(kärmā`thēənz), a Muslim sect of the 9th and 10th cent., similar to the AssassinAssassin
, European name for the member of a secret order of the Ismaili sect of Islam. They are known as Nizaris after Nizar ibn al-Mustansir, whom they supported as caliph; the European term Assassin is derived from the Arabic for "users of hashish.
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 sect. They were part of a movement for social reform that spread widely through Islam from the 9th to the 12th cent. They were organized according to initiation and illumination, like other similar sects of the period. Although heretical, their doctrine had a great influence on Islamic philosophy and remnants of it are today found in the religion of the DruzeDruze
or Druse
, religious community of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, with important overseas branches in the Americas and Australia. The religious leadership prefers the name Muwahhidun (Unitarians).
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. The chief importance of the Karmathians came with their establishment of an independent communist community in lower Mesopotamia before 900. They were the source of rebellions in Khorasan and Syria, and after 900 they conquered all of Yemen. In spite of the efforts of the Abbasid caliph at Baghdad, the Karmathians continued their career until (c.930) they created a sensation that rocked Islam by carrying away the Black Stone from the Kaaba at Mecca. Ten years later the Karmathians returned the stone. They were in constant touch with the founders of Fatimid rule in Egypt, alternately at war or peace with them. They ceased to be a political power after 1000.



adherents of one of the two branches (sub-sects) of the Muslim Shiite sect of the Ismailis.

The Karmathian subsect arose in the ninth century in southern Mesopotamia. Most of its followers were peasants, nomadic Bedouin, and craftsmen. Toward the end of the ninth century, the Karmathians led a series of antifeudal rebellions against the Abbasids (the largest such rebellions occurred in southern Mesopotamia around 890–906; in Bahrain in 894–99; and in Syria in 900–02). Their social ideal was the restoration of communal landholding and general equality (which, incidentally, did not apply to slaves, who were to become the property not of individuals but of the entire community). The Karmathian religious and philosophical views were identical to those of the Ismailis.

About 899, the Karmathians conquered Bahrain and established their state at al-Ahsa (eastern Arabia); the state survived to the end of the eleventh century. Free farmers and craftsmen, who did not pay taxes, were predominant in the state, which owned 30, 000 slaves. The latter worked in the fields and in gardens, repaired mills, and so on. Attacks by the Karmathians, who were implacable foes of Sunnism, on Sunnite territories (in 930, for example, on Mecca) were accompanied by pillage, massacre, and the enslavement of peaceful populations. Such practices were repellent to the masses, who shared the Karmathians’ social ideals but not their religious beliefs. The suppression of Karmathian rebellions, the savage persecution of the Karmathians by the Ghaznavids, and internal unrest weakened the sect, which for all practical purposes ceased to exist by the late 11th or the early 12th century.


Beliaev, E. A. MusuVmanskoe sektantstvo. Moscow, 1957.
Bertel’s, A. E. Nasir-i Khosrov i ismailizm.Moscow, 1959.
Petrushevskii, I. P. Islam v Irane VII-XV vv. Leningrad, 1966. Chapter 11 (contains detailed bibliography).