Ismael (2)

Ismael the elder son of Jaafer Saduk, the sixth imaum, in a direct line, from Ali Ben-Ali Taleb (who married Mohammed's daughter Fatima, and founded the Ali sect, also known as Fatimites, and more generally as the Shiites. q.v.), was to have been the seventh imaum of the Shiites, but, as he died during his father's lifetime. Jaafer appointed as his successor his younger son Kauzim. This many of the Shiites opposed, holding that, as the imaum is an incarnate emanation of the Deity, only a descendant of the direct line could assume the responsibilities of this high office, and claimed the distinction for the sons of Ismael, who alone, of the descendants of Jaafer, were entitled to be imaum. This contention caused a schism among the Shiites about the 2nd century of the Hegira (8th century of our sera), and gave rise to a new sect, under the name of ISMAETES, or ISMAETANS. The Abbassidae (friends and followers of Abbas, the uncle of Mohammed), whose interest it was to foster all divisions between the powerful Shiites, in order to assume the government themselves, sided with the Ismaelites. But the Persians, among whom the Ismaelites at first mainly prospered (generally known as Talimis, from talimi, "learning," because they afterwards held, contrary to the orthodox Mussulmans, that man can arrive at the truth of anything only by continued study), soon comprehended the designs of the Abbassidae, and they warred alike against the Abbassidae caliphs and the other Mussulmans. Missionaries were sent through all the territories settled by the followers of Mohammed, at this time torn in pieces by scores of sects, to advocate the claims of the house of Ismael. They flourished in the 9th and 10th centuries under the name of Karmatians (q.v.), and constituted a secret band, governed by laws very much like the freemasons, admitting, however, some very dangerous tenets, and advocating the extirpation of their enemies by the sword. They received additional strength in the 11th century of our era, when a family of chiefs, through the means of superstition, established an influence over the minds of the Ismaelians that enabled them for two centuries to control the affairs of Persia. The first of these chiefs was Hussun Subah (from whose name the Ismaelites of this period are often called Hussuni or Hossoni--a title, however, having no connection [as has been erroneously supposed by some] with the English word assassin, which is really equivalent to "hashish-eaters;" SEE ASSASSINS ), who, after many years of persecution, succeeded in obtaining a stronghold, and, there fortifying himself, founded upon the Ismaelitic model a sect of his own. Besides maintaining the principles of the Ismatelites so far as regarded their rights of succession to the office of imaum, he also "introduced many new tenets more conformable to the opinions of the Suffis, or philosophical deists, than to those of orthodox Mohammedans. The Koran, he admitted, was a holy volume; but he insisted that its spirit, and not its literal meaning, was to be observed. He rejected the usual modes of worship, as true devotion, he said, was seated in the soul, and prescribed forms might disturb, though they could never aid, that secret and fervent adoration which it must always offer to its Creator (Malcolm, from a Persian MS.). But the principal tenet which Hussun Subah inculcated was a complete and absolute devotion to himself and to his descendants. His disciples were instructed to consider him more as their spiritual than their worldly leader. The means he took to instill this feeling into their minds must have been powerful, from the effect which: was produced. "When an envoy from Malik Shah came to Allahamout, Hussun commanded one of his subjects to stab himself, and another to cast himself headlong from a precipice. Both mandates were- instantly' obeyed! 'Go,' said he to the astonished envoy, 'and explain to your master the character of my followers' (Malcolm, Hist. of Persia, 1, 399). One reason which may be assigned for this control of Hussun over his adherents is that he formed them into a secret order and, besides, promised them advancement from one degree to another, in the highest of which a foretaste of the life that is to come was given them. This extraordinary mode of procuring the devotion of his disciples he is said to have produced by drugs. "A youth who was deemed worthy, by his strength and resolution, to be initiated into the Assassin service was invited to the table and conversation of the grand master, or grand prior; he was then intoxicated with hashish (the hemp-plant), and carried into the garden-a true Eastern Paradise where the music of the harp was mingled with the songs of birds, and the melodious tones of the female singers harmonized with the murmurs of the brooks. Everything breathed pleasure, rapture, and sensuality, and this, on awakening, he believed to be Paradise; everything around him, the hour is in particular, contributed to confirm his delusion. After he had experienced as much of the pleasures of Paradise, which the Prophet had promised to the blessed, as his strength would admit-after quaffing enervating delight from the eyes of the hour is, and intoxicating wine from glittering goblets, he sank into the lethargy produced by narcotic draughts, on awakening from which, after a few hours, he again found himself by the side of his superior. The latter endeavored to convince him that corporeally he had not left his side, but that spiritually he had been rapt into Paradise, and had there enjoyed a foretaste of the bliss which awaits the faithful, who devote their lives to the service of the faith and the obedience of their chiefs. Thus did these infatuated youths blindly dedicate themselves as the tools of murder, and eagerly seek an opportunity to sacrifice their lives, in order to become partakers of a Paradise of sensual pleasure. What Mohammed had promised in the Koran to the Moslem, but which to many might appear a dream and mere empty promises, they had enjoyed in reality; and the joys of heaven animated them to deeds worthy of hell (Madden, Turkish Empire. 2, 185, based on a Hammer's Gesch. ider Assassinen). Malcolm thinks this an improbable tale, invented by the orthodox Mohammedans, who hold the Assassins in great abhorrence, because "the use of wine was strictly forbidden them, and they were enjoined the most temperate and abstemious habits." But this seems to us only an additional reason why we should believe it to be true; for if Hussun used the hashish to intoxicate his followers when their nerves needed strengthening for some atrocious deed, we could not expect him to advocate the free use of intoxicating beverages. Nay, its truth is further confirmed by the revelations which the fourth successor of Hussun as grand master made of the imposture. The- use also to this day at Constantinople and at Cairo of opium with henbane shows what an incredible 'charm they exert on the drowsy indolence of the Turk and the fiery imagination of the Arab.

