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ALAUDDIN MUHAMMAD (618-653/1221-1255), 26TH IMAM

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"Alauddin Muhammad, or Muhammad III was born in 609/1213. He was succeeded by his father at the age of 9 years. The administration of the state affairs was governed by his gifted mother for about six years, which was the first instance when a woman administered at Alamut.

The period of six years (618/1221 to 624/1227) was very peaceful in Alamut, during which time the Imam's mother seems to have deposed many incapable governors in Rudhbar and Kohistan. It seems that some governors and officers had misused their powers in that period. In 624/1227, Imam Alauddin Muhammad took the power upon death of his mother at the age of 15 or 16 years, and appointed Imaduddin as his vizir. He dealt iron-handed against the corruptions and the persons misusing the powers. Most of them turned against him and went to live in Qazwin. In order to cover the story of their defalcations, they started to spread rumours against the Imam in bitter sarcasms. Some of them went on to propagate that the brain of Imam Alauddin Muhammad had been affected few months before 624/1227 when a physician operated him, causing waste of excess blood. The oppositions were however surmounted very soon.

A cursory glance of the contemporary rules indicates that the Abbasid caliph Nasir died in 622/1225, and was succeeded by Zahir (d. 623/1226), Mustansir (d. 640/1242) and Mustasim (d. 656/1258), the last of the dynasty. Jalaluddin Khwarazmshah (617-628/1220-1231) was however absolutely ruling in Central Asia.

The relation of the Ismailis with the Abbasids and Khwarazmshah was already improved. The relations of Khwarazmshah with the Abbasids and Ismailis were however strained in due course. Meanwhile, Jalaluddin Khwarazmshah was defeated by Chenghiz Khan in 618/1221 on the bank of the Indus, and he had to spend three years in India. The impact of the ceaseless Mongolian invasions forced the Khwarazamins of Bukhara and Samarkand to escape, and most of them took refuge in the Ismaili territory in Kohistan. The Ismailis helped them with all provisions. About this time, the Ismailis occupied Damghan, the capital town of the province of Kumis near Girdkuh. In the meantime, Jalaluddin Khwarazmshah tried vainly to restore his broken kingdom in 622/1225. He charged Nishapur to his officer, Orkhan, who subsequently entrusted it to his one deputy, who massacred the Ismaili settlements in Kohistan. It seems that after some initial hostilities, a peace treaty was negotiated in 624/1227 between the Ismailis and Khwarazamshah. According to the truce, the Ismailis were allowed to retain their hold on Damghan in return for the payment of an annual tribute of 30,000 dinars. Orkhan however continued his enmity, therefore, three Ismaili fidais once fell upon him and killed him outside the city in a reprisal for raids against the Ismaili settlements in Kohistan. The three fidais were arrested and killed. Muhammad Nasawi (d. 645/1250) writes in Sirat-i Jalaluddin (Tehran, 1965, p. 232) that the three fidais with their last breaths, shouted: "We are sacrifices for our Lord Alauddin."

It was at this time that Badruddin Ahmad, the envoy of Alamut, was on his way to see Jalaluddin Khwarazmshah. Hearing of these occurrences, he wrote to vizir Sharf al-Mulk, asking his advice on whether to continue his journey or turn back. The vizir, fearing for his life, was too happy to welcome the Ismaili envoy. He therefore urged the envoy to join him and promised to do all he could to help him in his mission. The two now travelled together. When they reached the plain of Serat, in a moment of abandon at an eating session, Badruddin said: "Even here in your own army, we have our fidais, who are well established and pass as your own men." Sharf al-Mulk insisted eagerly on seeing them, and gave him his kerchief as a token of safe-conduct and immunity. Badruddin thereupon summoned five fidais, and when they came one of them, an Indian, said to Sharf al-Mulk: "I would have been able to kill you, I did not do so, because I had not yet received orders to deal with you." When Sharf al-Mulk heard these words, he cast off his cloak and sat before them in his shirt and said: "I am the slave of Alauddin as I am the sultan Jalaluddin's slave, and here I am before you. Do with me as you will." Words of this reached the Jalaluddin, who at once sent orders to burn the five fidais alive. It seems that the Ismaili envoy, Badruddin cut down his way and returned to Alamut, while the vizir pleaded for mercy for them, but of no avail, and was forced to comply with sultan's orders. A great fire was kindled at the entrance of his tent, and the five fidais were thrown into it, and the name of Imam Alauddin Muhammad was on their lips with their last breaths.

