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

19.0 Kiya Buzurg Ummid

Kiya Buzurg Ummid was one of the outstanding Ismaili Da'is who made valuable contributions toward the establishment of an Ismaili State in Persia (1090 C.E.) which lasted for one hundred and seventy years. In order to study the biography of this eminent Ismaili da'i and administrator, one should make oneself familiar with the contemporary Ismaili history. It is unfortunate indeed that the historians have not preserved the details of the life history of Kiya Buzurg. This makes the task for his biographers a difficult one. However, some information in this connection is available mainly in the two famous histories: "Tarikh-i-Jehan Ghusha" by Ata-ul-Mulk Juvayni (1226-83) and 'Jami-at-Tawarikh' by Rashid-ud-din (1247-1318). In this paper, an attempt has been made together facts from various sources in order to point the true picture of this great man. Evidently some gaps have remained unfilled which are due to the non availability of the required data.

It may be noticed that major part of the life of Kiya Buzurg passed in the shadow of a towering personality of Hassan-i-Sabbah who was an Ismaili genius of all times. This is one important reason why the contemporary historians who were so occupied in writing about Hassan-i-Sabbah have not done full justice to his deputies. The records kept by the Ismailis themselves, however, were completely destroyed after the collapse of their state at the hands of the Mongols.

During the life of Kiya Buzurg, the Ismaili political history passed through a very critical period. The powerful Sultan Malik Shah Saijuq ruled Iran (1072-1092) with the help of his capable Vazir Nizam-ul-Mulk, both of whom were against Ismailism. He was succeeded by his sons who were equally hostile to the Ismaili cause.

It was in the year 1090 C.E. that Hassan-i-Sabbah acquired the castle of Alamut and established his headquarters in this castle for Ismaili Da'wa. The seat of Imamat was still in Cairo but friction and intrigues were evident in the court of the Imam ai-Mustansirbi'liah (1 036-94 C.E.), the caliph of the Fatimid Empire. The Abbasid caliphate of Baghdad was trying hard to uproot the Ismaili structure. Under these most unfavourable circumstances, Hassan-i-Sabbah did an impossible task in establishing an Ismaili State in Iran which was partially due to the cooperation of his capable deputies like Kiya Buzurg who by their untiring efforts helped him in achieving his goal.

Kiya Buzurg Ummid was born in a peasant family in the district of Rudbar which is situated in the immediate neighbourhood of the castle of Alamut. This district consists of fertile mountain valleys through which the river, "Shah Rud" flows. There was no real town in Rudbar and people lived in small and scattered villages in the valley and gave their allegiance to a local gentry who lived in the castle close to their valley. Kiya Buzurg was born probably in the middle of the eleventh century (the exact date of his birth is unknown) in one of those villages in the house of a peasant. Most probably Kiya Buzurg got local schooling in his earlier days and then lead a life of peasant himself.

Juvayni writes that as soon as Hassan got established in Alamut (1090), he exerted every effort in propagating his mission amongst the villages in the vicinity of Alamut. At first, his tasks were two fold-to win converts -and gain possession of more castles. From Alamut he sent missionaries to various directions to accomplish both purposes. His obvious objective was the control of the immediate neighbourhood of his headquarters, the district of Rudbar. It must be during these days that Kiya Buzurg was converted to the faith of Ismailism. History does not record the story of his early life but it is clear that within a short time he attained a considerable confidence of Hassan-i-Sabbah who appointed him a Commander to conquer the castle of Lamasar (1095 or 1102). Juvayni narrates the capture of Lamasar in the following words:

'The fort of Lamasar, which is also in the Rudbar (valley) of Alamut had some inhabitants who did not accept the da'wat of Sayyidna Hassan-i-Sabbah so he later sent Kiya Buzurg Ummid with the part of Ismailis who secretly entered the Qala on Tuesday evening, 20th Dhi'l Qad 495/5th September, 1102, and killed those inhabitants, taking possession of the fort'.

