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Shia, Sunni, and Assassins – The Religious Side of the Assassin’s Creed Universe

Our guest features writer today is Shafiqah Othman who discuss in depth about one of her favorite games franchises, Assassin’s Creed; its lore, connections to real-life religious historical figures as well as her thoughts on the philosophy behind the world building in the franchise.

This post was originally published on her website here.

The origin of the word Assassin has multiple interpretations, two of which I shall mention down here:

Hashashin means “those who do weed”, (Hasheesh is the Arabic word for any weed.) The opponents of the Nizaris called them that as a derogatory term even though there’s no evidence that they actually did weed. So, thanks to ancient political smearing, “assassination” is somehow inexplicably derived from “smoking weed”. – Iyad El-Baghdadi

According to the Wikipedia page (I know Wikipedia is not exactly the most reliable source), the word can also come from the word “Asasiyun”, meaning “people who are faithful to the Asas”, meaning “foundation” of the faith.

The Assassin’s Creed series was heavily influenced by Vladimir Bartol’s “Alamut”, a book released in 1938, about Hassan-i Sabah and the Assassins.

Who is Hassan-i Sabah? He was regarded as the founder of the Assassins, aka Nizari Ismailis, a split within Ismailism (part of Shia Islam). Even though Nizaris are typically known as Assassins, only a group of them – the fida’i – actually carried out assassinations. Why Hassan-i Sabbah created the order of Assassins is unknown, but most of their assassinations were political and based on vengeance.

Their enemies were mainly the Seljuk Turks, and this was because for many centuries, Persians felt mistreated by Sunni Muslims. The Assassins’ tactic mainly involved trickery, where they would carefully study their targets before infiltrating the target’s circle. This meant that they worked undercover a lot. They in martyrdom as well, so many died to secure a place in Paradise.

Not much is known about the Assassins from their perspective since their records were destroyed when their fortress, the Alamut Castle, fell.

As much as I love Assassin’s Creed, you know what this means? The Assassins were one of the earliest Islamic terrorist groups to rise. Or subsequently, you can also view them as a rebellion against a tyrannical rule (since historically, Sunnis were pretty vile). It depends on how you see it.

The Assassins, or Shiites in general, are known to Sunni Muslims as deviant and astray. At least, that’s how history painted them to be. Hence why I do enjoy the idea of a series that tries to put us in the perspective of Islamic history’s “bad guys” – the Assassins/Shiite Muslims.

While I do understand that the premise of the Assassin’s Creed franchise is mainly Assassins versus Templars, the Muslim part of its history is extremely fascinating to me. Because just like the Templars, Islamic history has seen its fair share of rulers trying to suppress freethought and freewill. Below is an excerpt taken from one of the columns I have written:

The infamous Assassin’s Creed maxim was also taken from the book.

“Nothing is an absolute reality, all is permitted.” – Vladimir Bartol, Alamut

That’s it for Part 1 (of 3) of Shafiqah’s analysis on the world of Assassin’s Creed. Stay tuned for Part 2 where she talks about the differences and similarities between the Assassins and Templars.


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  1. Assassins & Templars: Two Sides of the Same Coin – KAKUCHOPUREI.COM

    February 18, 2018 at 11:17 am

    […] You find Part 1 here, where she talks about the Shia & Sunni side of the Assassin’s Creed world.  […]

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