In Alamut, the Ismailis took its serious notice and resolved to confront once for all with Jalaluddin Khwarazmshah in reprisal, but Imam Alauddin Muhammad efficiently tackled the situation. He sent his envoy, Salauddin to vizir Sharf al-Mulk at Bardha'a. Nasawi (d. 645/1250) personally witnessed the aftermath and writes, "I was with Sharaf al-Mulk at Bardha'a, when an envoy called Salauddin came to him from Alamut and said: "You have burnt five of our fidais. If you value your safety, you must pay a bloodwit of 10,000 dinars for each of them." These words appalled and terrified Sharaf al-Mulk, so that he became incapable of thought and action. He favoured the envoy all others with generous gifts and splendid honours, and ordered me to write him an official letter, reducing by 10,000 dinars the annual tributes of 30,000 dinars which they were supposed to bring to the sultan's treasury. Sharaf al-Mulk then affixed his seal to the document." (op. cit., pp. 163-6)

On one occasion, Muhammad Nasawi was sent as an envoy of Jalaluddin to Alamut to demand the balance of the tribute that was owing for Damghan, and to settle other points of dispute. He succeeded to have his nice meetings with Imam Alauddin Muhammad and his vizir Imaduddin at Alamut.

Nasawi described his mission with satisfaction in his Sirat-i Jalaluddin (pp. 232-3) that, "Alauddin Muhammad favoured me above all the other envoys of the sultan, treating me with great respect and beauty. He dealt generously with me, and gave me twice the usual amount in gifts and robes of honour. This is an honourable man. Generosity to such a man is never wasted. The value of what was bestowed on me, in cash and in kind, was near 3000 dinars, including two robes of honour, each consisting of a satin cloak, a hood, a fur and a cape, one lined with satin and the other with Chinese crepe; two belts of 200 dinars weight; 70 pieces of cloth; two horses with saddles, bridles and harness and pommels; a thousand dinars in gold; four caparisoned horses; a string of Bactrian camels; and thirty robes of honour for my suite." From the narratives of Muhammad Nasawi, it appears that he obtained only a compromise solution during his meetings, He however, describes his mission with extreme satisfaction.

The Ismailis acquired new regions in Gilan and entered Ruyan. The Baduspanid ruler, Fakhr ad-Dawla Namavar bin Bisutun, who had succeeded his father shortly before 620/1223 was obliged to leave Ruyan. On the other hand, the relation between the Rudhbari Ismailis and the Qazwinis was also restored.

According to Jamiut Tawarikh (p. 181), Imam Alauddin Muhammad procured a close association with a Sufi Shaikh of Qazwin, Jamaluddin Gili (d. 651/1253) and sent him an annual grant of 500 gold dinars; who according to Dabistan al-Mazahib (1:265), had privily espoused Ismailism. The attitude of the Muslims of Qazwin in this context became more aggressive, therefore, Imam Alauddin Muhammad had to warn them that, "If the abode of Shaikh Jamaluddin was not in Qazwin, I would have not spared even the dust of your town."

In Syria, Rashiduddin Sinan was succeeded in 589/1193 by an Iranian da'i 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 however doubtful. Nevertheless, it became famous in Europe by the end of the 13th century. 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 da'is 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 da'i Majduddin received the ambassadors of Frederick II in 624/1227, bringing gifts worth almost 80,000 dinars. The descriptions of da'i Sirajuddin Muzaffar bin al-Hussain are found in the year 625/1228 and 635/1238. Tajuddin Abul Futuh bin Muhammad, an Iranian da'i 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 da'i 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 da'i 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 have 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.