Rashid-ud-din on the other hand gives a more detailed story and a different date. His account seems to be more reliable and accurate. He narrates, -

'The, position of Lamasar is also called Rudbar-iAlamut. There were two persons there. A certain Rasmasuj and the other Lamasar. They originally were devout followers of Ismailism, but about that time they rebelled, and wanted to hand over the Qala to Ali-y-i Nushtegin (the local fief holder). Sayyidna was ready to supply the owner of the place with ammunition, and leave the fort in his possession, but Rasmasuj did not accept the offer. Sayyidna then sent Kiya Buzurg Ummid with a party. They came upto the fort, and rushed in. Rasmasuj and his partner came up with arms and in the scuffle which ensured both were killed. This happened on the night of Wednesday (i.e. Tuesday evening) the 20th Dhi'l Qad 489, l lth November, 1095.

Hassan bin-Sabbah appointed Kiya Buzurg as the Governor of the castle of Lamasar who discharged his duties honestly and most efficiently. He remained the Governor of Lamasar for twenty years and never left the castle even once until he was summoned to Alamut by Hassan-i-Sabbah where he was appointed as his successor. During these twenty years he strengthened the Ismaili da'wa in the castle and the surrounding district. He improved the castle and made it impregnable. Rashid-ud -din gives the following account:-

'The fort of Lamasar was situated on a rotten hill, with a few decayed houses on it, with no-vegetation nearby. The climate of the place was very hot. Kiya Buzurg Ummid fortified the castle and cut the rocks to build a canal from a point on the Nine rud, two and a half farsakhs away which could supply water to the fort. The fort was thus irrigated. Water reservoirs were made and trees were planted and the Qala began to look as a Khushk, royal rest house in a garden. He also developed the irrigation schemes for the surrounding district as that the inhabitants of the vicinity improved their lot considerably. The inhabitants were brought to the fold of the da'wat and every thing was put in proper order'.

In the history of the Alamut enclave the events usually developed in and around the 'rock'. Lamasar played the part of the shield to the rear. Standing not far from the main range, separating these valleys from Mazamdaran, quite impossible for military forces, it really threatened two important directions. One, that of the Westward road by the bed of the Shahrud, and the other, the passes leading in the direction of Qazwin. The forces stationed in Lamasar could always easily seal the passage of Duruvon and cut communications with the chief base of the attacker, Qazwin.

Lamasar was incomparably more spacious than AJamut. There was no congestion and plenty of space for stores and garrison. Due to the long perimeter, the enemy could not deliver a series of powerful blows at different places in quick succession, while the defenders operating over short internal lines of communication, could easily concentrate sufficient force at the point of the attack.

Several unsuccessful military expeditions were sent against the Ismaili strong holds by Sultan Malik Shah and later by his son Sultan Muhammad which clearly proved that the Ismaili castles in the Rudbar district could not be captured by direct assault. The Sultan Muhammad (1099-1117) therefore tried another method - a war of attrition. For eight consecutive years, says Juvayni, 'the troops came to Rudbar and destroyed the crops and the two sides were engaged in battle. When it was known that Ismailis were left without strength or food, Sultan Muhammad at the beginning of the year 1117 appointed the Atabeg Nushtegin Shirgir as Commander to the troops and ordered him to lay siege to the castles from then onwards. On 4th June 1117 they laid siege to the castle of Lamasar whose command was in the hands of Kiya Buzurg; who played his cards very skilfully during these difficult times, such that the inevitable defeat ultimately resulted in a clear cut victory for the Ismailis.

