Sicarii, Assassins, and the Islamic State: A Pattern Emerges

Total holy war and suicide attacks are nothing new. History has kept a long list of organizations popping up, committing atrocities in the name of god, and then suffering absolute defeat—sometimes these campaigns are coupled with ironic consequences for the crusaders. And I use that word—“crusaders”—because there’s a lot of talk about the similarities between the Islamic State and the Crusades. That’s obvious, and I could easily spend 10,000 words pointing out those parallels. But instead I want to talk about different similarities I’ve recently started recognizing. The Islamic State shares interesting closeness with two other groups: the Zealots-Sicarri and the Assassins.

The Zealots-Sicarri was a short-lived (25 years) group of Jewish extremists in Jerusalem, operating around the 7th decade CE. The Assassins was a group of Islamic extremists in Persia and much of the Levantine Middle East, operating during the 11th through 13th centuries. Both groups used terror to spread their messages and begin a holy war to purge the land of non-believers.

[Note: “Non-believers” here merely denotes people who don’t follow the extremist groups’ religious beliefs; it doesn’t necessarily mean atheism.]

Interestingly, both groups also suffered humiliating defeats. The Zealots-Sicarii initially enjoyed major victories, such as taking control of the Temple of Jerusalem; however, when the Romans fought back, they wiped the Temple from the map, causing mass suicide at Masada, and—after a subsequent Sicarii revolt—the removal of the Jews from Judea, which lead to a Jewish dispersion throughout the Roman Empire. In other words, this tiny radical Jewish group was ultimately responsible for the Jewish Exile.

The Assassins, too, suffered a humiliating defeat when they tried to assassinate Möngke Khan. He sent his army to retaliate, and the Mongols crushed the Assassins, killing essentially all of them.

The Islamic State should take note of this pattern: Small and weak religious extremist groups who attempt to radically change the political landscape through acts of public violence against innocent civilians and military members while engaging in total holy warfare tend to suffer demeaning defeats that—at least in the Jewish case—have the opposite effect than was intended.

Below I’ve made a table comparing the three groups. I must confess that the similarities are not perfect, and I’ll let you decide how strongly they resemble each other. But to me it’s beginning to look like a pattern. The technology might have changed, but the methodologies and goals share some qualities.

  Zealots-Sicarii Assassins Islamic State
Ideology Jewish extremism Islamic extremism Islamic extremism
Goal Force Romans and Greeks into war with Jews in order to purge non-believers from their land and spread Judaism Spread “pure” version of Shia Islam; create Islamic totalitarian kingdom Spread “pure” version of Sunni Islam; create Islamic totalitarian republic
Methods Daggers and swords: Murdered innocent people in public; waged massive and total holy war against Roman soldiers Stabbed innocent victims in public, compelling military reaction. Assassins’ missions were often suicide missions. Early form of suicide terrorism Total holy warfare: Public executions, territorial conquest, murder of innocent people in addition to foreign and domestic soldiers
Unforeseen Consequences Utter defeat and destruction of Jewish temple, beginning of the Jewish Exile Completely annihilated by Möngke Khan’s army of the Mongol empire Only time will tell

Also please note that my descriptions of all three groups are very, very brief and general. For much more detailed information, feel free to Google these groups or, even better, visit your public library, which probably contains really great literature about the Zealots-Sicarii and the Assassins. There you will probably find a lot of information that contradicts the similarities between them and the Islamic State. With that said, feel free to point out where I’m wrong.

About Rayan Zehn

I'm a political scientist.
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6 Responses to Sicarii, Assassins, and the Islamic State: A Pattern Emerges

  1. Pingback: Islamic State and the Assassins: reviving fanciful tales of the medieval Orient | Em News

  2. Peter Mann says:

    Hi Rayan.
    Like the quality of your work. Thanks for this excellent website.
    Would have done something similar, but have been otherwise occupied, so you have relieved me of a task beyond my solitary resources. {I work as a solitary, a self-funded R&D, because i refuse to tolerate the politics and restrictions of funding, and am appalled at the ponderous inertia of mainstream thinking}

    As the inventor of Applied Ontology, one of the fields i am investigating is Forbidden Knowledge. Not by preference initially, but out of sheer bloodyMindedness. i refuse to dismiss any idea or observation merely because it does not fit. And this uncompromising openness to truth (innocence) has yielded surprising dividends.

    One of my ontoligical projects is the mapping of Topics that stubbornly remain unDefined in the public mind. Topics such as the nature of evil, the effects of belief on perception, demons, and mindParasites [concepts permitted only in fantasy & science fiction].

    “Somehow”, topics that nobody will ThinkSeriouslyAbout are actively enforced, so my investigation is focussed on the strategic implications of this expenditure of influence. Analysis of Strategy by mapping energy transfer, is a method of discerning the nature of this unNatural phenomenon. An abstract form of pattern recognition.
    [Note: ThinkSeriouslyAbout, as distinct from reciting doctrine or repeating some trivial opinion]

    The effects created by forbidden knowledge include a truncation of conceptual architecture. Most individuals dismiss me as crazy, because i have reinvented concepts that are currently represented by fossilised words.
    The absence of a correlating concept is typically interpreted as indicative of mental illness. This absurd presumption is a virulent form of stupidity. Refusal to understand a dissenting perspective is the literal dynamic of ignorance.
    Having warned you of the intellectual challenge in this essay, i shall be disappointed, and think less of your “aTheism” if you dismiss my development of “A Pattern Emerges” without asking definitive questions.

    i intend that you find this gift of conceptual chewing.gum both tasty and stimulating.


