Ḥasan-i Ṣabbāḥ and the Emergence of Nizari Ismailism is the first monograph-length study of Ḥasan-i Ṣabbāḥ (r. 1090-1124), the founder of Nizari Ismailism. Moving away from the “great man” history, the study focusses on factionalism among the Nizaris as well as relations, not just conflicts, between the Nizari polity in Iran (fl. 1090-1256) and the Saljuqs (fl. 1040-1194). Based on new readings of historical sources supplemented by newly discovered Nizari doctrinal sources and grounded in multi-disciplinary approaches of history, historiography, theology, the study of religion, textual and narrative analyses, and digital humanities methodologies, it examines the emergence of Nizari Ismailism on the tableau of wider religious and societal discourses in the Islamicate realms during the Early Middle Period (ca 900-1300). During this time power transferred from city-dwelling Arabs and Iranians to Turkic nomads, and religious hegemony shifted from the Shiʿis to the Sunnis.
This is the first English-language monograph-length study of the Qiyāmat-i buzurg (the Great Resurrection) or Qiyāmat-i Qiyāmāt (Resurrection of Resurrections) enacted at the legendary Nizari Ismaili fortress of Alamut on 17 Ramadan 559/15 August 1164. The earliest most complete accounts of the Nizari Ismailis were written by Ilkhanid era (fl. 1256-1335) Sunni historians with avowed antipathy to the Ismailis. They based their writing on doctrinal literature plundered from Nizari libraries as the Mongols destroyed the Nizari polity in Iran. From these texts, they construed the event of the Qiyāma and its aftermath as extreme antinomianism and heresy. These judgements were cast a hundred years after the events; however, no reports of the event or heretical antinomian activity are found in contemporary histories. However, modern scholarship has continued this discourse in their discussions of “abrogation of the shariʿa”.
In this study, the paradigms and prejudices of the chronicles are unpacked to access the fragments of Nizari doctrinal literature they preserved. These along with the small number of published doctrinal texts and several treatises edited and translated for this research are used to map Ismaili Shiʿi conceptions of theology, cosmology, prophecy, imamate, soteriology, eschatology and anthropology as they evolved into the teachings of the Qiyāma. These teachings synthesised early (9-10th century) Ismaili thought infused with Neoplatonic cosmology along with later theological conceptions into the doctrines of transcendence which transformed Nizari societies. Ismaili notions of eschatology had lasting impacts on wider Islamicate religio-political thought in Iran and further afield, this study therefore examines the socio-political contexts and theological connotations of the declaration of the Qiyāma and places them within broader frameworks of human notions of cosmology and soteriology.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, © Shiraz Hajiani 2020