In the Middle East are many religions. The most found religions are Muslim, Christianity, and Judaism. One religion you will most likely not hear about is the religion of the Druze. It is a very secretive and small religion. Not many documents and information on this practice are released to people outside the religion. The Druze are known for their belligerence and independence. The Druze religion is a small, old, unique, and mysterious practice.
The history of the Druze is old and unlike any other religion. The religion was established around 1017 in Egypt and North Africa, when the sixth Fatimid caliph, al-hakim bi-Amrih Allah, declared himself the incarnation of God (“Druze” Microsoft p.1). However, even before 1017, ideas and increase of the new religion had begun. Hamzah ibn ‘Ali converted Muhammad ad-Darazi, a Shi’i missionary from which the religion got its name. (Adams p.1) Muhammed al-Darazi preached the new religion to the people of Lebanon and was reportedly killed for letting people practice wine drinking and sexual excesses. After al-Darazi’s death, Hamzah made new fundamentals of the new sect with the help of many others on many sacred works. In 1021, al-Hakim Hamzah was supposedly murdered, but his followers believed that he had gone into hiding and would return again for his first appearance in a thousand years (M.Z.H. p.1061). After the religion had been established, it moved into Syria and Lebanon. In 1860, a war broke out between the Druzes and the Christians.
The British supported the Druze and the French supported the Christians. Over 15,000 Christians died. In 1861, a Christian governor general set up an autonomous system of government in Lebanon where the people lived in prosperity and relative tranquility until 1918 (H.Z.H p.1061). After World War I, the Atrash family gained possibilities of seizing control of an area that was controlled by Jabar ad-Duruz. The French were supporting the Druze but could eventually not control the situation. Revolt broke out in Syria and part of Lebanon, but the revolt failed due to lack of support from the Lebanese Druzes. Today, the Druze mainly live in Syria in Jabal ad-Duruz, but have many scattered villages in Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel (H.Z.H. p.1060).
The people of the Druze are as particular as their religion. The Druze have many names. They have the names Druze and Druse but they call themselves Mowahhidoon or what they call tawhid, which both mean “monotheists.”(Druse p.1) They believe in the divinity of al-Hakim be Amr Allah. The Muslim people do not consider the Druze Muslims but the Druze regard themselves as carriers of the core of the Muslim religion (Kjeilen p.1). The Druze people believe in one God and claim that the qualities of God can not be understood or defined by humans. (Miller) In the Druze religion, a calf is considered to be the central symbol that represents the negative forces in the world (Kjeilen p.1). Another symbol is the Druze star. It represents the 5 wise ministers each with his own quality. Green, ‘al-‘akl, is for the “the mind” necessary for understanding the truth, red, ‘ah-nahts, is for “the soul”, yellow, ‘al-kalima, is for “the word”, blue, ‘as-sahik, is for the mental power of the will, and white is for the realization of the blue. (Kjeilen p.2) The Druze flag has the same colors and the same meanings. They are lined up horizontally starting with blue, white, red, yellow, and then green. The moral system of the religion is based upon 7 principles:
Act in Total accordance to al-Hakim’s will (“Druze” p.1) The Druze people are divided up into two groups, the ‘uqqal and the juhhal. The ‘uqqal are the sages who initiated the secret teachings of the hikmah, the Druze religious laws. The juhhal are the “ignorant” ones who do not know the hikmah. The ‘uqqal are divided into several grades. Those who achieve the highest degree of perfection in meditation and long hours of meditation, study, seclusion, and ascetic practices are called ajawid, “the generous”. The ‘uqqal can not reveal the teachings of the hikmah to the juhhal until the juhhal has been initiated into the ‘uqqal. Even though the two groups do not always get along just perfect, they have a religious duty to help one another. It would be considered improper to ask a Druze about his religion whether he is part of the juhhal or the ‘uqqal (Adams p. 1). They’re lifestyle is one of isolation. No one is allowed to convert in or out of the religion. They are allowed to pray freely depending on where they live (Kjeilen p.2). They follow many of the rules that are from the Islam religion. Drinking a beverage that is intoxicating is forbidden among many others.
