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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Author Topic: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages  (Read 1700 times)
Trena Alloway
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Posts: 2386

« Reply #45 on: January 04, 2009, 11:33:13 pm »

Speculative tenets will continue and be propagated long after the sect or society which holds them may have lost all temporal influence and consideration. Accordingly, seventy years after the destruction of

p. 166

[paragraph continues] Alamoot, in the reign of Aboo-Zeid, the eighth successor of Hoolagoo, it was found that nearly all the people of Kuhistan were devoted to the Ismaïlite opinions. The monarch, who was an orthodox Soonnee, advised with the governor of the province, and it was resolved to send a mission, composed of learned and zealous divines, for the conversion of the heretics. At the head of the mission was placed the pious and orthodox sheikh Emad-ed-deen of Bokhara; the other members of it were the sheikh's two sons and four other learned ulemas (Doctors of law), in all seven persons. Full of enthusiasm and zeal for the good cause which they had in hand, the missionaries set forth. They arrived at Kaïn, the chief place of the province, and found with grief and indignation none of the ordinary testimonies of Moslem devotion. The mosks were in ruins, no morning or evening call to prayer was to be heard, no school or hospital was to be seen. Emad-ed-deen resolved to commence his mission by the solemn call to prayer. Adopting the precaution of arraying themselves in armour, he and his companions ascended the terrace of the castle, and all at once from its different sides shouted forth, "Say God is great! There is no god but God, and Mohammed is his prophet. Up to prayer; to good works!" The inhabitants, to whom these sounds were unusual and offensive, ran together, determined to bestow the crown of martyrdom on the missionaries; but these good men, whose zeal was of a prudent complexion, did not, though armed, abide the encounter. They took refuge in an aqueduct, where they concealed themselves till the people had dispersed, when they came forth once more, ascended the terrace, and gave the call to prayer. The people collected again, and again the missionaries sought their retreat. By perseverance, however, and the powerful support of the governor of the province, they

p. 167

gradually accustomed the ears of the people to the forms of orthodoxy. Many years afterwards sultan Shahrokh, the son of Timoor, resolved to send a commission to ascertain the state of religion in Kohistan. At the head of it he placed Jelalee of Kaïn, the grandson of Emad-ed-deen, a man of learning and talent and a distinguished writer. Jelalee deemed himself especially selected by heaven for this purpose, as his grandsire had headed the former mission, and the Prophet had appeared to himself in a dream, and given to him a broom to sweep the land, which he interpreted to be a commission to sweep away the impurity of infidelity out of the country. He therefore entered on his office with joy, and, after a peregrination of eleven months, reported favourably of the faith of the people of Kohistan, with the exception of some dervishes and others, who were addicted to Soofeeism.

At the present day, nearly six centuries after the destruction of the Ismaïlite power, the sect is still in existence both in Persia and in Syria. But, like that of the Anabaptists, it has lost its terrors, and the Ismaïlite doctrine is now merely one of the speculative heresies of Islam. The Syrian Ismaïlites dwell in eighteen villages around Massyat, and pay an annual sum of 16,500 piastres to the governor of Hama, who nominates their sheikh or emir. They are divided into two sects or parties, the Sooweidanee, so named from one of their former sheikhs, and the Khisrewee, so called on account of their great reverence for Khiser, the guardian of the Well of Life. They are all externally rigid observers of the precepts of Islam, but they are said to believe in the divinity of Ali, in the untreated light as the origin of all things, and in the sheikh Rasheed-ed-deen Sinan as the last representative of God upon earth.

The Persian Ismaïlites dwell chiefly in Roodbar,

p. 168

but they are to be met all over the east, and even appear as traders on the banks of the Ganges. Their imam, whose pedigree they trace up to Ismaïl, the son of Jaaffer-es-Sadik, resides, under the protection of the Shah of Persia, at the village of Khekh, in the district of Koom. As, according to their doctrine, he is an incarnate ray of the Divinity, they hold him in the utmost veneration, and make pilgrimages from the most distant places to obtain his blessing.

We have thus traced the origin, the growth, and the decline of this formidable society, only to be paralleled by that of the Jesuits in extent of power and unity of plan and purpose. Unlike this last, however, its object was purely evil, and its career was one of blood: it has therefore left no deeds to which its apologists might appeal in its defence. Its history, notwithstanding, will always form a curious and instructive chapter in that of the human race.



"And Day, with his banner of radiance unfurled,
  Shines in through the mountainous portal that opes
Sublime from that valley of bliss to the world,"

says Mr. Moore in his "Lalla Rookh," undoubtedly without any knowledge of the eastern song. His original was perhaps Campbell's

              "Andes, giant of the western star,
His meteor standard to the winds unfurled,
Looks from his throne of clouds o'er half the world;"

which was again, in all probability, suggested, like Gray's p. 164

"Loose his beard, and hoary hair
Stream’d like a meteor to the troubled air,"

by Milton's

"Imperial ensign, which, full high advanced,
Shone like a meteor streaming to the wind."

It is thus that the particles of poetry, like those of matter, are in eternal circulation, and forming new combinations.

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