Druze faith is an offshoot of Ismailism that appeared in the first half of the fifth century AH based on the belief in the divinity of al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, the sixth Fatimid caliph. The Druze call themselves Muwahhidun (Monotheists).
Muhammad b. Ismail al-Darazi, al-Akhram, Hamza b. Ali al-Zuzani were among the most prominent Druze missionaries.
Rasa'il al-hikma is their most important text, in which such key doctrines as manifestation, Taqammus, Nutq, and the abrogation of religions and divine laws are discussed.
Although the Druze have a closed community, their insistence on precautionary dissimulation (taqiyya) and concealing their beliefs have allowed them to have a peaceful coexistence with the followers of other faith traditions.
The Druze have usually lived in mountainous regions. Today, they are mostly found in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine, with each community having its own independent leader. An outstanding political leader of the Druze in Lebanon was Kamal Jumblatt, the founder of the Progressive Socialist Party. Today, his son Walid Jumblatt is the political leader of the Lebanese Druze.
Some contemporary Druze thinkers have tried to explain the doctrines of the Druze faith on the basis on Islamic and Quranic teachings so as to introduce the Druze faith as an Islamic denomination.
There are various views as to the origin of the name “Druze” (Duruz in Arabic) but according to the most common view, it is the plural form of the word darazi, taken from the name of Muhammad b. Isma'il al-Darazi. However, the Druze themselves reject this view and dissociate themselves from the teachings of Muhammad b. Isma’il.
In 408/1017, al-Akhram propagated for the first time the idea of the divinity of the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah. However, his movement failed as the official Isma'ili missionary institution rejected his idea, and he was executed. One year later, Hamza b. Ali al-Zuzani began a new missionary movement.
The Druze believe that al-Hakim began the call to “monotheism” in 408/1017 and introduced Hamza as the “Leader of the Monotheists” (Imam al-Muwahhidin). However, there appeared a rift in the movement as Muhammad b. Isma'il al-Darazi disputed the leadership of Hamza.
Muhammad b. Isma'il was apparently the first person to openly declare the divinity of al-Hakim and thus gained the support of a considerable number of Hamza'a followers, which led to protests against the new movement. In 410/1019, Muhammad b. Isma'il disappeared or was killed by his opponents. Hamza too went into hiding, but he resumed his missionary work after one year, seemingly with al-Hakim’s support. He theologized about al-Hakim’s divinity and created a powerful missionary organization.
The new movement was faced with serious opposition from the official missionary institution of Isla'ilism. Hamid al-Din Kirmani (d. 411/1020), the most prominent Isma'ili missionary in that period, authored several works against the new religious movement and the divinity of al-Hakim, such as Risala Mabasim al-bisharat bi l-Imam al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah and al-Risala al-wa’iza (the Preaching Treatise).
When al-Hakim was killed or went into hiding in 411/1020, Hamza and his other missionaries also disappeared. After al-Hakim, his son al-Zahir was enthroned. He persecuted the followers of the new movement such that none of them remained in Egypt. Thus, the Druze remained only in southern Lebanon, Syria— especially near Mount Hermon and in the west of Aleppo.
When Hamza disappeared, the activities of the Druze was suspended for several years until Ali b. Ahmad al-Sammuqi, known as Baha' al-Din al-Mutqani became the leader of the movement. His missionary activity took place outside Egypt and extended to all the Levant. He gained a multitude of followers in Southern Lebanon, Wadi al-Taym, Damascus, Aleppo, and Jabal al-Sumaq. The leadership of the Druze in Mount Lebanon region was given to Abu l-Fawaris Mi’dad al-Tanukhi. The emirate of al-Tanukhi was a refuge for many of the Druze who fled the persecutions of al-Zahir.
End of the Mission
Rivalry of some Druze missionaries, such as Ibn al-Kurdi and Sukayn, and their conflict with al-Mutqani over the leadership of the movement created a rift between the Druze and eventually led to the end of the Druze mission.
