Secular/Religious Myths of Violence: The Case of Nizārī Ismailis of the Alamūt Period

In: Studia Islamica
View More View Less
  • 1 The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London

Purchase instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):



Contemporary narratives of violence, particularly in the aftermaths of the most recent expressions of violence by the so-called ‘Islamist’ groups have rekindled the false dichotomy of religious versus secular violence. Such a deforming prism which has also become dominant in political science traces the origins of violence to faith communities in medieval times and, among others, to Nizārī Ismailis, with whom the myth of the assassins have been associated. Despite the ground-breaking works of prominent scholars of Ismaili studies, the myth of the assassins still remains powerful in some disciplines including political theory. This paper deconstructs this narrative and attempts to highlight the agencies of individuals and communities, as human agents, as opposed to essentialist narratives in which faith, or a particular faith, in its abstraction, becomes responsible for the outbreak of violence. Moving beyond reductionist narratives of violence is critical for breaking the vicious cycle of violence which besets human societies around the globe.

  • Badakhchani, S. Jalal, ed. 2011. Dīwān-i qāʾimiyyāt. Tehran: Miras-e Maktoob.

  • Cavanaugh, William T. 2009. The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict .New York: Oxford University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chaliand, Gerard and Blin, Arnaud. 2007. The History of Terrorism: From Antiquity to Al Qaeda. Berkley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cooper, Barry. 2004. New Political Religions, or, An Analysis of Modern Terrorism. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.

  • Crenshaw, Martha. 1995. Terrorism in Context. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania University Press.

  • Daftary, Farhad. 1994. The Assassin Legends: Myths of the Isma’ilis. London: Tauris

  • Daftary, Farhad. 2004. Ismaili Literature: a Bibliography of Sources and Studies. London and New York: IB Tauris

  • Daftary, Farhad. 2015. Fifty Years in the East: The Memoirs of Wladimir Ivanow. London and New York: IB Tauris.

  • Furedi, Frank. 2013. Authority: A Sociological History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Hodgson, Marshall G. S. 1955. The Order of Assassins; the Struggle of the Early Nizārī Ismāʿīlīs Against the Islamic World. ‘s-Gravenhage: Mouton.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Khan, L. Ali. 2006. A Theory of International Terrorism Understanding Islamic Militancy. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

  • Lewis, Bernard. 1967. The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

  • Mohammad Poor, Daryoush. 2014. Authority without Territory: the Aga Khan Development Network and the Ismaili Imamate. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pape, Robert Anthony. 2005. Dying to Win: the Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. New York: Random House.

  • Rapoport, David C. 1984. “Fear and Trembling: Terrorism in Three Religious Traditions”, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 78, No. 3 (Sep., 1984), pp. 658-677.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Al-Rasheed, Madawi, and Shterin, Marat. 2009. Dying for Faith: Religiously Motivated Violence in the Contemporary World. London: I.B. Tauris.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stern, Jessica. 2003. Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. New York: Ecco.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 966 229 20
Full Text Views 112 37 6
PDF Views & Downloads 71 20 4