In 1090, Hasan-i 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 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 as well as others fleeing persecution during the early Middle Ages. The state fell to the Mongols in 1256.
Photo of Alamut by Lawrence Lockhart (1890-1928) who trekked through the area in 1928. The Ismailis An Illustrated History.
The first five centuries after the fall of Alamut comprise the most obscure phase in Nizari Ismaili history. The Ismaili communities scattered over a wide region from Syria and Persia, Central and South Asia, developing locally and in isolation from one another. For at least two centuries, the communities did not have direct access to the Imams, who were living discreetly in various parts of Persia; they were accessible through a few of the trusted da’is.
Among Nizari’s numerous notable works is the Diwan which contains some 10,000 verses of poetry, in which he conveys praises of the Imam of the time. His Safar-nama (‘Travelogue’) provides valuable information about the Ismailis of Persia during the Mongol period.
A 19th century copy of Nizari Quhistani’s Diwan. Image: The Ismailis An Illustrated History
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