Hassan-i-Sabbah was favourably , impressed by the achievements of Kiya Buzurg and had great faith in his versatile qualities. He must have made up his mind that Kiya Buzurg would be a worthy successor to his position. -Juvayni narrates:-

'It was in the month of Rabi II 518 (May-June, 1124) that Hassan-i-Sabbah fell ill. He sent someone to Lamasar to fetch Buzurg Ummid and appointed him his successor, and made Dihdar Abu-Ali of Ardistan sit on his right and entrusted him in particular with the propaganda chancery (davat divan); Hassan son of Adam of Oasran, was made to sit on his left and Kiya Ba-Ja'fer, who was the commander of his forces, in front of him. He charged them, until such times as the Imam came to take possession of his Kingdom, to act all four in concert and agreement. Hassan-i-Sabbah died on the night of Wednesday, the of Rabi 11 518/ 6th 23rd May 1 1 24'.

Thus Kiya Buzurg took up his new office as the head of the Ismaili state and shifted his headquarters from Lamasar to the castle of Alamut, the seat of the Government. He ruled for nearly fourteen years following the policies and rules laid by his predecessor. He put the Ismaili state on firm footing and during his rule the number of fortresses under Ismaili control increased to seventy-four. His influence was felt in the remotest parts of Ismaili control; in Khurasan, Quhistan and in Syria.

In the year 1126, two years after the succession of Kiya Buzurg, Sultan Sanjar (1096-1157) launched an attack on the Ismaili fortresses. Since his expedition against Tabas in 1103, Sanjar had taken no action against the Ismaili, and even had entered into some sort of agreement with them, There is no reason to disregard the agreement and certainly no cause for the anti-Ismaili offensive of 1126 is known. Presumably it was due to the growing confidence of the Sultan and the presumed weakness of the Ismailis under their new ruler, who later on proved to be a formidable ruler. He sent an army against Turaythith in Quhistan and against Bayhaq in the province of Nishapur. He despatched troops against every part of their possessions with orders to kill whatever Ismaili they encountered. lbn-al-Athir reports the attack on two Ismaili villages Tarz near Bayhaq and raid on Turaythith where many Ismailis were put to sword and much booty taken, but these campaigns were limited and inconclusive. In the north the offensive fared even worse. An expedition against Rudbar, led by the nephew of Shirgin, was driven, back and Ismailis took much booty from their invaders. Another, launched with local help, was also defeated and one of its commanders captured. .

Kiya Buzurg strengthened the position of the Ismailis considerably. In Rudbar the lsmailis had reinforced their position by building a new and powerful fortress called Maymundiz and had extended their territory, notably by acquiring Taiaqan. In the east the Ismaili forces raided Sistan in 1129 C.E. In the same year Mahmud, the Saijuq Sultan of lsfhan, found it prudent to discuss peace and invited an envoy from Alamut. Unfortunately the lsfhan mob killed the envoy and his colleague when he left the Sultan's presence. The Sultan apologised and disclaimed responsibility of this incident. The Ismailis, however, responded by attacking Qazvin where they killed 400 people and took enormous booty. In 1131 C.E. Sultan Mahmud died and usual wrangle followed between his brothers and his son. This gave Ismailis a chance to strengthen their position and increase potentialities.

Kiya Buzurg was not only a great administrator and a fine commander. He was a chivalrous lord and a great upholder of the Ismaili da'wa. He spent most of his active life as a ruler and administrator not as a revolutionary leader like his predecessor. The Ismaili chronicler narrates the following story of his magnanimity.

Emir Yarankush had been one of the great enemies of the Ismailis. Due to the rising power of the Shah of Khorzam he was displaced and requested Kiya Buzurg for a political asylum for himself and his followers. Kiya Buzurg granted his request and gave him and his followers refuge in the castle of Alamut. When Shah came to know this, he asked for their surrender. Arguing that he had been a friend of Ismailis while Yarankush had been their enemy but Kiya Buzurg refused to hand them, over, saying: "I cannot reckon as an enemy who places himself under my protection"

The long and glorious reign of Kiya Buzurg Ummid ended with his death on 9th February, 11 38 C.E. He was succeeded by his son Muhammad.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
by
Dr. A. M. Rajput. Birmingham (England)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

person_place_reference: 
Kiya Buzurg Ummid


Back to top