Druze

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Druze دروز
Druze star.svg
Druze Star
Total population
450,000 to 2,000,000
Regions with significant populations
 Syria 865,000[citation needed]
 Lebanon 280,000[1] to 350,000[2]
 Israel 118,000[3] *
 Jordan 20,000[4]
Outside the Middle East 100,000
In the  United States 20,000[5]
Religions
Druzism
Scriptures
Rasa'il al-hikmah (Epistles of Wisdom), Qur'an
Languages
Arabic.
English.
Hebrew (Only In Israel).
French (Only In Lebanon and Syria).
*Includes Druze in the Golan Heights

The Druze (Arabic: درزي, derzī or durzī, plural دروز, durūz; Hebrew: דרוזים‎, Druzim; also transliterated Druz or Druse) are a religious community found primarily in Lebanon, Israel, and Syria whose traditional religion is said to have begun as an offshoot of the Ismaili sect of Islam, but is unique in its incorporation of Gnostic, neo-Platonic and other philosophies. Because of such incorporation many Islamic scholars label the Druze as a non-Muslim sect.

Theologically, Druze consider themselves "an Islamic Unist, reformatory sect".[6] The Druze call themselves Ahl al-Tawhid ("People of Unity") or al-Muwahhidūn (Unitarians). The origin of the name Druze is traced to Nashtakin ad-Darazi, one of the first preachers of the religion, even though the primary leader of the faith was the Persian mystic Hamza Bin Ali.

Location

Druze leaders meeting in Jebel al-Druze, Syria, 1926.

The Druze people reside primarily in Syria, Lebanon and Israel, with a smaller community in Jordan.[7] The Israeli Druze are mostly in the Galilee (70%) and around Haifa (25%). The Jordanian Druze can be found in Amman and Zarka, about 50% live in the town of Azraq, and a smaller number in Irbid and Aqaba. The Golan Heights, the mountainous region between Israel and Syria, is home to about 20,000 Druze.[8] The Institute of Druze Studies estimates that 40%-50% of Druze live in Syria, 30%-40% in Lebanon, 6%-7% in Israel, and 1%-2% in Jordan.[9][10]

Large communities of expatriate Druze also live outside the Middle East in Australia, Canada, Europe, Latin America, the United States and West Africa. They use the Arabic language and follow a social pattern very similar to the other East Mediterraneans of the region.[11]

There are thought to be as many as 1 million Druze worldwide, the vast majority in the Levant or East Mediterranean.[12] However, some estimates of the total Druze population have been as low as 450,000.[13]

Ethnic origin and genetics

Traditionally there have been two branches of Druze living in Lebanon. The Yemeni Druze, headed by the Hamdan and Al-Atrash families, and the Kaysi Druze, headed by the Jumblat and Arsalan families.

The Hamdan family was banished from Mount Lebanon following the battle of Ain Dara in 1711. This battle was fought between two Druze factions: the Yemeni and the Kaysi. The Kaysi were represented by the Jumblat and Arslan families and the Yemeni by the Hamdan and Al-Atrash families. Following their dramatic defeat, the Yemeni faction migrated to Syria in the Jebel-Druze region and its capital, Soueida.

According to DNA testing, Druze are remarkable for their high frequency (35%) of males who carry the Y-chromosomal haplogroup L, which is otherwise uncommon in the Mideast (Shen et al 2004).[14] This haplogroup originates from prehistoric South Asia.

History

Druze woman wearing a tantur, Chouf, 1870s.

