Muslim Vikings

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There has been a discovery…have you heard? No. Maybe. Well allow me to share it with you. A few weeks ago, archaeologists unearthed Viking burial site in Sweden. Scandinavia is rich with Viking graveyards, so the discovery of another one was nothing new, but its contains were. Norse customs dictated kings and warriors be buried with treasures, weapons, slaves, and other exotic items to be used or enjoyed in the afterlife. The boat grave in this case storied a very particular item; a trove of clothing embroidered with the terms “Ali” or “Allah.” Initially, researchers believed the ancient fabrics were pure Viking material, but a closer inspection administered by Annika Larrson of Uppsala University discovered the Kufic script.

The clothes belonged to a woman in Gamla, where the burial site was excavated. Gamla is located within Uppsala, which is north of Stockholm. Two coins from Baghdad and a necklace were also found in her possession.

This shocking discovered has created some minor conflict in the field of history, nothing too serious though. Why was this material with the Vikings? The answer is simple. We have three options; the fabric was either gifted to the Viking, stolen by the Viking, or bartered to Viking in manner of trade. The question arises “hey, were Vikings Muslims?” personally I don’t think so, but professionally I am open to the possibility. Vikings often converted to Christianity, who can rightfully say a few didn’t convert to Islam.

The world has this strange perception, or rather reaction we believe the first thing we see or hear that is shocking. Debate of the fabric’s legitimacy came immediately after its discovery. Scholars like Stephennie Mulder, associate professor of Islamic art and architecture at the University of Texas at Austin thinks there’s a dating error. That is due to the creation of Kufic script 500 years after the Viking Age. Mulder contests Larsson’s work saying the latter’s work is “conjecture and supposition.” Mulder thinks Larsson has no concrete proof.

Given what we know about the prosperity of the Viking trade centers at Birka and Kiev, the Vikings developed healthy relationships with Arab traders. Furthermore, there is evidence supporting Arab caravans conducting trade within Scandinavia at the centers mentioned, and others as well. Several years ago, there was the discovery of 100,000 Islamic dirhams (coins) in Birka. This isn’t the first religious artifact with Arabic origin found in Scandinavia from the Viking Age; we have glass ring worn by a Viking woman engraved with the words “Allah.”

The debate by both women is a clash of both worlds: Viking and Muslim. Norse and Arab. Thor and Allah. Mulder is an academic of Islamic art, whereas Larsson specializes in the archaeology of textiles at Uppsala University. I’m not saying there’s going to be a battle with Larsson in the shieldwall, and Mulder on the opposing side astride a horse lance in hand. We historians fight in the classroom with speeches and academic journals supporting our ranks.

My thing is all languages come from somewhere, have some definite origin such as a common ancestor. So, even though the Kufic script may have entered the fray 500 years after the Viking age the print on the clothing found in Sweden might be one of those origins.

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History’s Unknown, Part IV: Pot-Smoking Assassins

There is a story about an Old Man in the mountain who trained other men to kill false worshippers. He founded an Islamic sect headquartered at Alamut castle. The Old Man’s name was Hasan, and he was so shrewd that he was able to steal possession of the castle from its original owner all without a single drop of blood. 

This sect of Islamic fundamentalists supplied themselves with a very potent type of marijuana known as Hashish. This group of Muslims known to history as the Hashshashin Assassins, was an elite secret society of highly trained warriors who occupied the castle of Alamut. This palace was buried deep in what is now the Qazvin Province of Iran.

(Photo of the infamous hide-and-conceal daggers used by Assassins)

The Assassins (unrelated to the classic videogame) were a terrifying, clever, and zealous group of Islamic warriors. Operating in absolute stealth, none of their victims ever saw them coming. The Assassins themselves feared nothing, not even death, in fact they embraced it.

Like a pack of wolves preying in the woods, fear of the Assassins could be felt by all souls in the Islamic world from sultans and princes, to Christian kings and their knights, and the Pope and his Crusaders. The Christians received the stealth brutality of the Assassins, but the organization itself did not discourage from Killing Muslims either.

(Pictures of the Assassins victims)

Their victims numbered in the thousands, all while they smoked hash on a daily basis receiving hallucinations. Pictured at the top left is their first victim, Nizam al-Mulk. On the right is King Conrad of Jerusalem, whose belly was sliced open by the Assassins as he strolled down the city streets of his kingdom despite having an armed escort of guards. Yeah that’s exactly how good they were. 

Pictured at the bottom right is the first European to feel the poison daggers of the Assassins, Raymond II of Tripoli (Syria). Last, on the bottom left is the attempted assassination of King Edward I of England.

Back at Alamut castle, its grandmaster Hasan, his soldiers, and servants were getting their smoke on, delving deep into the aurora of hallucinations. Hasan would use hash to recruit young boys off the streets. Furthermore, the effects of the drug gave Hasan the power he needed to hypnotize and brainwash these young cadets, binding them to his will and bidding. The term Assassin originated from the term Hashshashin. 

Marco Polo had this to say about the young killers of Hashshashin “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.” 

The garden Marco speaks of possesses rivers filled with honey and wine. Exotic plants like palm trees, and much more. The recruits first consumption of hash caused them to fall in a deep sleep for three days, and once under the Old Man’s spell after entering this “garden” they were promised a place in heaven.