In 624/1227, Chenghiz Khan conquered eastern region of Iran, but the Ismailis of Kohistan were unaffected by the initial phase of the operations and continued to enjoy their prosperity. On that juncture, an increasing number of the Sunni Muslim refugees, including numerous ulema of Khorasan, had ferruled asylum in the Ismaili towns of Kohistan. The Ismailis welcomed the flood of the refugees, and assisted them with their own resources. In Kohistan, the Ismailis maintained an island of prosperity and stability from which all benefited. The visiting Sunni jurist and historian, Minhaj Siraj Juzjani (d. 685/1286), who spent his earlier years in the services of the Ghorid dynasty in India. He visited Kohistan three times between 621/1224 and 623/1226. He writes in his Tabaqat-i Nasiri (comp. 658/1260) that Shihabuddin bin Mansur Abul Fateh, the learned Ismaili governor of Kohistan was lavish in his treatment to these Sunni refugees in his mountain fastnesses. He further writes in Tabaqat-i Nasiri (tr. by Ghulam Rasul Maher, Lahore, 1975, 2:230-31) that, "I found him a person of infinite learning with wisdom, science, and philosophy, in such wise, that a philosopher and sage like unto him there was not in the territory of Khorasan. He used greatly to cherish poor strangers and travellers; and such Muslims of Khorasan as had come into proximity with him he was wont to take under his guardianship and protection. On this account his assemblies contained some of the most distinguished of the ulema of Khorasan; and he had treated all of them with honour and reverence, and showed them much kindness. They stated to this effect, that, during those first two or three years of anarchy in Khorasan, one thousand honorary dresses, and seven hundred horses, with trappings, had been received from his treasury and stables by ulema and poor strangers."

It is however recounted that the local Ismailis of Kohistan lodged complaints to Alamut about the negative effects of the generous hospitality from the state treasury. Thus, Shihabuddin was summoned at Alamut, and a new governor, Shamsuddin Hussain Ikhtiyar was appointed instead. The latter also came to be equally admired by the Muslim refugees because of similar lavish treatment, but he was not called back to Alamut. It evidently implies that the principal cause of the replacement was due to some other reasons. Shihabuddin himself was also a learned scholar, and his one scribe in Kohistan, called Ra'is al-Hasan bin Saleh Munshi Birjandi, had compiled the Ismaili history which was used by Rashiduddin in Jamiut Tawarikh.

The arrival of Shamsuddin Hasan at Kohistan marked with the outbreak of new conflicts between the Ismailis and their Sistan neighbours. Yaminuddin Bahram Shah bin Taj al-Din Harb (610-618/1213-1221), the local Nasrid chief of Sistan, had previously waged two wars against Alamut during the time of Imam Jalaluddin Hasan; and his nephew had sold the fortress of Shahanshah near the town of Nih to Alamut. Yaminuddin demanded from the Ismailis of Kohistan to give up the claim of the fortress, and threatened to capture it by force. Before the invasion of Yaminuddin on Kohistan, the four fidais had killed him on 5th Rabi II, 618/May 29, 1221 at Zarang.

It was followed immediately by the succession issue in Sistan among the sons of Yaminuddin. The Ismailis of Kohistan supported Ruknuddin against his younger brother Nusratuddin, whom the notables placed on the throne. Like his father, Nusratuddin continued his claim on the fortress of Shahanshah. Soon afterwards, Ruknuddin gained the throne of Sistan with the help of the Ismailis in 619/1222. In the meantime, the Mongols invaded Sistan without staying there, and Ruknuddin had also been killed by his slave. The notables of Sistan put on the throne Shihabuddin bin Harb and his brother Ali, to the dissatisfaction of the Ismailis, who again had their own candidate, Uthman Shah bin Nasiruddin Uthman. They acquired support from Khwarazmian commander, called Tajuddin Yinaltagin, who was then stationed at Kirman, for the rights of Uthman. Yinaltagin arrived in 622/1225 at Sistan with his troops, and defeated the forces of Sistan. Instead of placing Uthman on the throne, Yinaltagin retained this power with him for almost a decade.

