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Paradise of the AssassinsMay 21 2010
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`Paradise of the Assassins` (a translation of `Firdaus-e-Bareen`, 1899) is the best know work of Abdul Halim Shaere (1860-1927), who was a father of modern Urdu Literature, from northern India and present-day Pakistan. It was immensely and deservedly popular with Urdo readers in its day, and was one of the first stories written in the Urdu language that is also in the style of a Western novel - it owes much to the style of Sir Walter Scott. For modern readers it's still surprisingly entertaining and accessible, and relevant to current events in that part of the world. The story is set in the Medieval period and concerns the Hashshashin - the Islamic cult from which the word "assassin" originates - who murder enemies based on the promise of rewards in heaven (nubile virgins). Ultimately it is critical of how religious devotion can be manipulated by more earthly concerns to get young men to commit evil deeds. The novel was prophetic by showing how religious fanatics can become disillusioned with life and enraptured by the promise (illusion) of paradise to the point of committing suicide-murder. This English translation was printed in 2005 in Pakistan.