Origin of the Name

Even though much speculation surrounds the origin of the word Druze, some sources indicate that its source is the Arabic-Persian word Darazo (درز), meaning "heaven"; others claim that it is derived from the name of the Fatimid military commander Abi Mansur Anushtakeen Al Darazi or that of a Fatimid Egyptian landlord, Sheik Hussien Al-Darazi, who was one of the early converts to the faith[15].Other Western scholars have attributed it to the Comte de Dreux and even to the Druids[16], but the most plausible theory is that the term is traceable to Mohammad Bin Ismail Al Darazi (also known as Nashtakin ad-Darazi), one of the early leaders of the faith. Al Darazi was responsible for the weakening of the movement, as he revealed the faith in the year 1016 and added to it many heretical and blasphemous teachings. For this he was expelled by Hamza ibn-'Ali ibn-Ahmad.[17]. From a religious standpoint, Mohammad Bin Ismail Al Darazi plays a role similar to that of Christianity's Judas, and for this reason Druze prefer the name Mowahdeen ("Unitarians"). The name "Druze", however, is used as the official name both for identification and for historical reasons.

In the early stages of the movement the word 'Druze' is rarely mentioned by historians, and in Druze religious texts only the word Mowahidoon ("Unitarian") appears. The only early Arab historian who mentions the Druze is the 11th century Christian scholar Yehya Bin Saeed Al Antaki, who clearly makes reference to the heretical group created by the Darazi rather than the followers of Hamza Bin Ali[18]. As for Western sources, Benjamin of Tudela, the Jewish traveler who passed through Lebanon in or about 1165 was one of the first European writers to refer to the Druzes by name. The word Dogziyin ('Druzes') occurs in an early Hebrew edition of his travels, but it is clear that this is a scribal error. Be that as it may, he described the Druze as "mountain dwellers, monotheists, who believe in "soul eternity" and reincarnation."[19]

From 1017 AD to 1031 AD

The Druze faith began as a movement in Ismailism that favored the traditional and more liberal eastern order of Ismailism that was mainly influenced by Greek philosophy and Gnosticism and it apposed certain religious and philosophical ideologies that was present during that epoch.

The faith was officially revealed in the year 1017 by Hamza ibn ˤAlī ibn Ahmad. Hamza Bin Ali, who was a Persian Ismaili mystic and scholar, came to Egypt in 1014 AD and assembled a group of scholars and leaders from across the Islamic world to form the Unitarian Order. The Order was created to combat perceived corruption and alteration of the Ismaili doctrine in North Africa and to create a "Unitarian nation".[citation needed] The Order's meetings were held in the Mosque of Raydan, situated near the palace of Al-Hakim.[citation needed] According to the Druze and the Fatimid Christian historian Yehya Bin Saeed Al Antaki, the meetings were blessed and supported by the Caliph Al-Hakim.[citation needed] Hamza Bin Ali had not intended to create a new ideology, but to revive a certain branch of Ismailism secretly preserved by previous Ismaili Da'is;[citation needed] accordingly, the word kashif ('reveal') is used in the Druze faith when referring to the year 1017.[citation needed] Furthermore, the leaders of the faith who preceded Hamza Bin Ali during the Ismaili epoch are mentioned in Druze scriptures.[citation needed]

After gaining the support of the Fātimid caliph Al-Hakim .Hamza ibn ˤAlī started to work on spreading the faith facing a lot of hostility from many prominent Fatimid figures who caused a lot turbulences in the Fatimid Empire, specially after Al-Hakim was accused of undermining the Islamic law by publishing a decree promoting religious freedom [1].

Al-Hakim was replaced by his underage son az-Zahir after he mysteriously disappeared, one theory holds that he was assassinated by the head of the Fatimid Army with the collaboration of his older sister Sitt al-Mulk, while tens of other theories are found in historic books written during the Fatimid period.Knowing that non of the stories talking about the disappearance of Al-Hakim had been considered undoubtedly credible by most scholars or historians.

