Since centuries the legends of the Ismaili assassins have been told and narrated by many western-eastern scholars in a variety of ways. The most common among these stories are ‘the legends of the old man of the mountain’ and his follower assassins who had a stronghold in the Syrian mountains and northern Iran. These tales, myths or the legends first appeared in the Levant during the time of Crusades. Over the years, after crusades, the legends concluded in Marco Polo’s account who fabricated the new definition of Nizar Assassins. According to Polo’s accounts, the Nizari Assassin describe as a leader known as ‘the old man of the mountains’ who controlled the behaviour and will of his followers (devotees) by using hashish (drug) and the secret garden of paradise. This account became so mesmerised that the word ‘assassin’ entered the English language as a collective noun for the murderer. These tales over the time became legends and portrayed Ismailis as a sinister order of assassin by the western scholarship.
Al-Mu’ayyad fi’l-Din al-Shirazi (died 1087 CE), was a remarkable and multi-talented Fatimid scholar of Persian origin. He spends his life mostly serving Imam-Caliph al-Mustansir (1036 to 1094 CE) as a chief da’i performing various administrative, diplomatic, military and religious duties. Verena Klemm in her book elaborated a detailed account on the life and achievement of al-Mu’ayyad fi’l-Din through the lenses of his autobiography Sirat al-Mu’ayyad fi’l-Din. She believes that this Sira is not only an essential historical source regarding the function of Fatimid da’wa during 11 CE, it also provides a brief overview of Islamic military and political leadership during that time, i.e. Fatimids, Buyids, Seljuqs and Abbasids. The significance of al-Mu’ayyad’s Sira has been highlighted in many forms by Klemm in her book. She considered al-Mu’ayyad’s Sira as “a masterpiece of medieval Arabic literature” that includes “rhymed prose, interspersed with lively dialogues, self-composed poems, dreams, stories and parables” (Klemm, 2003, p19).
Hamid Al-Din Al-Kirmani: Ismaili Thought in the Age of al-Hakim by Paul E. Walker (I. B. Tauris, 1999)
Review by Ahmad Amirali
In this book, Paul E. Walker introduces the major works of an Ismaili scholar Hamid al-Din Abu’l–Hasan Ahmad b. ‘Abdallah al–Kirmani. Al-Kirmani from the time of Imam-Caliph al-Hakim bi-amr Allah. (996-1021). He was a cutting edge of the intellectual advances of his time and almost aligned with the famous Ibn Sina, with whom he shared many mystical and philosophical ideas. Al-Kirmani’s ideas on the human intellect and the order of creation are the aperture those expressed by early Ismaili thinkers which he endeavoured to amend, thus providing insights into to initial Ismaili debates about philosophical and scientific concepts.
God: A Human History
Author: Reza Aslan (Penguin Random House, 2017)
Review by Ahmad Amirali
Nowadays, it seems like people are deserting their religion to the fundamentalists. However, Religion has always been the part of human existence, and it’s not likely going anywhere soon.
Reza Aslan’s God: A Human History is the newest addition to the genre of God books. Before this piece, Karen Armstrong’s A History of God shared a similar account in this genre. One may ask, whether there is a need for another book on this topic? A valid reason for that, according to me, can be Aslan’s way of writing where he bluntly places and elaborates his argument with proper supporting. That makes the reader find the reading much debatable.