While reading a book this afternoon, I came across a six paragraph article regarding the term “assassin.” What it reveals is not suprising given both past and present history.

Some murderers are called assassins because this name was given in the 11th Century to a sect of Shi’ite Muslim fanatics who pledged themselves to murder those who did not believe in their religion.

The word assassin comes from the Arab hashishi or hashish eater, supposedly because the killers were alleged to take hashish to give ecstatic visions of paradise before setting out on a mission which might well end in their own deaths.

The Family Book of Questions and Answers, edited by Anthony Addison, (London: Treasure Press, 1987), 122.

However, the veracity of this explanation is questionsed by some. An online search introduced the idea that the hashish connection actually comes from Marco Polo’s account of his visit to Alamut in 1273.

The Old Man kept at his court such boys of twelve years old as seemed to him destined to become courageous men. When the Old Man sent them into the garden in groups of four, ten or twenty, he game them hashish to drink [sic]. They slept for three days, then they were carried sleeping into the garden where he had them awakened.

When these young men woke, and found themselves in the garden with all these marvelous things, they truly believed themselves to be in paradise. And these damsels were always with them in songs and great entertainments; they; received everything they asked for, so that they would never have left that garden of their own will.

And when the Old Man wished to kill someone, he would take him and say: “Go and do this thing. I do this because I want to make you return to paradise.” And the assassins go and perform the deed willingly.

“ETYMOLOGY OF ASSASSIN” as viewed at on January 29, 2008.

To be honest, I’m not overly concerned about the etymology of the word. What struck me initially was how things haven’t changed over the years. Muslims are still killing people for religious leaders and “assassins” are still hoping their actions will earn them paradise. How sad it is that so many people have willingly given their lives for a lie. That makes biblical evangelism and mission all the more important as they will perish unless they hear the gospel.

For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”

Romans 10:13-15

Who then will go?

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