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From Wikipedia:

The Assassins (from Arabic: حشّاشين‎ Ḥashshāshīn) were an order of Nizari Ismailis, particularly those of Persia and Syria that formed in the late 11th century. In time, the order began to pose a strong military threat to Sunni Seljuq authority within the Persian territories by capturing and inhabiting many mountain fortresses under the leadership of Hassan-i Sabbah.

The name "Assassin" is often said to derive from the Arabic Hashishin or "users of hashish", thought to have been originally derogatory and used by their adversaries during the Middle Ages. In actuality, the word is a misnomer for the Nizari Ismailis applied abusively to them by the Mustali Ismailis during the fall of the decaying Ismaili Fatimid Empire when the two streams separated from each other. In 1122 the Mustalian dynasty Fatimid caliph al-Amir referred to the Nizaris as the hashishiyya "without any explanation" and "without actually accusing them of using hashish, a product of hemp".

The modern word "assassin" originates from this Muslim order.

A popular myth says that the Assassins (part of them, at least) were killers who smoked hashish to suppress their conscience before proceeding to the killings.

I came across this story in several works of fiction, including La Casa dorada di Samarkand ("The Gilded House of Samarkand", from the Corto Maltese graphical novel series by Hugo Pratt), and more recently the Ghost in the Shell TV series. But after a tiny bit of research, it seems to be a fairly common tale.

Was part of it true, or it is only a myth?

  • +1 just for citing Hugo Pratt. The +1 for the question will be delivered by a sockpuppet – Dr. belisarius Mar 13 '14 at 1:51
  • no linkable sources, but my terrorism and counterterrorism professors spoke about this as being true – warren Mar 14 '14 at 19:05
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According to Medieval Islamic Civilization by Meri and Bacharach at page 73:

The [Arabic word Hashishi (pl. hashishiyya, hashishin)] was applied by other Muslims to Nizaris in the pejorative senses of "low-class rabble" or "people of lax morality" without any derivative explanation reflecting any special connection between Nizaris and hashish

The book goes on to explain that the legends involving hashish were started by crusaders and popularized by Marco Polo.

  • Interesting. Does it say how they know this to be true? – Oddthinking Nov 12 '15 at 22:34
  • @Oddthinking it cites to 5 sources for further reading including Fahrad Daftary's "The Asssisn Legends: Myths of the Ismailis" 1994. – DavePhD Nov 13 '15 at 13:10

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