Persecution during the Fatimid times

The Druze sect prominent in the Levant, North Africa, Egypt, Arabia, Iraq , Persia, Yemen and other parts of the Near East, refused to acknowledge az-Zahir as its caliph but followed Hamza Bin Ali as its imam, so Az-Zahir ordered his army to terminate the Druze movement.[citation needed] The killing ranged from Antioch to Alexandria, where tens of thousands of Druze were slaughtered by the Fatimid Army.[citation needed] The largest massacre was at Antioch, where 5000 Druze religious leaders were killed,[citation needed] followed by that of Aleppo.[citation needed] The massacres are well described in the remaining scriptures written by Bahaa El Deen Al-Samuki,[citation needed] who assumed leadership of the Druze during the persecution.[citation needed] Al-Samuki recorded how the Fatimid army brutally put to death infants, women and men.[citation needed]

The Closing of the faith

The persecution lasted only seven years, ending with the death of az-Zahir.[citation needed] Subsequently, the remaining Druze, who had survived in the mountains of Lebanon, Northern Syria and in some parts of the Fatimid Caliphate, were surrounded by a hostile environment.[citation needed] During the period of persecution, most of the deaths of the faithful had been caused by information given by spies infiltrating the faith. In many cases those same spies also created an ideological menace, weakening the faith.[citation needed] Druzism also consists of a complicated hierarchy of dai, or preachers, most of whom were killed by the Fatimids. Accordingly, Bahaa El Deen chose to close the faith in 1031 and banned others from converting to it.[citation needed] By this step El Deen ensured that the Druze ideology would be safe from hypocritical converts and that the political and religious danger of the caliphs to its adherents would decrease, protecting the survivors from future persecution.

During the Crusades

It was during the period of Crusader rule in Syria (1099-1291) that the Druze first emerged into the full light of history, in the Gharb region of the Chouf mountains. As redoubtable warriors serving the Muslim rulers of Damascus against the alien invaders, the Druze were given the task of keeping watch over the Crusaders in the seaport of Beirut, with the aim of preventing them from making any encroachments inland. Subsequently, the Druze chiefs of the Gharb placed their considerable military experience at the disposal of the Mamluk rulers of Egypt (1250-1516); first, to assist them in putting an end to what remained of Crusader rule in coastal Syria, and later to help them safeguard the Syrian coast against Crusader retaliation by sea.[2][20]

In the early period of the Crusading era the Druze feudal power was in the hands of two families, the Tanukhs and the Arslans. From their fortresses in the Gharb district (modern Aley province) of southern Mount Lebanon, the Tanukhs led their incursions into the Phoenician coast and finally succeeded in holding Beirut and the marine plain against the Franks. Because of their fierce battles with the crusaders the Druzes earned the respect of the Sunni Muslim Caliphs and thus gained important political powers. After the middle of the twelfth century, the Ma’an family superseded the Tanukhs in Druze leadership. The origin of the family goes back to a prince Ma’an who made his appearance in the Lebanon in the days of the ‘Abbasid Caliph al-Mustarshid (1118 AD-1135 AD). The Ma’ans chose for their abode the Chouf district in the southern part of Western Lebanon, overlooking the maritime plain between Beirut and Sidon, and made their headquarters in Baaqlin, which is still a leading Druze village. They were invested with feudal authority by Sultan Nur-al-Dīn and furnished respectable contingents to the Muslim ranks in their struggle against the Crusaders.

Persecution during the Mamluk and Ottoman period

Having cleared Syria from the Franks, the Mamluk Sultans of Egypt turned their attention to the schismatic Muslims of Syria. In 1305, after the issuing of a Fatwa by the Sunni scholar Ibn Taymiya calling for Jihad against the Druze, Alawites, and Ismaili Shiites, al-Malik al-Nasir inflicted a disastrous defeat on the Druzes at Kisrawan and forced outward compliance on their part to "orthodox" Sunni Islam. Later, under the Ottoman Turks, they were severely attacked at Ayn-Ṣawfar in 1585 after the Ottomans claimed that they assaulted their caravans near Tripoli.