Shortly before his death in 435/1044, al-Mutqani officially announced the end of the Druze mission. Since then. The Druze became a closed community: they no longer accepted new converts, nor did they allow their members to convert to other faith traditions.
There is not much information about the activities of the Druze after the death of al-Mutqani, except for a short period. They established many local dynasties in the mountainous regions where they resided, such as the Tanukhid dynasty in the mountains of the east of Beirut whose territories extended from Tripoli to Galilee during the zenith of their power. Also, the rule of the family of Jandal (r. 494/1101-552/1157) extended from Wadi al-Taym to the south of Chouf, Baalbek, and some parts of Jabal Amel. Among the notable emirs of this dynasty were Jandal b. Qays and his two sons Barq and Dahhak, in whose time a series of battles occurred between the Druze and the Nusayris and Nizaris in 522/1157, ending with the victory of the Druze. During the reign of Dahhak, Nur al-Din Mahmud b. al-Zank (r. 541-569) took over from the family of Jandal the castle of Jandal and Baalbek and then Wadi al-Taym.
Involvement in Politics
After the conquest of Syria in 922 by the Ottoman Sultan Selim I, the Druze appeared as a political power, and the Druze dynasty of Al Ma’an (r. 922-1109) replaced the dynasty of Al Bahtar and ruled over central and northern Lebanon. The first emir of this dynasty was Fakhr al-Din I, who became the governor of the Chouf region with the support of the Ottomans. After his death in 951/1544, his son Qurqumaz came to power. In 992, the Ottomans accused Qurqumaz of stealing the taxes sent to Istanbul, and for that reason commanded Ibrahim Pasha, the temporary ruler of Egypt, to crush Qurqumaz. Ibrahim Pasha deceitfully invited the Druze to a session in Ayn Sawfar and had them killed there. It is reported that on that day six-hundred Druze men were killed and hundreds more were captivated, but Emir Qurqumaz managed to escape.
After several years, Fakhr al-Din II, son of Qurqumaz came to power. During his reign, he ruled over a vast area of the Levant extending in the north to Antioch and in the south to Safad in Palestine. Eventually, in a battle with the Ottomans, he was captivated and executed in Istanbul.
Settling in Palestine
During the reign of Fakhr al-Din II, the Druze found an outstanding military, political, and economic status in the region. In the same period, their presence in Galilee and Karmil in Palestine was consolidated.
Fakhr al-Din II had a tolerant attitude to the followers of other faith traditions, who were allowed to live peacefully in Druze villages.
The Shihabid Dynasty
After Fakhr al-Din II, the rule of Al Ma'an declined and when Ahmad Ma'ani died in 1109/1897, the Al Ma’an dynasty ended and was replaced by the Shihabid dynasty or the dynasty of the Druze Emirs.
During the Shihabids' rule (1109/1897-1258/1842), tribal conflicts between the Druze intensified, and in 1123 a severe war broke out between Qaysi and Yemeni clans in Ayn Dara. This war ended with the victory of the Qaysis, and the Yemenis migrated to Hauran in Syria.
During the time of Emir Mulhim (1144/1731-1166/1753), the Qaysis had two major groups: Yazbakis and Junbalatis, which have continued to be the two major groups of the Lebanese Druze until today.
In 1247/1831, Muhammad Ali Pasha, the ruler of Egypt, occupied the southern part of Syria and ruled over that region until 1265/1849. During these years, the Shihabid rule, which was limited to Beirtu, Sidon, and Tyre, was controlled by Muhammad Ali Pasha.
Ibrahim Pasha, the son of Muhammad Ali, took certain measures against the Lebanese Druze, such as banning their weapon industry, taxing them, and calling them to military service, which led to their revolt in Hauran, Wadi al-Taym and Mount Lebanon. In this period, many Druze leaders were banished with the accusation of revolting against Ibrahim Pasha’a decisions.