    Re A Pattern Emerges, i draw your attention to a common factor of the Abrahamic religions. All have a deadly intolerance of diversity built into their “Holy Books”. This intolerance is a strategic element of the agenda of the authors of these religions. The mysterious perpetrators of malign social software set up 3 religions with trivial differences that are nonetheless sufficient to be an ongoing source of conflict.
    So, who benefits from ongoing conflict ? Not us humans, that’s for sure. The First World War virtually bankrupted the British Empire, whereas periods of peace tend to be prosperous. Having ruled out ourselves as beneficiaries, what remains as feasible player ?

    Aleister Crowley was of the opinion that the highest currency in ceremonial magick is blood sacrifice. In both halal and kosher slaughter, the ritual aspects bear a strong parallel with spilling life force for creatures of the astral realm [the realm of dark matter = 90% of the mass of the spaceTime universe].

    So, perhaps the engineer of human religious psychosis is a species that evolved in dark matter [a substance that baffles mainstream scientists]. A predatory species that discovered how to feed on conflict [more about this later]

    The Aztec {Mexica tribe} instigated blood sacrifice on an industrial scale, due to a “prophesy” and a belief system. The blood sacrifice of uninjured captives was a superficial imitation of the metaphysical procedures of the rulers of the Toltec Empire [whom they had conquered and eliminated]. The Flower Wars caused such resentment among the neighbouring tribes that the bandit Cortez was able to raise a substantial army and sack their empire with a mere handful of conquistadores.

    The cowering blood sacrifice to “gods” opened up the Americas for a population explosion of rapacious immigrants, and today the Earth is as overpopulated as our mythical lemmings, and we are facing another widely known bloody prophesy – Armaggedon.

    Having established the connection between those that posture as gods with blood sacrifice, plus the tenfold probability of sentient life evolving in the realm of dark matter, we have contrived a different perspective on the motives of our selfProclaimed creators. Predators, deriving nourishment from war and blood sacrifice.

    Not a pretty thought, but truth is the ultimate arbiter for those that value sanity & survival, and evidence supporting this hypothesis is overwhelmingly consistent. Sadly, most supporting evidence is of a kind that cannot be communicated as an idea, because it is based in experience [perception + pattern recognition] and defined from there . . . by inference. Nevertheless, such evidence can be replicated, and it helps to have an idea of what to look out for.

    So, what information is in the public domain about this hypothetical predator ?
    Not to make too fine a point of it, bugger all. The literature on such topics is timeWasting rubbish. Curiously, every human culture has stories of evil spirits, but to look at the associated literature is to find meanless fiction. No modus operandi, no scientific description, lots of grovelling fearfulness and absurd bravado. This documentary obfuscation/absence is a significant clue in itself.

    For example, nobody can explain why the SelfRighteousTyrant Allah allows the djinn to cultivate heresy and conflict amongst the humans. {Yes, my reading is as literal as the facts will support. This controlled folly prevents arbitrarily discarding information that dissents with our artificially limited belief systems}

    Actually, there is one reliable [verifiable] source of information on the “spirit” predators on mankind. This exists in accounts rendered by field anthropologists engaged with a surviving lineage of the Toltec scientists of awareness. Incredibly, the 15 books published last century on the Toltec reality map and their methodology are “somehow” dismissed as fiction, rather than being verified or debunked. My only explanation for the general aversion to the Toltec body of knowledge is that it is a documentation of some Forbidden Knowledge.

    The obfuscation around specific topics .:. is a pattern of determined ignorance that is readily verified and noticeably enforced. If we are indeed collectively influenced by an “invisible” predator capable of disguising their effects, then developing effective countermeasures is a matter of the gravest urgency.

    Best Regards, and I invite your confounded questions, dear noble thinker Rayan Zehn.
    Peter Mann
    PS: i am an aTheist in the literal sense ; that i have recognised Belief [ie theism, theoryism] as a form of LearnedStupidity, and have weeded such nonsense from my reality map.
    All systems of belief discard dissenting information, and as such are counterEvolutionary,
    for both individuals and collectively.
    i utilise scientific method in developing Applied Ontology, while seeing modern science as a system of facts that have yet to coherently match the full scope of the unknown, and conceptually truncated by Randi’s savagely intolerant materialism.

    • Rayan Zehn says:

      I’m not sure I follow much of this. I am in a different field as you, so I would need to do some reading up on the themes you’ve covered. I know I said last night I would give you a substantive response; however I’m afraid I’m unable to. Sorry Peter.

      • Peter Mann says:

        Hi Rayan,
        Concepts that are not within the familiar paradigm resist rapid understanding, simply because there is no preExisting context into which they can be fitted. This is an unexpected difficulty i have experienced many times in my research ; something for which a broad knowledge provides only limited assistance.
        The theme of this post is : what presents itself as the infallible god behind religion is a predator that derives nourishment from humans.
        John Keel’s book “Operation Trojan Horse” draws parallels between religious visions [which radically changed the lives of Saul of Tarsus and Mohammed] and weird encounters during the 1800s and the spate of ufo contacts post WW2.
        The difficulty communicating this straightforward notion of deceitful predators posing as the creators of Life and spaceTime suggests that there are undocumented forces active in human cognition, forces that fit with the active enforcement of the Biblical declaration that some knowledge is forbidden by the authors of religion [as distinct from their human prophets & proselytisers]
        This perspective can be developed to the extent of providing a coherent explanation for the contradictions and disasters that religions have brought to mankind.

  3. Pingback: Islamic State and the Assassins: reviving fanciful tales of the medieval Orient | Hunza News

  4. Pingback: Islamic State and the Assassins: reviving fanciful tales of the medieval Orient – Hunza News

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