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Bernard Lewis


A Radical Sect in Islam

Book review by Anthony Campbell. Copyright © Anthony Campbell (2003).

Bernard Lewis's account of the Assassins first appeared nearly forty years ago; as the preface remarks, the subject has now gained an unfortunate topicality it did not possess originally and it is no doubt this that has led the publishers to reissue it. The book is aimed at a non-specialist audience although notes and references are provided for readers wishing to go into matters in more detail.

Both the Iranian and the Syrian aspects of the story are covered in reasonable but not excessive detail. However, Lewis seems to be relatively uninterested in the more esoteric or mystical ideas that motivated his subjects, preferring instead to concentrate throughout on military and political questions. Even the central and dramatic event of the proclamation of the Resurrection at Alamut receives a rather low-key treatment in only a couple of pages, and the charismatic figure of Sinan, the Assassins' leader in Syria, also appears rather one-dimensional here. In its own terms, therefore, the book gives an adequate and readable account of the Assassins, but I don't think it really does justice to the full strangeness of this remarkable religious and historical phenomenon.

17 July 2003

See also my ,book: The Assassins of Alamut

%T The Assassins
%S A Radical Sect in Islam
%A Lewis, Bernard
%I Phoenix
%C London
%D 1967, 2003
%G ISBN 1-84212-451-X
%P x + 166 pp
%K history
%O paperback edition %O illustrated
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