In 1256, the Druze established ties with the Lebanese Christians who were against Ibrahim Pasha—a unity that led to the banishment of Muhammad Ali Pasha from Lebanon. Afterwards, a series of conflicts broke out between them and the Lebanese Maronite Christians, which ended with the intervention of the Ottomans, who put an end to the local independence of Lebanon. Emir Bashir III (r. 1256/1840-1258/1842) was the last Shihabid emir, who was deposed and sent to Istanbul. During this incident, many Lebanese druzes, fearing the Ottomans, migrated to Jabal Hauran. Until that time, the center of the Druze’s population as well as the center of their political military influence was Lebanon.
Separation between the Lebanese and Syrian Druze
In 1916, according to Sykes-Picot Agreement, the control of Syria and Lebanon was given to France, the control of Palestine was allocated to Britain, and Syria got control of Jabal al-Duruz. Consequently, the Palestinian Druze were separated from their co-religionists in Syria and Lebanon.
In the early years of 1920s, the Druze played a major role in the Syrian-Arabic movement against France, so much so that the movement was called the Druze Revolution. Sultan Utrush, a Druze, was the leader of this movement. However, the movement was crushed, and many Syrian Druzes fled to the east of Jordan, Galilee, and Mount Karmal.
Since 1930, the Druze in Lebanon and Syria participated in the political activities of their respective countries. In 1956, they held six out of ninety-nine parliament seats in Lebanon.
Today, most of the Druze live in Lebanon, Syria, and the Occupied Palestine, but Druze communities are also found in Jordan, Europe, North America, Latin America, Philippines, Australia, and West Africa.
The accurate number of the Druze population is not known, but it is estimated to be more than one million.
Places of Residence
The Druze have lived for the most part in mountainous regions. This is still obviously the case in Lebanon, Syria, and the Occupied Palestine.
In Lebanon, the Druze mostly reside in Mount Lebanon, Wadi al-Taym, Chouf, and Aley.
In Syria, they mostly reside in al-Suwayda Governorate, in which Jabal al-Duruz is located. This region has a vast area with more than 73 villages.
In the Occupied Palestine, most of the Druze live in the two mountainous regions of Galilee and Mount Karmal.
Recent Events and Leadership
Despite strong national and religious bonds between the Druze, they have separate leadership and social structures in each of Syria, Lebanon, and the Occupied Palestine and consequently different shares in the politics of their respective countries.
In Lebanon, Kamal Jumblatt, who was the representative of the Druze of Chouf in the Lebanese parliament, founded the Progressive Socialist Party, which is still active in the political scene of Lebanon.
In 1948, the private law of the Druze community was ratified by a committee of scholars, judges, and representatives of the Lebanese parliament and thus recognized by the government.
The Syrian Druze have been among the main ethnic groups with political power, though their power has recently declined.
In the Occupied Palestine, the Druze recognized the rule of the Israeli regime and thus have had a peaceful coexistence with the occupiers. This Israeli regime in return adopted a more favorable attitude toward them compared to the other non-Jewish ethnic groups such that on April 21, 1957 the regime recognized them as a distinct community. They were allowed to have their own religious courts in 1962, and the title “Druze” was written on their identification cards instead of “Arab,” which made them further separated from the Arabs.
The Druze in the Occupied Palestine have had representatives in the Israeli Knesset since the early years of the formation of the occupying regime.
However, the Druze of the Golan Heights, which were added to the territories of the Occupied Palestine in 1980, have tried to keep their allegiance to Syria and have resisted against assimilation into the Israeli society.
Doctrines and Beliefs
The Druze were always concerned with concealing their beliefs. Their emphasis on dissimulation (taqiyya) has allowed them to live peacefully with the followers of other faith traditions and to adapt to various circumstances and contexts. For this reason, Druze scholars have used especial codes and symbols in their writings which are not understandable for ordinary people.
The Druze never allowed the publication of their religious books, but in 1250/1834 during the invasion of Ibrahm Pasha’a army some of their books fell into the hands of the invaders and thus their beliefs were disclosed for the first time.
