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DRUZE. The Druze faith, or tawhid, grew out of the extremist Isma’ili Shi’i theology that prevailed in early Fatimid Cairo. This system had promised a radical political change within Islam which failed to materialize once the Isma’iliyah gained political power in North Africa, especially in Egypt in 969. People still looked for messianic rule and many came to believe that the caliph al-Hakim ibn `Amr Allah (r. 996-1021) was the expected deliverer.

Druz Star

The leading apologist for al-Hakim and his divinity was Hamzah ibn `Ali ibn Ahmad al-Zuzani, a Persian Isma’ili theologian. In 1017, a year after Hamzah’s arrival in Cairo, al-Hakim issued a proclamation (sijill) in which he revealed himself to be the manifestation of the deity. Hamzah pursued the da’wah (“divine call”) of the new faith throughout the empire and even beyond, to Damascus and Aleppo, aided in his missionary endeavors by two disciples in particular, Baha’ al-Din alSamuki and Muhammad al-Darazi, the latter being generally regarded as having given converts the name by which they became commonly known, Druze.

Even in its earliest stages Druzism was not merely a sect of Islam but a new religion that aimed to establish a millennial world order. Within a year of al-Hakim’s proclamation, however, a disagreement between Hamzah and Darazi arose over who was to exercise the imamate and how converts were to be brought to the faith. Hamzah publicly rebuked Darazi, and in 1019 the latter was assassinated and then anathematized by the Druze faith as a heretic. Less than two years later al-Hakim disappeared suddenly under mysterious circumstances. His successor, al-Zahir (r. 1021-1035) denied his predecessor’s divinity and worked for the destruction of those who believed in the Druze message. Despite persecution, Baha’ al-Din continued pursuing the missionary da’wah, gaining new converts and nurturing those who had survived the imperial reprisals, particularly in the remoter regions of Mount Lebanon. During this time he codified the religious teaching of Druzism into six books known as Al-hikmah al-sharifah (The Noble Knowledge; the so-called Druze canon) containing III epistles and sijill composed by al-Hakim, Hamzah, and himself. In 1043 the da’wah was formally ended, and after this no new adherents were admitted to the faith.

Although known to the world as Druze, they are known to themselves as al-Muwahhidun, or strict Unitarians, believers in absolute monotheism. The tenets of the tawhid have been held in secret since the closing of the da’wah and shared only by a small number within the community in each succeeding generation initiated into the ranks of the ‘uqqal (the enlightened), which from the earliest days included women. The remainder, known as the juhhal (the ignorant or uninitiated), protected the secrecy and sanctity of their religion through loyalty to one another.

The beliefs and characteristics that set the Druze apart from Muslims are many. Their faith is exclusive and secret rather than universal. They adhere to a belief in the transmigration of souls (tanasukh) which they share in part with the `Alawiyah and Yazidis. Male circumcision, universal among Muslims, is not ritually practiced among the Druze. Polygamy, while permitted to Muslims, is forbidden to Druze, along with concubinage and temporary marriage (mut`ah). Divorce is not the easy matter it is for a Muslim, and a Druze woman can initiate the proceedings. The so-called five pillars of Islam are not ritually observed or even acknowledged. Toward non-Druze, strict secrecy is required, and to protect oneself and one’s family in times of mortal danger a Druze is permitted outwardly to deny the faiththe Shi’i practice of dissimulation (taqiyah). Unlike the Shi`is, however, the Druze place no virtue on martyrdom, and the Islamic concept of predestination does not figure in their theology. Druzism separates itself from Islam irrevocably by declaring that the revelations of al-Hakim contain the ultimate truth, not those of the prophet Muhammad.