Hussun, on account of several hill forts which he had seized, "was styled 'Sheik el-Jebel,' an Arabic title which signifies 'the chief of the mountains,' and which has been literally, but erroneously, translated 'the old man of the mountain'"(Malcolm, 1 401). The Ismaelites in his time spread extensively. They flourished not only in Persia, but also in Syria and Arabia, until A.D. 1253 when their atrocities became unbearable, and a general massacre against them was inaugurated. A command was issued by the reigning prince, Mangu Khan, in the 651st year of the Hegira, "to exterminate all the Ismaelites, and not to spare even the infant at its mother's breast… Warriors went through the provinces, and executed the fatal sentence without mercy or appeal. Wherever they found a disciple of the doctrine of the Ismaelites they compelled him to kneel down, and then cut off his head. The whole race of-Kia Busurgomid, in whose descendants the grand mastership had been hereditary, were exterminated.... Twelve thousand of these wretched creatures were slaughtered without distinction of age…The 'devoted to murder' were not now the victims of the order's vengeance, but that of outraged humanity. The sword was against the dagger [the weapon the Assassins most generally used to murder their opponents], the executioner destroyed the murderer. The seed sowed for two centuries was now ripe for the harvest, and the field ploughed by the Assassin's dagger was reaped by the sword of the mogul. The crime had been terrible, but no less terrible was the punishment" (Madden, 2, 187; comp. Milman's Gibbon [Harper's edition], Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 6, 215). But, with all these persecutions, they still struggled on for many years, and even in our own day "remains of the Ismaelites still exist both in Persia and Syria, hut merely as one of the many sects and heresies of Islamism, SEE MOHAMMEDANISM, without any claims to power, without the means of retaining their former importance, of which they seem, in fact, to have lost all remembrance. The policy of the secret state- subverting doctrine which animated the followers of Hussun,' and the murderous tactics of the Assassins, are equally foreign to them. Their writings are a shapeless mixture of Ismaelitic and Christian traditions, glossed over with the ravings of a mystical theology. Their places of abode are, both in Persia and Syria, those of their forefathers, in the mountains of Iraq, and at the foot of the anti Lebanon" (Madden, 2, 190, 191). At present many students of Eastern history incline to the opinion that "the Druses" (q.v.), generally supposed to be the descendants of the Hivites, to whom they bear some characteristic resemblances (comp. Chasseaud [a native of Syria, and a very able scholar], Druses of the Lebanon. p. 361 sq.), "must be looked upon as the only true representatives in Syria of the Ismaelian sect of the followers of Ali, from whom the Assassins are derived" (Madden, 2, 196). Some also hold to a connection of the Ansarians with the Assassins, especially Mr.Walpole (Travels in the further East in 1850-51 [London, 2 vols. 8vo]; compare also his Travels in the East, 3, 3 sq.). Even in India the Ismaelites are believed to have followers, and as such "the Borahs, an industrious race of men, whose pursuits are commercial, and who are well known in the British settlements of India, who still maintain that part of the creed of Hussun Subah which enjoins a complete devotion to the mandate of the highpriest" (Malcolm, 1, 407, 408), are mentioned. See, besides the works already cited, J. F. Rousseau, Memoire sur les Ismaelis et les Nosairis, with notes by De Sacy; the Rev. Samuel Lyde, The Ansireeh and Ishmaleeh, a Visit to the secret Sects of Northern Syria (Lond. 1858, 8vo); Asiatic Researches, 11 43 sq. SEE MOHAMMEDANS; SEE SHIITES. (J.H.W.)

Bible concordance for ISHMAEL.

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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