In the Druze view, God is the first Creator and free of all attributes. There is nothing similar or opposite to Him. He is beyond human understanding and reason. He cannot be described or known by a name. Notwithstanding, God has manifested Himself in various ways so that human beings can be acquainted with and get closer to Him.
The Doctrine of Manifestation
The doctrine of divine manifestation is one of the most fundamental Druze teachings. God manifested Himself in seventy-two cycles of the world's existence. In seventy of these cycles, in total equal to 343 million years, He manifested Himself in the form of al-Ali al-A'la (the Greatest of the Great). The creation of Adam (a) and the prostration of the angels before him occurred in these cycles.
Afterwards, in the seventy-first cycle, God manifested Himself in the form of al-Barr (the Benevolent). In al-Barr cycle, the intellect appeared and called the people to monotheism; some accepted his call, but eventually in this cycle the people were inclined to polytheism, thus earning the wrath of al-Barr, who sent them the religions of Noah (a), Abraham (a), Moses (a), Jesus (a), Muhammad (s), and Muhammad b. Isma'il. After a long interval, in the seventy-second period, God manifested Himself in Abu Zakariyya, Ali, Mu’al, al-Qa’im bi-Amr Allah, the son of Mu’al, al-Mansur bi-Allah, al-Mu’izz, al-Aziz, and eventually in al-Hakim bi-Amir Allah. These cycles of manifestation are proofs for people, and God’s hiddenness is a test for the believers. Currently, due to prevalence of disbelief among people, God has permanently hidden Himself from them.
The Druze believe that the One God manifested Himself for the last time in the person of al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, and thus no one else is to be worshipped together with al-Hakim. This belief is the reason why they call themselves al-Muwahhidun (the Monotheists).
According to the Druze, the manifestation of God in human form (or the manifestation of lahut in nasut) motivates human beings to get closer to God. The human in whom God manifests himself has a divine aspect and a human aspect. The explanation of this doctrine has always been difficult for the Druze. Based on this doctrine, al-Hakim has a divine nature, which is indescribable, inconceivable by the senses, and beyond time and space.
Creation and Mission
Although the Druze doctrine of creation is explained in a neo-Platonist framework, it has some differences with the Isma'ili doctrine.
According to the Druze teachings, God created the Universal Intellect from His light and by His command and embedded the elements of all creatures in his knowledge, making him the cause of all creatures. When the Universal Intellect contemplated himself and found nothing similar or against himself, he became conceited. At that moment, his opposite was issued from him. The Universal Intellect realized that he was tested, so he asked God for forgiveness and help against his opposite. From this request for forgiveness, the Universal Soul was created, but beside the light of intellect, some elements of darkness were also manifested in the Universal Soul.
From the light of the Universal Soul, the Word was created; from the Word, the Predecessor (Sabiq) or the Right Wing (Janah Ayman) was created; from the Predecessor, the Subsequent (al-Tali) or the Left Wing (Janah Aysar) was created; and finally from the Subsequent, the earth, spheres, constellations, four elements, and prime matter were created. Thus, the hierarchy in creation is as follows:
- Universal Intellect
- Universal Soul
- Right Wing
- Left Wing
Hamza established a hierarchy in his missionary organization based on this hierarchy of creation. He considered the Universal Intellect embodied in himself, and the other four levels respectively in Isma'il b. Muhammad al-Tamimi, Muhammad b. Wahab al-Qurashi, Salama b. Abd al-Wahhab al-Samiri, and Ali b. Ahmad al-Sammuqi, who were the Sacred Four—a title taken from Quran 9:36— who appear in every generation with a different image and name.
The Druze believe in the doctrine of taqammus (lit. wearing a shirt), according to which the human soul is eternal, and after death it transmigrates into another body, like wearing a new shirt. They adduce the following verses of the Quran to support this doctrine: Quran 2:28, 56, 243; Quran 22:66; Quran 30:11.
All human souls were created together, and thus their number always remains the same. In addition, the number of faithful and faithless souls was also determined in the beginning of creation, and it never changes. It is only when a believer passes away that a new believer can enter the world, and likewise it is only when a disbeliever dies that a new disbeliever is born. This is why the Druze do not accept converts to their communities.
