opinions during the lifetime of his father; for, whatever their opinion might be of the capacity and intellectual power of the head of their sect, the Assassins believed themselves to be bound to obey his orders, as proceeding from the visible representative of the sacred invisible imam; and, high as their veneration for Hassan was, his blood would have flowed on the ground the instant an order to that effect had passed the lips of his father. But no sooner was Keäh Mohammed dead, after a reign of twenty-four years, and the supreme station was come to Hassan himself, than he resolved to fling away the mask at once, and not• only to trample on the law himself, but to authorize and encourage all his people to do the same.

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