Other religions have connections with the Druze. One of these religions is the Islam religion. The Druze have evolved from an Islamic atmosphere, however they have some different views. The Druze believe in reincarnation, monogamy and free will to transmit inheritance. There was a claim between the Muslims and the Druze with many arguments. They discussed that the chain of Imams who oriented, gave decision for the call were the descendents of Muhammed, that all prayers and rituals would be recited in Islamic word and spirit, and religious status in the Islamic Hanafi legislation with small modification. They also discussed how the Sufi conduct of Druze priests are quite Islamic in nature. With Sufism, Druze conformity with Islam reached its climax. Also, that the history of Druze says that the Druze are in Alliance with the other Islamic sects in their struggle to protect the Islamic Empire from the crusades and other empires of Islam (Abi-Khzam p.1-3).
Christianity is another religion that compares with Druze. The Druze stress the theory of evolution with respect of the three celestial religions. The Druze have tried, unsuccessfully, to rid the idea of ending in an eternal paradise or eternal hell. They also believe in fate. They believe that everyone’s lives are already planned out way ahead. “Predetermination rules everywhere” (Abi-Khzam p. 4). The Christians and the Druze believe in the same prophets, minor prophets, and disciples. The prophets have the same personality between the religions and carry out the same mission: to get God’s message to all the people. They also share their belief in Jesus and his four disciples. There are a couple things that the Christians share with the Druze that the Druze do not share with the Muslims. One would be monogamy. The Druze believe in one woman for every one man. They also think sex should only be looked upon for reproduction. Even parts of this could be considered a sin.
The Druze are strictly monotheists. They believe that there is only one God. They also believe that it was not Jesus who was crucified but a look-alike was crucified instead. They have a high value for sacrifice (Abi-Khzam p. 4-5). Judaism and Druze do not have as much in common as Druze have with Christianity or Islam. The Druze say that the Jewish were separated into twelve different tribes and three and a half were lost. The Druze claim that they are those three and a half tribes. They decided to leave Judaism but did not join Christianity or Islam for a long time after. Other religions have relationships with the Druze. The Hindu religion is nothing like the Druze. The Druze do not believe that a soul can transmigrate into anything other than a human being, and of the same sex. However there is a book, Epistle of India, but is not considered one of their books. The Druze also do not believe in Nirvana. They believe that a soul can not live without a body (Abi-Khzam p. 6)
“The Druze beliefs have developed out of Isma’ili teachings (H.Z.H. p. 1061).” The Druzes are considered the highest of the Isma’ili sects. They believe that al-Hakim was the last incarnation of the Deity and that he was proceeded by
nine previous incarnations, each called maqam. (H.Z.H. p. 1061) The Druze do not pray in mosques. The religious meetings are held outside the village in inconspicuous places (“Druze” Microsoft p.2). The first half of the meeting is for both the juhhal and the uqqal. The second half is for the uqqal only. The juhhal has few occasions where they have access to religious text, even though there are no actual readings from the text. The people are just supposed to have the concept of the teachings and principles of the books. Their religious meetings are held on Thurdays (“Druse” p.2). The Druze hold the Qu’ran to be sacred but looked on as an outer shell, holding “inner esoteric meaning.” Kitab Al Hikma(The Book of Wisdom) is the book most often used. The strongly believe in instantaneous reincarnation. When one man dies, his soul goes to a baby boy being born. They believe that heaven and hell is spiritual, a complete state of mind (“Druse” p.1-2).
The people of the Druze religion are like no other. They seem to belong to many religions but are yet different. Their beliefs are similar to many but there are those few beliefs that keep them distinct. The Druze is a great religion to learn about. There is much you can learn about by basically combining three religions into one.
- Abi-Khzam, Sheikh Anwar F. The Relationship between the Druze Faith and Other Religions. n.d. The Lebanese University. 16 April 2000 .
- Activities of the Druze Religion Research and Publications Institute. n.d. n. p. 26 April 2000.
- Adams, Charles J. “Druze.” Encyclopedia Americana. 1981 edition Dotor, Santiago. Druze People (Syria). 3 December 1999. n.p. 26 April 2000 .
- Druse, Druze, Mowahhidoon. n.d. n.p 16 April 2000.
- Druze. n.d. n.p. 26 April 2000.
- “Druze.” Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2000. n.d. n.p. . Druze Background. n.d. n.p. 16 April 2000.
- H. Z. H. “Druzes.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 1983 Edition Kjeilen, Tore. “Druze”. n.d. Encyclopedia of the Orient. 16 April 2000.
- Miller, Cathy. Class Discussion. n.d. n.p.
- Noueihed, Nabil I. History of the Druze in America. n.d. n.p. 16 April 2000.