Posted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 1:07 pm Post subject: Alamut
"Alamut is a historical fortress of the Nizari Ismailis. Its location in mountainous terrain lies about 100 km. Northwest of Tehran, and situated in the high peak of Elburz mountain. Alburz generally was pronounced as Elburz, is the name given to great mountain range, dividing the high plateau of Iran from the low lands of Caspian Sea. The original Iranian word Alburz is derived from two Zand words, signifying the high mountain. The fortress of Alamut is 600 feet high, 450 feet long and 30 to 125 feet wide and is partly encompassed by the towering Elburz range. The rock of Alamut is known at present as Qal'ai Guzur Khan.
The Justanid dynasty of Daylam was founded in 189/805, and one of its rulers, called Wahsudan bin Marzuban (d. 251/865) is reported to have built the fortress of Alamut in 246/860. Ibn Athir (d. 630/1234) records its anecdote in his Kamil fi't Tarikh (Beirut, 1975, 10:110) that once the ruler, while on hunting excursion had followed a manned eagle, which alighted on the rock. The king saw the strategic value of the location and built a fort on the top of a high piercing rock and was named aluh amut, which in the Daylami dialect, derived from aluh (eagle) and amut (nest), i.e., eagle's nest as the eagle, instead of following the birds, had built its nest on that location. According to Sar Guzasht-i Sayyidna, the term alamut is aluh amut i.e., the eagle's nest, and an eagle had its nest there. Ibn Athir relates another tradition that the eagle had taught and guided the king to this location, therefore, it was named talim al-aqab (the teaching or guidance of an eagle), whose rendering into Daylami dialect is aluh amut. The word aluh means eagle and amutis derived from amukhat means teaching. The people of Qazwin called it aqab amukhat (the teaching of eagle). Thus, the term aluh amut (or aqab amukhat) later on became known as Alamut. The Iranian historians have drawn attention that if one gives to each letter in the full name of Aluh Amut, its numerical value in the traditional abjad system of alpha-numeric corresponds the sum total of 483, which represents the year in which Hasan bin Sabbah obtained possession of Alamut, i.e. 483/1090.
Afterwards, the Musafirid dynasty, also known as Sallarids or Kangarids (304-483/916-1090) founded by Muhammad bin Musafir (304-330/916-941), who ruled from the fortress of Shamiran in the district of Tarum at Daylam and Azerbaijan. Later, Mahdi bin Khusaro Firuz, known as Siyahchashm, retained the occupation of Alamut. He was however defeated by the Musafirid ruler, Ibn Musafir in 316/928 and henceforward, there is no historical indication about the fate of Alamut following the death of Ibn Musafir in 319/931.
When Hasan bin Sabbah arrived in Iran from Egypt, the fortress of Alamut was in possession of an Alid, called Hussain Mahdi, who had it as a fief from the Seljuq sultan Malikshah. Hasan Mahdi was a descendant of Hasan bin Ali al-Utrush (d. 304/916), one of the Alid rulers of Tabaristan, also known as al-Nasir li'l-Haq, who had established a separate Zaidi community in the Caspian Sea. It is related that a da'i Hussain Qaini, working under Hasan bin Sabbah had created his friendship with Hussain Mahdi. The Ismaili da'is also converted a bulk of the people around the territory, and became powerful to some extent. These Ismailis also began to come in the fortress. Knowing this, Hussain Mahdi expelled them and closed its doors. Finally, Hussain Mahdi was compelled to open the doors due to the growing influence of the Ismailis in the vicinity.
Hasan bin Sabbah moved to Ashkawar and then Anjirud, adjacent to Alamut, and on Wednesday, the 6th Rajab, 483/September 4, 1090, he stealthily entered the castle of Alamut. He lodged there for a while in disguise, calling himself Dihkhuda and did not reveal his identity to Hussain Mahdi, but as the days rolled away, the latter noticed that he was no longer obeyed, that there was another master in Alamut. The bulk of Alamut's garrison and a large number of the inhabitants had embraced Ismailism, making Hussain Mahdi powerless to defend himself or make their expulsion, but himself left the fortress. Thus, Alamut was occupied without any massacre and taken to be known as daru'l hijra (place of refuge) for the Ismailis.
Ata Malik Juvaini (1226-1283) had seen the fortress of Alamut when it was being shattered in 654/1256. He writes in Tarikh-i Jhangusha (Cambridge, 1958, p. 719) that, "Alamut is a mountain which resembles a kneeling camel with its neck resting on the ground." It was situated in Daylam about 35 km. north-west of Qazwin in the region of Rudhbar. It was physically a large towering rock, with steep slopes hardly negotiable on most sides, but with a considerable expanse at its top where extensive building could be done.