During taqammus, gender is preserved: the soul of a man does not transmigrate to the body of a woman, and vice versa. Likewise, the soul of a human being never transmigrates into the body of an animal.
The Druze do not hide their belief in taqammus (unlike their other beliefs), but rather defend it vehemently in their writings.
The Doctrine of Speech
When a soul transmigrates to another body, all its knowledge is also transmitted with it. This is why human beings remember the things they learned in their previous lives. This remembrance is called speech (nutq). However, Abd Allah Najjar, a contemporary Druze thinker, considers the doctrine of nutq superstitious and states that the fact that human beings do not remember their past lives shows the falsity of this belief.
Resurrection and the Day of Judgment
The Druze deny resurrection, based on the belief that the soul is eternal and does not die. In their view, the Last Day is the time when souls reach their perfection, and resurrection is when monotheism prevails and taqammus ends. On that day, righteous souls will be connected to the Universal Intellect according to the degree of their perfection. The more one is connected to the Universal Intellect the more one is rewarded. Punishment is conversely due to failing to achieve this connection.
Among the signs of the nearness of the Last Day, according to the Druze beliefs, is the domination of Christians and Jews over the earth, the occupation of Palestine by the Jews, and people’s corruption and false beliefs. On that day, al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah appears in his Human form near the Yemeni pillar of Kaaba, Hamza b. Ali al-Zuzani stands beside him threatening al-Hakim’s enemies with his sword, and people will be divided into four groups: people of the exterior, people of the interior, apostates, and monotheists. The first three groups will be doomed and monotheists alone will be saved.
Heaven and Hell
Abrogation of Religions and Divine Laws
According to the book Rasa'il al-hikma, the mission of Hamza b. Ali was abrogating the past religions. Therefore, an element of true faith is dissociating oneself from all religions. The Druzes' call to monotheism is the final stage of all missions and teachings of the past prophets, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Religious Rituals and Laws
The Druze belief in metaphorical interpretation has resulted in their peculiar understanding of Islamic obligations, leading to rejection of some of them and observation of some others. In several passages of Rasa'il al-hikma, spiritual upbringing is considered more important than fulfilling religious obligations. In some cases, those who devote their lives to seeking knowledge and divine truths have been exempted from fulfilling religious obligations.
Seven Monotheistic Principles
Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah replaced seven religious principles for his followers with seven monotheistic principles:
- Honesty in words (sidq al-lisn), replacing prayer and embodied in faith and monotheism. The five times of prayer are also replaced by five “limits” (hudud).
- Preservation of the brothers (hifz al-ikhwan), which replaced zakat. This principle means helping the brothers in faith and attending to them in all aspects.
- Abandoning the worship of “nothingness” (adam) and calumny, instead of fasting. They define nothingness as any religious tradition other than their own.
- Dissociating oneself from the devil, replacing hajj. In the Druze view, all religious leaders other than their own leaders are devils (Iblis).
- Worshipping al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah in all times, instead of shahadatayn (the two testimonies of faith)
- Being pleased with God’s will, instead of jihad.
- Submitting to the command of al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah instead of wilaya. This and the previous principle are the corollaries of the previous principles, and with them the Druze are distinguished from other people.
However, Abd Allah Najjar maintains that the principles of Druze shariah is the same principles of Islamic shariah: prayer, zakat, fasting, hajj, jihad, and wilayah.
Laws of Marriage
- Emphasis on the equality of rights
- Permissibility of divorce
- Prohibition of remarrying one’s ex-wife
- When there is a divorce, the guilty spouse gives half of his or her belongings to the other spouse.
- Prohibition of polygamy
- Emphasis on reproduction
- Prohibition of marriage with a non-Druze
These laws are based on the views of Sayyid Abd Allah al-Tanukhi (820/1417-884/1479) and are still effective.
