Assasins and hash, another false myth
Probably you have heard this story before. But it is not true. It is true that assassins existed. They were the elite of a private army created by the Persian leader Ismail in 1100 AD. Presumably, “assassin” comes from hashashin, a term used to describe the Nizari Ismailis. The Nizari were a tribe of Shia Muslims. Their tactics against the Sunni Muslims – and later the European Crusaders – were a simple cutthroat. It is not weird that even the Catholic Pope’s Army was scared of that tactic.
Shia and Sunni Muslims are the two most important sects in Islam. Shia Muslims think that when the Prophet Muhammad died, his cousin and son in law Ali (married to Fatima, the daughter of the prophet) , became the religion’s successor.
However, Sunni Muslims believe that God never selected a successor, and Muhammad’s father-in-law Abu Bakr was the first rightful caliph. In fact, like it happens nowadays, it was all a question of greed and politics. Sunni Muslims wanted the power and that is all. But the truth is that since then the groups have been killing each other and the conflict seems to have no end.
Crusaders returned to Europe with stories and lies about the Arabs which were just flat-out wrong when it came to the facts. One of these myths was the one that talked about the Nizari who were considered the Islam’s first suicide attackers.
Nizari army was small and its warriors used guerrilla war tactics with great effectiveness. they used rabidly loyal assassins who would stage their attacks in public places. Once the foe was killed, these hashashins allowed themselves to be captured, because they thought a better life was expecting them in paradise after death. The legend says that the leader of the Ismailis, a warlord named Hassan al-Sabbah, conducted a ritual with hashish to initiate new assassins. The potential assassin was given a drink that contained cannabis. The young warrior fell asleep. After this, Hassan’s servants transported the man to a secret and beautiful garden were the assassin awoke after the effect was done. The poor fellow would wake up to a harem of naked women and boys who were eager to fulfill all his desires. This was Heaven for them! During all this time he believed he was in Paradise. After this, he would be given the drink yet again, and would awaken a second time. On this second awakening, he was told the only way to return to Paradise would be to follow Hassan’s orders until death if necessary.
Then, where does the confusion come from? The Nazari were Persian (Iranian) Shia Muslims. The word hashashin is a wrong translation. That’s because the Ismailis weren’t Arabs; they were Persians. The word in Persian is actually hassassin, which means “follower of Hassan.”
It is amazing to think how many people believe this story is true. But it is not. It is just another false myth.