ʿALĀʾ-AL-DĪN MOḤAMMAD B. JALĀL-AL-DĪN ḤASAN, chief of the Ismaʿilis of Alamūt (d. 653/1255). When ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn succeeded his father in Ramażān, 618/November, 1221, at the age of nine, at first Jalāl-al-dīn’s vizier remained as effective ruler of Alamūt, continuing the policy of accommodation with the ʿAbbasid caliphate and with Sunni Islam. There was however some reaction against this policy; the observance of the šarīʿa was no longer enforced, and even, according to some historians, actively discouraged in the Ismaʿili possessions. Persian historians attribute this change to the new imam, whom they accuse of general incompetence. Be this as it may, there were still capable leaders to direct the affairs of the Ismaʿili realm and sect, and ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn’s reign was a period of both intellectual and political activity. The great library of Alamūt attracted many scholars and scientists, among them Ḵᵛāǰa Naṣīr-al-dīn Ṭūsī. During ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn’s early years, the breakup of the Khwarazmian empire and the resulting interregnum gave the Ismaʿilis the opportunity to extend their power. An agreement patched up with the Ḵᵛārazmšāh proved ineffective, and bickering between them continued for many years, enlivened from time to time by warfare, assassination, and negotiation. Meanwhile the Ismaʿilis maintained friendly relations with the Khwarazmians’ two main adversaries in west and east—the caliph and the Mongols. Nearer home, the Ismaʿilis came into conflict with the rulers of Gīlān, and acquired some territory at their expense. In contrast, their relations with their old enemies in Qazvīn were on the whole peaceful, and ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn even became the disciple of a shaikh in Qazvīn to whom he is said to have sent a yearly grant of 500 dinars. During ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn’s last years the Mongol advance in the east brought the Ismaʿilis nearer to the final confrontation with their most dangerous enemy. This period, however, also saw a major Ismaʿili success—the implanting of the Nezārī “New Preaching” in India, which ultimately became the main center of the sect. Jovaynī and other Persian Sunni historians paint a dark picture of ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn, whom they depict as a drunken degenerate, subject to fits of melancholia and madness. During his last years he came into conflict with his eldest son, Rokn-al-dīn Ḵᵛoršāh, whom he had nominated as his heir to the Imamate, and then tried unsuccessfully to set aside in favor of another son. ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn was murdered, allegedly by one of his followers, on 29 Šawwāl 653/1 December 1255 and was succeeded by his son Rokn-al-dīn.
Jovaynī, pp. 249-67; tr. Boyle, pp. 703-17.
Rašīd-al-dīn, Jāmeʿ al-tawārīḵ: qesmat-e Esmāʿīlīyān, ed. M. T. Dānešpažūh and M. Modarresī Zanǰānī, Tehran, 1338 Š./1959, pp. 178-84.
Kāšānī, Tārīḵ-eEsmāʿīlīya, ed. M. T. Dānešpažūh, Tabrīz, 1343 Š./1964, pp. 201-06.
Moḥammad Nasavī, Tārīḵ-eJalāl-al-dīn (Histoire du Sultan Djelal ed-Din Mankobirti), ed. O. Houdas, Paris, 1891, Arabic text pp. 132-34, 214-15, French tr. pp. 220-23, 358-59; Persian tr. ed. M. Mīnovī, Sīrat-e Jalāl-al-dīn, Tehran, 1965, pp. 163-66, 232-33.
Juzǰānī, Ṭabaqāt I, pp. 182-83; tr. Raverty, II, pp. 1197-98.
M. G. S. Hodgson, The Order of Assassins, The Hague, 1955.
B. Lewis, The Assassins, London, 1967.
Originally Published: December 15, 1984
Last Updated: July 29, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 7, p. 780