DruzeThe druze are a small religious community, with members in Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. They use the Arabic language and follow a social pattern very similar to the Arabs of the region, but consider themselves neither Arabs nor Muslims. Some 600,000 Druze live in the Middle East today.
History of the Druze
The religion developed out of Ismaili Islam, a religio-political movement based in the Fatimid Caliphate, in the 10th century. The religion started out as an attempt to reform Islam, which was thought largely corrupted under the rule of the Abbassids around the beginning of the second millennium (CE). In short, the main actors were al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, Hamza and Nashtakin-Al-Darazi to name a few. The official name of the movement is "Tawheed" (Unity), but the name 'Druze' is wrongfully credited to Nashtakin-Al-Darazi, it is a misnomer.
The Druze played major roles in the history of the Levant. They were mostly scattered in Mount Lebanon and later in Jabal el-Dourouz (Druze mountain) in Syria.
The Druze also played a major role in the War of Lebanon (1975-1990). They organized a militia under the leadership of Walid Jumblatt (son of Kamal Jumblatt) mostly as a response to aggressions conducted by other factions. They were based in the Mount Lebanon area.
The Druze Today
In Lebanon, Syria, and the State of Israel, the Druze have official recognition as a separate religious community with its own religious court system. They serve in the army and vote in elections. Hovever, the Druze living in the Golan Heights consider themselves Syrian and refuse to collaborate with the Israeli state.
Prominent Druze figures include Fakhreddin II, descendant of the Ma'an dynasty, and later Kamal Jumblatt, the founder of the Progressive Socialist Party in the mid-20th century.
Their symbol is an array of 5 colors: Green, Red, Yellow, Blue and White. Each color pertains to a symbol defining its principles. The symbol can also be represented in a five-sided star. This is why the number '5' has special considerations among the religious community.
Views of the Druze
The Druze religion is a mystery religion, which does not allow its teachings to be revealed to outsiders. They are publicly open about very few details of their faith, and they do not accept any converts. This is due to the fact that they had to protect themselves against repetitive persecutions conducted by Muslims and Christians who regarded them as heretics.
The Druze believe in the Unity of God (whence the real name: Ahl al-Tawheed (sons of the Unity)). They are monotheists, like Judaism and Islam. Their theology has a Neo-platonic view about how God interacts with the world through emanations and also is similar to some gnostic and other esoteric sects. They are also influenced by Sufi philosophy.
They appear to believe that God may be able to become incarnate in a human. The principles of the Druze faith are: guarding one's tongue, protecting one's brother, respecting the elderly, helping others, and belief in one God. Another well-known feature of the Druze religion is a fervent belief in human-only reincarnation for all the members of the community.
Druze believe in prophets relative to the old testament, Jesus and Muhammad. They also believe in the wisdom of classical Greek philosophers such as Plato. In addition, they have an array of "wise men" that founded the religion in the 11th century. Individual prayer, as in Islam, does not exist. Smoking, alcohol, and the eating of pork are banned. The Druze are not allowed to intermarry with Muslims, Jews, or any other religions. However, these rules are often disregarded in modern day societies.
The Druze's holy book is called the "Hikme" book (or the book of Wisdom). They denounce materialism, especially materialism relative to religion. Thus, their places of worship are usually very modest, and their religious figures ("Ajaweed") lead very modest lifestyles. Prayer is usually conducted discreetly and among family and friends. Unlike other religions such as Judaism and Christianity, there is no official hierarchy in the religious community, except for the "Sheikh A'el", whose role is more political and social rather than religious. A religious figure is admired for his wisdom and lifestyle.
Druze Women wear a "Mandeel" (transparent loose white veil) especially in the presence of religious figures. They are considered equal to men in all aspects. Contrary to most customs, they are allowed to join the "Council of the Elders".
Traditionally, one cannot convert to the faith, though recent changes have allowed some converts. They don't admit conversion to another religion, though disguising one's own Druzeness and simulating conversions is allowed to avoid persecution, whence the saying "Christian among Christians, Muslim among Muslims".
Today, a lot of contradicting literature and hoaxes surround the Druze, mainly due to false beliefs that were used to protect them from persecutors, or simply due to outsiders telling rumors and stories. For example, it is still unclear to most outsiders whether the Druze follow the same traditions of fasting as Muslims in the month of Ramadan. This is due to the fact that the Druze have followed these traditions for numerous centuries in order to protect themselves. In reality, they ought to not follow these traditions, but instead, to follow a different fasting tradition still practiced by religious figures.
Western Druze Community
The Druze of the western world have greater freedom, so they follow their faith differently then those in the Middle East. The Druze community in the west has been growing, and many old customs are changing. Intermarriage and conversion into the faith has become a reality. Many are more knowledgeable about their faith because of this new openness, and know more about how the faith incorporated the wisdom of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc into the belief of enlightenment by seeking knowledge.