Keywords: Assassin legends, Ismaili studies, Nizaris, Ismailis,Alamut, Hassan Sabbah, Crusades, Old Man of the Mountain, history, Persia, Hashishin.

Abstract: This article traces the origin and evolution of the Assassin legends with the aim of invalidating the scholarly and popular legitimacy they have acquired over the centuries. The creation and widespread promulgation of these stories detailing the Nizari Ismailis use of hashish, the earthly paradise created by the "Old Man of the Mountain" and the deadly missions Ismaili devotees were ready to undertake were the result of several factors.

Western Orientalists indulged their European audiences with fabricated tales of passion, mystery and murder. The perpetuation of misinformation regarding the community by their Sunni contemporaries reinforced the existing European fictions as the Crusaders took these damaging accounts home with them.

In addition, persecution of Ismailis necessitated intense secrecy regarding their own practices, beliefs and literature. In more recent times, European scholars have contributed to the currency of the legends.


Dr Farhad Daftary

Co-Director and Head of the Department of Academic Research and Publications

An authority in Shi'i studies, with special reference to its Ismaili tradition, Dr. Daftary has published and lectured widely in these fields of Islamic studies. In 2011 a Festschrift entitled Fortresses of the Intellect was produced to honour Dr. Daftary by a number of his colleagues and peers.


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