Thus, Shamsuddin, the Ismaili governor of Kohistan commanded his forces in a battle against Yinaltagin, and inflicted a defeat to him in 623/1226. It was after this battle against Yinaltagin, who deputed Minhaj Siraj Juzjani as his envoy to conduct diplomatic negotiations with the Ismailis of Kohistan. Minhaj Siraj concluded a truce with Shamsuddin at Nih on behalf of Yinaltagin, and as a result, the Ismailis pursued an independent policy in its local affairs, and developed important trade route with other regions, which were the source of acceleration of their economical conditions. When Minhaj Siraj returned to Sistan after negotiations, Yinaltagin forced him to go once again to Kohistan to declare a war against the Ismailis, but he did not consent to set out on a second journey, as he had determined upon undertaking a journey into India. This refusal did not meet with the approval of Yinaltagin and he commanded to detain him for 43 days in the fort of Safhad of Sistan and prohibited his going beyond the walls.

In the meantime, Alamut gave refuge to Ozbeg's son, Malik Khamush, and to Jalaluddin's brother Ghiasuddin, who were dismissed from their posts by the Khwarazmshah in 625/1228. The Ismailis helped Ghiasuddin despite the Khawarazmian blockade of Rudhbar, but he was there murdered.

In 625/1228, while the Ismaili envoy Badruddin was travelling east across the Oxus to Mongol court, Jalaluddin Khwarazmshah ordered at once to stop all the caravans in that direction, pretending that a Mongol envoy was on his way to Syria in the company of some Ismailis. In compliance, his vizir Sharaf al-Mulk put to death in Azerbaijan a westward Syrian Ismaili caravan of seventy merchants. Hence, Alamut sent an emissary to the Khwarazmshah, demanding successfully retrieval of the goods taken from the murdered Syrian Ismailis. In the meantime, Ghiasuddin took flight from Alamut which had enraged Jalaluddin Khwarazmshah.

The pact between Imam Jalaluddin Hasan and the Mongols, as hinted by Juvaini and explicitly described by Rashiduddin, became impaired afterwards. In 635/1238, Imam Alauddin Muhammad dispatched an embassy, in cooperation with the Abbasid caliph al-Mustansir (d. 640/1242) to Louis IX (d. 1270), the king of France, and Henry III (d. 1272), the king of England, to report the incoming stormy inroads of the Mongols, and to evaluate possibility of an alliance with the Christian West against the Mongols. Mathew Paris (d. 1259) has written in his Chronica Majora (ed. by Henry R. Luard, London, 1876, 3:487-9) the account of this embassy in England. The Bishop of Winchester, who was present at the audience, interrupted the envoy's appeal with harsh words, reflecting the hostile policy of the church against the Muslims.

After this rebuff by the West, the Ismailis made their final approach to the Mongol's court. In summer of 643/1246, on the enthronement of Guyuk (1246-1248), the next new Mongol's chief; Imam Alauddin Muhammad, along with the Abbasid caliph al-Mustasim (640-656/1242-1258) and many other Muslim rulers, sent a mission in the Khangai mountains in Central Mongolia. The Ismaili ambassadors, Shihabuddin and Shamsuddin, the former governors of Kohistan delivered a memorandum to Guyuk. Neither they nor the Abbasid ambassador were well received, and on that juncture, the Mongol demonstrated a negative attitude towards the Muslim rules.

