Assassin


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Assassin

(əsăs`ĭn), European name for the member of a secret order of the Ismaili sect of IslamIslam
, [Arab.,=submission to God], world religion founded by the Prophet Muhammad. Founded in the 7th cent., Islam is the youngest of the three monotheistic world religions (with Judaism and Christianity). An adherent to Islam is a Muslim [Arab.,=one who submits].
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. 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." The members of the order were distinguished by their blind obedience to their spiritual leader (known in the West as the Old Man of the Mountain) and by their use of murder to eliminate foes.

The order was founded by Hasan ibn al-Sabbah when he gained control (c.1090) of the mountain fortress of Alamut, located S of the Caspian Sea. The order spread over Persia and Syria, gaining control of many strongholds, and it soon inspired terror throughout the Muslim world. Members were organized into strict classes, according to degree of initiation into the secrets of the order. The most important of the classes were the devotees, who sought martyrdom and were the instruments of assassination.

Hasan and the grand masters who ruled the order after him wielded great political power until the coming of the Mongols. Hulagu Khan attacked and destroyed (1256) their fortresses and massacred most of the Persian branch of the sect. The Syrian branch, with which the Crusaders came in contact, suffered a similar fate at the hands of Baybars, the Mamluk sultan of Egypt. Only scattered groups of the order survived; they are said to persist today, particularly in N Syria. Tales of the Crusaders and the writings of Marco Polo brought the Assassins and the Old Man of the Mountain into European folklore. The term assassin came into English and is used today to mean murderer, particularly one who kills for political motives.

Bibliography

See B. Lewis, The Assassins (1967); E. Franzius, History of the Order of Assassins (1969).

References in classic literature ?
The Assassins jumped also, but not having measured their distance well--splash!!!-- they fell right into the middle of the pool.
For the problem is this: we know by what way the assassin gained admission,--he entered by the door and hid himself under the bed, awaiting Mademoiselle Stangerson.
The idea of the two soldiers who had abandoned him occurred to his mind, and with them he remembered the assassins of two evenings before.
The assassins comprehended that if they fled toward the camp without having killed their man, they should be accused by him; therefore their first idea was to join the enemy.
Follow the rise of two warring crime families and the life of an assassin hired to kill the head of one of the families.
Synopsis: The Ismaili Assassins were an underground group of political killers who were ready to kill Christians and Muslims alike with complete disregard for their own lives.
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The assassin shot him in the head from behind, only a yard or two away.