ʿAṬṬĀŠ (or EBN ʿAṬṬĀŠ), AḤMAD B. ʿABD-AL-MALEK, Ismaʿili leader during the time of Sultan Barkīāroq (Berk-yaruq, d. 498/1104) and contemporary of Ḥasan Ṣabbāḥ. His father, a famous calligrapher and obviously a man of some scholarly reputation, had held the function of dāʿī al-ʿErāqayn and had lived in Isfahan until forced to leave because of his Ismaʿili activity. He went to Ray, where in 464/1072 he introduced Ḥasan Ṣabbāḥ into the cadres of the daʿwa and sent him as his deputy to Egypt. He is also reported to have engaged Raʾīs Moẓaffar of Gerdkūh, another famous leader of the Nezārī movement, for the Ismaʿili cause. His son managed to stay in Isfahan, obviously by feigning serious differences with his father’s ideas. He penetrated the garrison of a fortress about 30 km southwest of Isfahan called Šāhdez (or Qaḷʿa-ye Jalālī), allegedly as a schoolteacher for the children of the soldiers. These were Daylamis and as such probably prepared for Shiʿite ideas (the Fatimids used to recruit part of their troops in Daylam; cf. C. E. Bosworth in Oriens 18-19, 1967, pp. 158f.; Y. Lev in Asian and African Studies 14, 1980, p. 174 n. 32). They seem to have come to Isfahan only during the time of Sultan Malekšāh (465-85/1072-92), when the fortress was built. Ḥasan Ṣabbāḥ’s takeover of Alamūt (in Daylam) in 483/1090 may have facilitated ʿAṭṭāš’s success; after having won over the entire garrison and parts of the surrounding population, he was able to retain independent control of the area for several years (twelve years according to Rašīd-al-dīn, i.e., from ca. 488/1095 onward). He managed to get hold of Ḵālanjān, another fortress in the neighborhood. ʿObaydallāh b. ʿAlī Ḵaṭībī, the Hanafite qāżī and “mayor” of Isfahan (the raʾīs, i.e., raʾīs al-maḏhab or raʾīs al-balad), had to make arrangements with him (cf. Bondārī, Zobdat al-noṣra, ed. Houtsma, pp. 90ff., Cairo, 1318/1900-01, pp. 83ff.). Only when he started to levy taxes, as the Saljuq government had done before, did agitation start against him in the town. Barkīāroq, who had enough to do with the internal dissensions of the Saljuqs during this period, was rather lenient towards the Ismaʿilis, at least until the last years of his reign. The situation changed definitely under Moḥammad b. Malekšāh who, immediately after Barkīāroq’s death in 498/1104, started attacking the Ismaʿili strongholds. Šāhdez was besieged for almost one year. ʿAṭṭāš tried to avoid the hopeless fight by pointing to the fact that his followers accepted the fundamental tenets of Islam and could therefore not be an object of war; they differed from Sunnite opinion only concerning the tenet of emāma, and here they were ready to recognize Saljuq suzerainty. This may already have been the legal basis of arrangement applied by Ḵaṭībī; it was obviously brought forth in a discussion which took place in Isfahan in the presence of the sultan (cf. Qazvīnī, Ketāb al-naqż, p. 48.16ff.). Moḥammad b. Malekšāh, however, did not agree with this interpretation. Šāhdez was conquered in 500/1107 and ʿAṭṭāš was captured together with his son; his wife had precipitated herself from the walls of the fortress. He was paraded through the streets of Isfahan, ridiculed by a song which, antithetically, attested his former prestige. Finally he was skinned alive; his head and his son’s were sent to Baghdad. The victory was important enough to be reported to Damascus in an official letter (Ebn al-Qalānesī, Ḏayl taʾrīḵ Demašq, ed. Amedroz, Beirut, 1908, p. 151.13ff.; French tr. R. Le Tourneau, Damas de 1075 à 1154, Damascus, 1952, pp. 66ff.). The poet Nāṣeḥ -al-dīn Arrajānī (d. 544/1149; GAL2 I, p. 254, S. I, p. 448) praised it in a panegyric on the conqueror, Moḥammad b. Malekšāh’s vizier Saʿd-al-molk Ābī (ʿA. Eqbāl, Wezārat, p. 161). Ḵaṭībī was assassinated by an Ismaʿili shortly afterwards, in 502/1109 (Ebn Abu’l-Wafāʾ, al-Jawāher al-możīʿa, Hyderabad, 1332/1913, I, pp. 338f.). ʿAṭṭāš, in contrast to his father, who had composed an Ismaʿili propaganda treatise called al-ʿAqīqa, is not known for any literary activity.
Moḥammad b. ʿAlī Rāvandī, Rāḥat al-ṣodūr, ed. M. Eqbāl, London, 1921, pp. 155ff.; Turkish tr. A. Ateş, Ankara, 1957, I, pp. 151ff.
Abu’l-Fatḥ Bondārī, Zobdat al-noṣra wa noḵbat al-ʿoṣra, ed. M. Th. Houtsma, in Recueil de textes relatifs à l’histoire des Seldjoucides II, Leiden, 1889.
Ebn al-Jawzī, Montaẓam, Hyderabad, 1938-40, IX, pp. 190f.
ʿAbd-al-Jalīl Qazvīnī, Ketāb al-naqż, ed. J. Moḥaddeṯ Ormavī, Tehran, 1371/1951-52, pp. 91, 176.11ff.
Ẓahīr-al-dīn Nīšābūrī, Saljūq-nāma, Tehran, 1332 Š./1953-54, pp. 40ff. (depends on Rāvandī).
Ebn al-Aṯīr, X, pp. 215ff., 299ff.
Ḵᵛāja Rašīd-al-dīn Fażlallāh, Jāmeʿ al-tawārīḵ, qesmat-e Esmāʿīlīān, ed. M. T. Dānešpažūh, Tehran, 1338 Š./1959, p. 122.
Mostawfī, Tārīḵ-egozīda, pp. 454f. (depends on Rāvandī).
ʿA. Eqbāl, Wezārat dar ʿahd-e salāṭīn-e bozorg-e saljūqī, Tehran, 1338 Š./1959-60, pp. 157ff.
M. G. S. Hodgson, The Order of the Assassins, The Hague, 1955, pp. 85f.
M. Ḡāleb, Aʿlām al-Esmāʿīlīya, Beirut, 1964, pp. 114f.
B. Lewis, The Assassins, London, 1967, pp. 39, 50ff.
Idem, “Ibn ʿAṭṭāsh,” EI2 III, p. 725.
On the fortress of Šāhdez see L. Honarfarr, Ganjīna-ye āṯār-e tārīḵī-e Eṣfahān, Isfahan, 1350 Š./1971, pp. 63ff.
Mehryār, Našrīya-ye Dāneškada-ye Adabīyāt-e Eṣfahān 1, 1965, pp. 115f., 156f.
C. O. Minasian, Shah Diz of Ismaʿili Fame: Its Siege and Destruction, London, 1971.
For a picture see Isfahan, City of Light. Catalogue of the Exhibition in the British Museum 6 May-11 July 1976, pp. 21f.
(J. van Ess)
Originally Published: December 15, 1987
Last Updated: August 17, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 1, p. 26