Soon afterwards, Guyuk dispatched Eligidei to Iran at the head of reinforcements for the Mongol armies already stationing there, with instructions to assume supreme command in reducing the Muslim holds, beginning with Alamut. Guyuk intended to follow after, but his death prevented the operations, which was charged some six years later, to his nephew and successor Mongke (1251-1259), who appointed his brother Halagu (1256-1265) to command an army to Iran, Iraq and Egypt according to the resolution of the Mongol National Assembly (quriltai) held in 649/1251. Halagu did not reach Iran before the beginning of 654/1256, but had dispatched an advance army of 12,000 men from Mongolia in 650/1252 in command of Ket-Buqa to join with the Mongol garrison already camping in Iran. Ket-Buqa crossed the Oxus in 651/1253 and soon afterwards, attacked the Ismaili strongholds in Kohistan. His troops drove off the cattle of the people of Tun, Turshiz and Zir-kuh and slaughtered and pillaged throughout that region. The towns of Tun and Turshiz were however captured, but the Ismailis recovered Tun very soon. Ket-Buqa also reached at the foot of Girdkuh with 5,000 men, where he constructed elaborate siege works, digging a trench around the castle, and erecting a wall around the trench. The men then formed a ring behind that wall, and a second wall and a trench were constructed around the men, so that they were apparently left secure in the middle with no possibility of attack from either side.

Leaving his officer, Buri with the charge of siege at Girdkuh, Ket-Buqa proceeded to attack the castle of Mihrin, near Girdkuh and Shahdiz. In Shawal, 651/December, 1253, the Ismaili garrison of Girdkuh made a valiant nocturnal assault on the Mongols, killing a hundred of them, including Buri. The siege however continued and in the interim, the disease of cholera broke out in the summer of 652/1254. It was reported to Alamut that most of the garrisons were perishing and the castle was on the verge of falling. Imam Alauddin Muhammad immediately supplied reinforcements, including his three officers at the head of 110 men, each carrying a load of two maunds of henna (Latin Lawsonia inermis, Arabic hinna, the shrub) and three maunds of salt. The garrison's stock of salt had been exhausted, and as for the henna, we are told by the author of Jamiut Tawarikh, himself a physician, that there had not been prescribed in the books of medicine that henna was a drug against cholera. The people of Girdkuh had an experience however that once water being scarce, some of them had drunk that henna water and were cured. It was for this reason that they had asked for henna from Alamut. The 110 men forced their way through the ranks of the besiegers, suffering only a single casualty; one of them fell into the trench and dislocated his leg; his comrades lifted him on to their shoulders and carried him into the castle. The garrison, thus restored to its full strength, and continued its resistance until 659/1270.

Halagu was yet in Samarkand and was about to cross Oxus on the eve of the death of Imam Alauddin Muhammad, who, according to Peter Brent, might have been strong enough to resist for a long time against the Mongols, vide The Mongol Empire (London, 1976, p. 135)

Shamsuddin bin Ahmad al-Tayyibi (592-652/1195-1254) was an eminent Ismaili poet in Syria. He travelled excessively in Iran and visited Alamut during the period of Imam Alauddin Muhammad, where he served as a court-poet. His poetical works are not accessible. He left Alamut most probably after the death of Imam Alauddin Muhammad, and returned to Syria, where he died.

Imam Alauddin Muhammad's rule was long and prosperous. It was a period of both intellectual and political activity. The glory of his rule was the patronage of science and learning, attracted a bulk of scholars from outside. He was fond of shepherding and used to visit the villages to help the people in their dairy products and the cattle breeding. His old enemies conspired through his close advisor, Hasan Mazandaran, who killed the Imam on 29th Shawal, 653/December 1, 1255. His body was found at midnight in a wooden hut, near his sheep-fold in the village of Shirkuh in the western part of the district of Alamut. Imam Alauddin Muhammad had many sons whose detail is not accessible. It is however known from Juvaini that Shahanshah, Shiranshah and Iranshah were his sons, and the elder one was Ruknuddin Khurshah, who was consigned the office of Imamate.


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