Murder Cult Leaders Convinced Their Followers That They Controlled Access to Paradise
Al Qaeda, ISIS, and similar modern terrorist cults had predecessors dating back nearly a millennium: the Medieval Assassins cult. It was founded by Sheik Hassan al Sabah (1034 – 1124), a shadowy Islamic scholar who seized Alamout Castle, high in the mountains south of the Caspian Sea in Persia, in 1090. From there, his followers established a series of remote mountain fortresses in the highlands of Persia and Syria. That string of holdfasts earned Sheik Hassan the nickname “Old Man of the Mountain”, which became a title passed on to his successors. From those strongholds, the Sheik sent suicide squads of killers known as fida’is (“self-sacrificers”) to terrorize the Middle East.
The Sheik adopted a creative strategy to convince recruits that he controlled access to paradise. Potential recruits would be summoned to one of his fortresses, where they would receive religious education, and be housed in bare cells. During the course of their education, the instructors would gradually begin hinting that Sheik Hassan held the keys to heaven.
Once they were judged to have been sufficiently primed, the more promising of the young men would be drugged with hashish, earning the group the Arabic name “Hashashin” – rendered into “Assassins” by various Europeans. When the recruit came to, high on hash and tripping, he found himself in breathtaking orchard gardens, through which gurgling streams meandered between trees ripe with fruit, and rows of vines heavy with grapes. Peacocks wandered around, spreading their gorgeous tails; lambs and tame deer frolicked about; and brightly colored birds flitted through the branches, filling the air with their song. The stunning surroundings were complemented by stunning women to seduce the recruit, cater to his desires, and satisfy his whims.
The recruit would be plied with wine, kept high on hash, and fed delicacies that he probably never knew existed, let alone tasted. All the while, the seductresses would convince the besotted young man that he was in heaven, and that they were the houris promised those who made it to paradise. Then, after days of heavenly delights, the recruit would be drugged senseless once more, and removed from the pleasure gardens.
When he awoke, he would discover himself back in his bare cell and austere surroundings. There, he would be informed that he had been in paradise, sent there by the Sheik, who held the keys to heaven. The recruit would then be told that he could return to heaven and its delights, if he died while killing the Sheik’s enemies. It was extremely effective: for nearly two centuries, the Middle East was terrorized by suicide squads of horny young fanatics, high on hash and desperate to die while killing their cult’s enemies.