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Concerning the Nizari or Assassin sect of Medieval Islam. Were they really Hashish users or not?

On 9th May 2008, Shafic from London, U.K. wrote:

comments: WAI, with love

just a few contributions after listening to your discourse to an audience in which you mention the assassins and the link with masons ...

ismailism is in fact batini in outlook (and inlook), closely related to sufism, and holds in its heart an esotheric evaluation of the qur'an, and life itself..

i had looked into the said links myself (re masons) quite a few years ago and have never grasped any clarity in this. the knights templar I believe are part of the equation because they forged strong links with the "assassins". It may be wrong for you to quote that the Assassins used hashish in the ways that you claim. this was a claim by marco polo whose interaction with the group was short lived. I believe that the "assassins" were a noble peoples, much like the knights templar who are said to have protected the interests of ye'shua (jesus), his true teachings and people who really understood his visions, including mary magdalene. i believe that the assassins fulfilled a similar role and hence saw in the knights templar an organisation of kin.

Wai, I have a lot to share with you... get in touch if you like

may god bless you

 

I replied:

Hi Shafic

Thanks for your emails. It's good to connect with like minded people.

Concerning the Assassins/Nizari/Ismaili etc. whether they used cannabinoids or not in ancient times cannot really be known for sure one way or the other. Was the use of hashish a central and integral aspect of Nizari culture, certainly not. Equally to make the assertion that no groupings or subsets of the Nizari sect have ever used hashish recreationally, ritually or mystically, would be likewise be an over generalization. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Keep in touch.

Regards Wai

 

Shafic furthur wrote:

Hello Wai

Pleased to hear back from you...

I am writing from London, and I came across the website by surfing through youtube. Regarding Assassins and hashish, you have provided no substantiation of your claim that the Assassins (hashashin etc) were so-called because they were known to indulge in hashish - I dont quote exactly you but you said words to that effect (ref one of your presentations). Representations of all communities worldwide take and have taken hashish including mine and your own... which you have elaborated on below (your logical process applies to all kind) The truth = assassins were so-called because someone decided to call them that, motives suspected but unknown. The name stuck. It would have been in the self perceived "interest" of many to discredit the group, as today US and UK attempt to discredit China or Iran for example. So I suspect and have reason to believe that associating the "Assassins" with unruly behaviour as a product of hash consumption was simply an "effective" way for those who wanted to throw mud at them. Point = your claim was that the Assassins were "known" for taking hash (implication - all or a lot of of them did it, often). This categorical statement is an example of misinformation or one of the "factual inaccuracies" I referred to in my original email.

With love and respect,

Shafic

 

I finally replied:

Hi Shafic

Sorry about the delay in getting back to you.

Regarding the Assassins, yes I totally agree that the label 'hashish user' was given to them by those who were their antagonists and that it was used in a derisory sense. However on the balance of things I actually think there is a lot of truth behind it. It's true that sometimes when there's smoke then there's only smoke and just that. But in this instance I believe there is smoke and a significant and sufficient degree of cannibis usage going on.

I'm aware that there is some debate over this question but find the revisionist arguements a little weak or else inconclusive. At the same time there is strong circumstantial evidence to support the idea that a significant proportion of the Assassins/Nizari of the early mediaeval period were using Hashish; and not just in a casual recreational manner but in a way that directly derived from their religious beliefs and practices.

For instance, it is well known that in Sufism, cannabinoids are sometimes smoked or ingested to help induce mystical states. This is not the place to argue about the validity of the use of psychoactives in mystical practice. Whether a person believes it's valid or not, doesn't change the fact that all through history mystics from just about all the Religions and Cultures of this World have seen various substances, including Hashish, as facilitants in the quest for union with God. These are some of the deviant and taboo facts of spiritual life but facts non the less. With respect to cannabinoid use, along with the Sufis, the Saddhus and Left Hand Tantrikas of India, the Rastafari and even the Sikh religion is known to use various cannabis containing concoctions and substances in their rituals, ceremonies and mystical practices.

But it is the use of Hashish within Sufism that is really relevant here. While is it true that not all and perhaps a minority of Sufi sects will systematically use Hashish it is still correct to say that there is an association between Sufism and Hashish and that this isn't merely incidental but is a direct result of their interpretation of the Batin(Hidden meanings of Koran and sayings of Muhammad). It is also seems that during the early Medieval period the use of Hashish by Sufis in various parts of the Muslim world was rife. A systematic campaign against Cannabinoid use by Hashish ingesting Sufi sects in 11th & 12th instigated by the Caliphate in Egypt, and which involved the systematic burning of cannabis plants and crops; is sometimes cited as one of the earliest examples of anti-drug/prohibition campaigns. Of course it is relevant for present discussion that this is exactly the period when the Assasins would have been operating, pre-Mongol catastrophe, and when they would have earned their controversial moniker.

I recall you yourself noted the close relationship between Sufism and Ismailism/Nizari/Assasins etc. There is a lot of interchangability between the beliefs and practices of these two groupings; and indeed in the past there has been a process of cross influence and cultural exchange. So therefore it would seem rather incongruous to dismiss out of hand the idea that the practice of Hashish use as a mystical facilitant would similarly have found its way into the cultural and spiritual life of the Nizari. If you accept the idea that the Nizari were a heavily mystical sect of Islam with a very esoteric interpretation of the Batin then there are reasons to do with this and certain properties of some Cannabiod substances, used in sufficient doses, that would make it highly unlikely that a significant proportion of the Nizari didn't use Hashish, and in a way that directly derived from their religious beliefs and not just in a recreation manner. This is why I don't find the Assassin label so surprising or controversial. It is as would be as expected given the facts surrounding. I believe also that the arguments put forward for denying the Assassin/Hashish connection, often come from the wrong place, deriving from ignorance about the properties of Cannabinoids, prejudicial generalizations against Cannabis use and users or else attempts by Ismaili historians to make their sect be seen in a better light. The Assassins were a great sect of Islam which I have a lot of respect for and to me, the clandestine killings and cannabis use is just an integral and consistent part of their amazing story. Shame about the Mongols though.

Regards & keep in touch

Wai

 

 

 
     
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