Laws of Inheritance
The Druze laws of inheritance, like many of their other religious laws, accord with Hanfi law, with the exception that, according to the Druze laws, one can deprive one’s legal inheritors from inheritance and grant his belongings to others.
The Druze fast on certain days of the year, most importantly the first nine days of Dhu l-Hijja. Their fast is similar to the Muslim fast.
The greatest Druze religious festival is Eid al-Adha.
For the Druze, the most foundational ethical principle is honesty, and lying is allowed only in such cases as precautionary dissimulation (taqiyya).
According to the principle of “preservation of the brothers,” mutual help and support between the Druze is of paramount importance. Each Druze must care for the material and spiritual needs of his brothers.
According to the principles of submission and being pleased, a Druze must submit to the will of al-Hakim and be pleased with it, because no deed is accepted without being pleased with his will.
Although they admit that Rasa’il al-hikma abrogates religious duties, the Druze reject all kinds of libertinism and emphasize modesty. They prohibit adultery and drinking intoxicants.
The Druze community is divided into two classes: uqqal (the wise) and juhhal (the ignorant).
Uqqal are righteous clerics who know religious truths and are able to read and interpret the secret writings and Rasa'il al-hikma. They are the guides of the juhhal and supervise the religiosity of the community.
The most knowledgeable person among the uqqal has a special authority in the Druze community and is called shaykh.
The rest of the Druze people who are not in control of their carnal desires are called juhhal (the ignorant). An ignorant person can be admitted among the uqqal if he passes a series of tests, in which his beliefs and behavior are evaluated. After being admitted, he must carefully observe the rulings and the ethical code; otherwise, he will be banned from religious gatherings and the reading of Rasa'il.
Religious and Social Centers
The centers for Druze religious gatherings include majlis and khalwa. The former is similar to the mosque, but the latter is the place of worship for religious people or uqqal.
Every Druze village has at least a majlis, and some villages have a majlis and a khalwa. These sacred places are run by people’s donations and endowments. The time of the gathering and worship of the uqqal is Friday nights, and the time of religious gathering for other people is Thursday nights.
It seems that it was since the time of Sayyid Abd Allah al-Tanukhi that the Druze built a number of mosques to show their Muslim roots. However, some have stated that mosques were always the place of Druze worship, and the khalwas were made by individuals for their own private worship.
Reform in the Druze Community
These thinkers are against concealing Druze teachings and limiting the understanding and interpretation of their sacred scriptures to Uqqal. They try to interpret their sacred texts for their people in a way that they can understand and accept.
Among such thinkers is Abd Allah Najjar, who, against the will of the uqqal, interpreted the contents of Rasa'il al-hikma and made most of it available to the public.
The three main Druze missionaries are the following:
- Hasan b. Haydara al-Farghani, known as al-Akhram
- Hamza b. Ali al-Zuzani
- Muhammad b. Isma’il al-Darazi, known as Nashtakin
- Rasa'il al-hikma (Treatises of Wisdom). This is the most important Druze text, consisting of 111 treatises and organized in six parts. The order of the treatises and their contents is the same in all manuscripts and printed versions. Some of the treatises are documents issues at the time of al-Hakim, some of them are written by Hamza b. Ali al-Khattab to various people, and some are explanations of Druze beliefs. A part of these treatises is also written by Muhammad b. Isma'il al-Tamimi, and another part is by al-Sammuqi. The writers of some treatises are also unknown.
- Kitab al-Nuqat wa l-dawa'ir (The Book of Dots and Circles). This book was published in 1902, but its author is unknown.
- Al-Shari'a al-ruhaniyya fi ulum al-basit wa l-kathif (The Spiritual Law on the Sciences of the Simple and the Complex). This work is a collection of treatises.
- Rasa'il iljam al-jahidin (The Treatises of Silencing the Deniers). The author has tried to write this work with the Quranic style.
- Sharh Mithaq wali al-zaman (An Account of the Pledge of the Guardian of the Time). The author has introduced himself as Haqir Muhammad Husayn.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from دروزیه in Farsi WikiShia.