After a century of political prominence in Mount Lebanon during the seventeenth century under the Ma’nid dynasty, the Druze split over the succession of the rival Shihab clan and many fled in the early eighteenth century to the region of southern Syria known thereafter as the Jabal al-Duruz. When the Shihabs converted to Maronite Christianity in the mid-eighteenth century, Druze leadership passed to the Jumblatt (Junblat) family, who were relatively recent arrivals from Aleppo, reputedly of Kurdish stock. Rivalry between the Druze and Maronites flared into open fighting on several occasions in the nineteenth century, particularly in 1860, and subsequent French involvement on behalf of the Maronites resulted in the creation of an autonomous Christian governate (mutasarrifiyah) which became the basis of an enlarged Lebanon, first under a French mandate in 1920 and then as an independent republic in 1943 in which the Druze counted for only 6.7 percent of the population. The leading Druze political figure from independence until his assassination during the Civil War in 1976 was Kamal Jumblatt. He was succeeded by his son Walid, who still presides with unquestioned authority over the political interests of the Druze in Lebanon. The political leadership of the Druze in Syria has traditionally been exercised by the al-Atrash family. Traditional Druze leadership in Israel has come from the Tarif clan of Julis in Galilee. Since independence, the Druze, alone among the Arabs of the former Palestine mandate, have served in the Israeli military and occasionally been given minor posts in the government and diplomatic service.

Still largely a rural-based community, the Druze are rarely found in communities of their own exceeding 10,000, the exceptions being al-Suwayda’ in Syria and Ba’qlin in Lebanon. They number between 350,000 and 400,000 out of a population of close to 4 million in Lebanon, and in Syria between 400,000 and 450,000 out of a population of over 12 million. A smaller community of 60,000 to 70,000 lives in Israel proper augmented since 1967 by another 15,000 in the occupied Golan Heights. In addition there are some 15,000 to 20,000

Druze in Jordan and perhaps as many as 1oo,ooo living outside the Middle East in the Americas, Australia, and West Africa, giving a total Druze population of slightly over I million worldwide. The Druze of Lebanon are found primarily in small towns and villages in the Shuf district on the western slope of Mount Lebanon from the Beirut-Damascus highway south to the Jazzin escarpment. A second concentration is located in the southeast of the country in the Wadi al-Taym district in the western foothills of Mount Hermon around the towns of Hasbayya and Rashayya. A third center is Beirut itself where a small number have permanent residence. In Syria, 8o percent of the Druze are found in the district of al-Suwayda’ (Jabal al-Duruz) south of the Damascus on the Jordanian frontier. A second concentration is located on the eastern slope of Mount Hermon in Damascus province and in the city itself. A third and very historic center is the Jabal al-A’la region west of Aleppo near the Turkish frontier where some 30,000 to 40,000 Druze live in a dozen villages dotted with ruined Byzantine churches (e.g., Qalb Lawzah). The Druze of Israel live primarily in sixteen towns and villages in Galilee (nine of them exclusively Druze) and two major settlements on Mount Carmel southeast of Haifa.

[See also Lebanon and the biography of jumblatt.]


Abu Izzeddin, Nejla M. The Druzes: A New Study of Their History, Faith, and Society. Leiden, 1984.

Betts, Robert B. The Druze. New Haven, 1988.

Bouron, Narcisse. Les Druzes: Histoire du Liban et de la montagne haouranaise. Paris, 1930.

Chasseaud, George Washington. The Druses of the Lebanon: Their Manners, Customs, and History; with a Translation of Their Religious Code. London, 1855.

Firro, Kais M. A History of the Druzes. Leiden, 1992.

Joumblatt, Kamal. I Speak for Lebanon. Translated from French by Michael Pallis. London, 1982.

Layish, Aharon. Marriage, Divorce, and Succession in the Druze Family. Leiden, 1982.

Makarem, Sami N. The Druze Faith. Delmar, N.Y., 1974.

Najjar, Abdallah. The Druze: Millennium Scrolls Revealed. Translated by Fred Massey. [Atlanta,] 1973. Translation of Madhhab al-Duruz wa-al-tawhid (Cairo, 1965).

Silvestre de Sacy, Antoine I. Expose de la religion des Druzes: Tire des livres religieux de cette secte. 2 vols. Paris, 1838.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/druze/

  • writerPosted On: November 6, 2012
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