Halagu, the Mongol commander reduced the fort of Alamut. He came with his forces at the foot of Alamut in 654/1256, whose Ismaili commander was Muqadinuddin. After a few days, the garrison of Alamut dismounted. Berthold Spuler writes in The Muslim World (London, 1969, 2:1 that, "The fortress Alamut offered a desperate resistance to the onslaughts of the Central Asian hordes and only suc*****bed after a prolong siege." Towards the end of Zilkada, 654/December, 1256, all the persons in Alamut came down with all their goods and belongings and after three days, the Mongols climbed up to the castle and seized whatever those people had been unable to carry off. They also plundered freely whatever they found in the castle, and then set fire to its building and its library. Meanwhile, Ata Malik Juvaini, who had accompanied Halagu to the foot of Lamasar, had been granted permission to inspect the library. He saved a number of choice books, including some Ismaili works, as well as certain astronomical instruments, before consigning the library to flames. Thus, the accumulated literary treasure of about two centuries was consumed to ashes. Juvaini himself writes, "I burnt them all" (basukh tam). Edward G. Browne termed it, "world's renowned library." Arif Tamir writes in Khams Rasail Ismailiyya (Beirut, 1956, p. 195) that, "The Mongol destroyed the Ismaili library containing one and one half million volumes."
As for the Alamut, Juvaini writes, "It was a castle whereof the entries and exits, the ascents and approaches had been so strengthened by plastered walls and lead-covered ramparts that when it was being demolished, it was as though the iron struck its head on a stone, and it had nothing in its hand and yet resisted. And in the cavities of these rocks they had constructed several long, wide and tall galleries and deep tanks, dispensing with the use of stone and mortar...And from the river, they had brought a conduit to the foot of the castle and from thence a conduit was cut in the rock half way round the castle and ocean-like tanks, also of rock, constructed beneath so that the water would be stored in them by its own impetus and was continually flowing on. Most of these stores of liquids and solids, which they had been laying down from the time of Hasan-i Sabbah, that is over a period of more than 170 years, showed no sign of destruction, and this they regarded as a result of Hasan's sanctity. (2:720-1) Juvaini goes on to tell how a large body of Mongol soldiers were employed in demolishing the castle: "Picks were of no use: they set fire to the buildings and then broke them up, and this occupied them for a long time." (Ibid.)
The Ismaili rule in Alamut lasted for 171 years (483/1090-654/1256). In its early period, the following three hujjats were the rulers of the Alamut:-
1. Hasan bin Sabbah (483/1090-532/1138)
2. Kiya Buzrug Ummid (532/1138-532/1138)
3. Muhammad bin Kiya Buzrug (532/1138-554/1160)
The following eight Imams flourished during the Alamut rule:-
1. Imam Hadi bin Nizar (490-530/1097-1136)
2. Imam Mohtadi bin Hadi (530-552/1136-1157)
3. Imam Kahir (552-557/1157-1162)
4. Imam Hasan Ala Zikrihi's Salam (557-561/1162-1166)
5. Imam Ala Muhammad (561-607/1166-1210)
6 Imam Jalaluddin Hasan (607-618/1210-1221)
7. Imam Alauddin Muhammad (618-653/1221-1255)
8. Imam Ruknuddin Khurshah (653-655/1255-1257)
The Mongols in fact reconstructed Alamut and Lamasar and retained for their own use. When Halagu left Iran for his operations against Baghdad, the Ismaili commanders at remote distance had also surrendered their castles upon receipt of official orders without knowing veritable picture. Few among them are reported to have trekked in Rudhbar after the massacre of the Ismailis in 656/1257. They made an intensive search of the succeeding Imam after being known that Imam Ruknuddin Khurshah had been also killed. Hamidullah Mustawi (d. 750/1349) writes in Tarikh-i Guzida (1:583) that a group of the Ismailis led by the son of Imam Ruknuddin Khurshah, whose title was Naw Daulat or Abu Daulat, managed to obtain possession of Alamut in 674/1275. The reason for re-occupation, as we have been informed, was to give an inkling to the hiding Imam and the Ismailis to come out of concealment. If this version certainly embodies grain of truth, it implies that the Ismailis of Rudhbar were not yet acquainted with the whereabouts of the Imam. According to Tarikh-i Guzida (1:583), "They retained Alamut for almost one year before they were dislodged by a force sent against them by Halagu's son and successor Abaqa (d. 680/1282)."
Muhammad Shah (d. 807/1404), the son of Momin Shah bin Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad is reported to have appeared in Daylam. He is said to have joined Kiya Malik, the Hazaraspid ruler for taking the possession of Ashkawar. Muhammad Shah formed his force, and subdued Syed Mahdi Kiya with the help of Kiya Malik. Syed Mahdi Kiya was arrested and sent to Tabriz in the court of sultan Uways (757-776/1356-1374), the Jalayirid ruler of Azerbaijan. Kiya Malik reinstated his rule in Ashkawar, and granted the hold of Alamut and its locality to Muhammad Shah in 776/1374. Syed Mahdi Kiya released from imprisonment in 778/1376 with the influence of Tajuddin Amuli, the Zaidi Syed of Timjan. Soon afterwards, Syed Ali Kiya took field against Ashkawar and defeated Kiya Malik, who fled to Alamut in the hope of being assisted once again by Muhammad Shah, but failed, therefore, he took refuge with Taymur. Meanwhile, the forces of Syed Ali had laid siege to Alamut while pursuing Kiya Malik, and took possession of the stronghold. Syed Ali was later defeated and killed in 791/1389 by the Nasirwands of Lahijan. Kiya Malik returned to Daylam and captured Alamut from Amir Kiya'i Syeds. Soon afterwards, following the murder of Kiya Malik, Muhammad Shah appeared once again in Daylam, and took possession of Alamut. But he soon surrendered Alamut to the Gawbara ruler of Rustamdar, Malik Kayumarth bin Bisutun (d. 857/1453). Then, Alamut passed into the occupation of the rulers of Lahijan.
