Welcome to F.I.E.L.D.- the First Ismaili Electronic Library and Database. Guests are not required to login during this beta-testing phase

Ismaili History 633 - Count Henry in Kahf

In Syria, Rashiduddin Sinan had been succeeded in 589/1193 by an Iranian dai Abu Mansur bin Muhammad. William of Tyre describes in 582/1186 the visit of Henry, Count of Champagne (d. 593/1197), the ruler of Jerusalem, and the husband of the widow of Conrad of Montferrat, who passed on his way from Acre to Antioch, near the territories of the Syrian Ismailis in 590/1194. Abu Mansur bin Muhammad sent deputies to welcome him, and to invite him to visit his fortress of Kahf on his return. Count Henry accepted the invitation. Abu Mansur received him with great honour. He took him to several castles and fortresses and brought him at last to one having very lofty turrets. On each look-out stood two Ismaili guards, dressed in white uniforms. Abu Mansur told the Count that these fidais obeyed him better than the Christians did their princes; and giving a signal, two of them instantly leaped from the top of the tower, and were dashed to pieces at its foot. 'If you desire it,' said Abu Mansur to the astonished Count, 'all my fidais shall throw themselves down from the battlements in the same way.' Count Henry declined and confessed that he could not expect such obedience in his servants. The spirit of self-sacrificing demonstrated before Count Henry purported to dissuade him from contemplating any ill design against the lsmailis. The historicity of this incident is doubtful. Nevertheless, it had become quite famous in occidental sources by the end of the 13th century in Europe. It is cited in the Latin history of Marino Sanudo Torsello and Francesco Pipino of Bologna. Arnold of Lubeck presents the event as a customary demonstration of loyalty in the lsmailism. Georgius Elmacin (d. 671/1273) however, erroneously transposed the event to the Iranian Ismailis of Hasan bin Sabbah.
The names of several chief dais who led the Syrian Ismailis, are known to us from the inscriptions at Masiyaf, Kahf and other strongholds, vide 'Epigraphie des Assassins de Syrie' (JA, 9 series, ix, 1897, pp. 453-501) by Max van Berchem (1863-1903). According to an inscription in the inner gate of the castle, a building was restored by Kamaluddin al-Hasan bin Masud. Another inscription reads that a dai Majduddin received the ambassadors of Frederick II in 624/1227, bringing gifts worth almost 80,000 dinars. The descriptions of daiSirajuddin Muzaffar bin al-Hussain are found in the year 625/1228 and 635/1238. Tajuddin Abul Futuh bin Muhammad, an Iranian dai from Alamut came in 637/1240, who built the city wall of the Masiyaf and its south gate in 646/1249 when the commander of the fortress was Abdullah bin Abil Fazal bin Abdullah. Ibn Wasil (d. 697/1298), the author of 'Mufarrid al-Kurub,' a native of central Syria, was also personally acquainted with Tajuddin Abul Futuh.

An important happening in this period relates to the dealings between Tajuddin Abul Futuh bin Muhammad, the chief dai in Syria and the French king Louis IX (1226-1270), who led the seventh Crusade (1249-1250). Jean de Joinville (1224-1317), the king's biographer in his 'Histoire de Saint Louis' (comp. 1305) makes a record for the year 648/1250 that king Louis came in Acre in 1250 and stayed four years in Palestine after his early defeat in Egypt. The Ismaili chief dai sent the Fench king: 'a very well made figure of an elephant, another of an animal called giraffe, and apples of different kinds, all of which were of crystal. With these he sent gaming boards and sets of chessman. All these objects were profusely decorated with little flowers made of amber, which were attached to the crystal by delicately fashioned clips of good fine gold, a shirt and a ring.' The Ismaili envoys told the king: 'Sir, we are come back from our chief, who informs you that as the shirt is the part of dress nearest to the body, he sends you this, his shirt, as a gift, or a symbol that you are the king for whom he has the greatest affection, and which he is most desirous to cultivate; and, for a further assurance of it, here is his ring that he sends you, which is of pure gold, and has his name engraved on it; and with this ring our chief espouses you, and understands that henceforth you be one of the fingers of his hand.'

The Ismaili envoys asked the king either to pay tribute to them or at least release them from paying tribute to the Templars and Hospitallers. The French however did not pay tribute to the Ismailis of Syria, who continued to pay their own tribute to the Templars and Hospitallers. Desiring to procure close ties with the Syrian Ismailis, the king Saint Louis responded to their peace initiative by sending his ambassadors with gifts to the Ismaili chief. This Frankish mission also included an Arabic-speaking friar, Yves the Breton. It was in the course of his meetings with the Ismaili chief Tajuddin Abul Futuh, held at Masiyaf, that Yves asked the articles of the Ismaili faith and reported back to the king as he understood. It is curious that Yves the Breton wrongly reported the king the Ismaili beliefs in nonsense, incredible and baseless colouring.


Back to top