The Safavid Shah Suleman (d. 1105/1693) is reported to have used the fortress of Alamut as a state prison for the rebellious persons from among his courtiers and relatives. At that time, only a few Ismaili families resided in the lower Caspian region.
The following is a news clip (an educational video) by Press TV in Iran. The reporter is visiting the Alamut Castle, shows some ongoing restoration/development and gives a bit of a background on Hassan-i-Sabbah and the Ismailis. An interesting watch.
Iran plans to offer the historical Alamut Fortress to UNESCO for a possible inscription on the World Heritage list of the UN organization.
Located in Alamut region in Iran’s Qazvin Province, the castle is a mountain structure built on a massive rock in an altitude of 2,100 meters above sea level.
The fabled ruin of Alamut Castle owns historical significance dating back to around 1090 AD, when Hassan Sabbah, the leader of Ismailites in Iran, chose the Alamut region as his headquarters.
The origins of the Alamut Fortress can be traced back to the Kings of Daylam, a Justanid ruler, at the end of the 8th century, who selected the area for the construction of a fortress.
The fortress was demolished and set ablaze by Hulagu of Mongolia in 1256. Later the site was only used as prison and a place of exile.
World Heritage site is a title that is given to locations that have “outstanding universal value” to humanity, according to the UNESCO description.
Armenian monastic ensembles of Iran, Bam and its cultural landscape, Bisotoun, Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Pasargadae, Persepolis, Sheikh Safi al-din shrine, Shoushtar historical hydraulic system, Tabriz historic bazaar complex, Chogha Zanbil and the Persian garden are some of the Iranian historical heritage sites that have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Admin - I don't believe this is the picture of Alamut! I know it is the source where you took this article, but the picture is misleading, and not the true picture of Alamut. I think it's in Turkey somewhere.
Fragments of pottery reveal artistic skills of the Nizaris of Alamut
In 1090, Hasan Sabbah acquired the fortress of Alamut in northern Iran, marking the founding of what was to become the seat of the Nizari Ismaili state.
Over the course of the next 150 years, the Ismailis acquired more than 200 fortresses in Iran and Syria, located in the inaccessible mountainous regions for refuge of the Nizari Ismailis who were fleeing persecution by the Saljuqs and others during the early Middle Ages. These settlements were also a sanctuary for other refugees, irrespective of their creed, fleeing persecution.
The Nizari Ismailis of the Alamut period placed a high value on intellectual activities despite having to defend against military attacks. Alamut and several of the Nizari strongholds became flourishing centres of intellectual activities with major libraries containing not only a significant collection of books and documents but also scientific tracts and equipment. The Ismailis extended their patronage of learning to everyone.
The ruins of the fortresses, especially their water supply systems, are evidence of the ingenious methods adopted by the Persian Nizaris for coping with highly difficult living conditions. Although much of the literature produced by the Nizaris during this time was destroyed by the Mongols, the accounts of some later Persian historians provide information about the community during this period; only a few non-literary items such as coins minted at Alamut have survived.
Archaeological excavations at some of the sites of the castles of Alamut discovered a variety of kilns, some of which contained fragments of decorated dishes, water-pots, and oil lamps, among other items. Much of the evidence has been removed as a result of land cultivation for agriculture.
“In 1972 Peter Willey’s team archaeologist, Tony Garnett, reported that their most important discovery was at Andej, a small attractive village near Alamut, the site of Hasan Sabbah’s headquarters before his occupation of the citadel at Alamut.”1
“Garnett continues to describe a structure that was excavated on the eastern slope, which he interpreted as a kiln…
“Inside the kiln was a variety of pottery, including the large fragment of a complex of a decorated dish, several tripod stilts, pieces of glazed dishes and unglazed cook-pot ware, heavily textured with inclusions. On other parts of the kiln site were found two glazed oil lamps, part of a basalt quern-stone, several small bowls, and many pieces of sintered kiln fabric and over-fired kiln wasters, together with large quantities of decorated fragments.”1
Exterior view of Samiran bowl. Photo: Eagle’s Nest
A blue-glazed water pot, possibly from Hanarak. Photo: Eagle’s Nest
Agate beads and fine moulded wares from Andej. Photo: Eagle’s Nest
1“Ismaili Pottery from the Alamut Period,” by Rosalind A. Wade Haddon, published in Eagles’s Nest, Ismaili Castles in Iran and Syria, by Peter Willey, I.B. Tauris Publishers, London, 2005
Farhad Daftary, A Short History of Ismailis, Edinburgh University Press
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