Consequently, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were to witness a succession of armed Druze rebellions against the Ottomans, countered by repeated Ottoman punitive expeditions against the Chouf, in which the Druze population of the area was severely depleted and many villages destroyed. These military measures, severe as they were, did not succeed in reducing the local Druze to the required degree of subordination. This led the Ottoman government to agree to an arrangement whereby the different nahiyes (districts) of the Chouf would be granted in iltizam (that is, in fiscal concession) to one of the region’s emirs, or leading chiefs, leaving the maintenance of law and order and the collection of its taxes in the area in the hands of the appointed emir. This arrangement was to provide the cornerstone for the privileged status which ultimately came to be enjoyed by the whole of Mount Lebanon in Ottoman Syria, Druze and Christian areas alike.[21]

Ma’an Dynasty, The Druze Power at its Height

With the advent of the Ottoman Turks and the conquest of Syria by Sultan Selim I in 1516, the Ma’ans threw in their lot with the conquering invaders and were acknowledged by the new rulers as the feudal lords of southern Lebanon. Druze villages spread and prospered in that region, which under Ma’an leadership so flourished that it acquired the generic term of Jabal Bayt-Ma’an (the mountain of the Ma’an family) or Jabal al-Druze. The latter title has since been usurped by the Hawran region, which since the middle of the nineteenth century has proven a haven of refuge to Druze emigrants from Lebanon and has become the headquarters of Druze power.

Under Fakhreddin II (1585-1635) the Druze dominion increased until it included almost all Syria, extending from the edge of the Antioch plain in the north to Ṣafad in the south, with a part of the Syrian desert dominated by Fakhr-al-Dīn's castle at Tadmur (Palmyra), the ancient capital of Zenobia. The ruins of this castle still stand on a steep hill overlooking the town. Fakhr-al-Dīn became too strong for his Turkish sovereign in Constantinople. He went so far in 1608 as to sign a commercial treaty with Duke Ferdinand I of Tuscany containing secret military clauses. The Sultan then sent a force against him, and he was compelled to flee the land and seek refuge in the courts of Tuscany and Naples in 1614.

Fakhr-al-Din was the first ruler in modern Lebanon to open the doors of his country to foreign Western influences. Under his auspices the French established a khān (hostel) in Sidon, the Florentines a consulate, and the Christian missionaries were admitted into the country. Beirut and Sidon, which Fakhr-al-Dīn beautified, still bear traces of his benign rule.

Shihab Dynasty,The Last Feudal Chiefs

As early as the days of Saladin, and while the Ma’ans were still in complete control over southern Lebanon, the Shihab tribe, originally Ḥijaz Arabs but later settled in Ḥawran, advanced from Ḥawran, in 1172, and settled in Wadi-al-Taym at the foot of Mt. Hermon. They soon made an alliance with the Ma’ans and were acknowledged as the Druze chiefs in Wadi-al-Taym. At the end of the seventeenth century (1697) the Shihabs succeeded the Ma’ans in the feudal leadership of Druze southern Lebanon, although they professed Sunni Islam. Secretly, they showed sympathy with Druzism, the religion of the majority of their subjects. Because of their blood relationship to the Quraysh, the family of the Prophet Muhammad, the Shihab, next to the Quraysh, is the noblest family in the Arabic world.

The Shihab leadership continued till the middle of the last century and culminated in the illustrious governorship of Amir Bashir Shihab II (1788-1840) who, after Fakhr-al-Din, was the greatest feudal lord Lebanon produced. Though governor of the Druze Mountain Bashir was a crypto-Christian, and it was he whose aid Napoleon solicited in 1799 during his campaign against Syria.

Having consolidated his conquests in Syria (1831-1838), Ibrahim Pasha, son of the viceroy of Egypt, Muhammad Ali Pasha, made the fatal mistake of trying to disarm the Christians and Druzes of the Lebanon and to draft the latter into his army. This was contrary to the principles of the life of independence which these mountaineers had always lived, and resulted in a general uprising against Egyptian rule. The uprising was encouraged, for political reasons, by the British. The Druzes of Wadi-al-Taym and Ḥawran, under the leadership of Shibli al-Aryan, distinguished themselves in their stubborn resistance at their inaccessible headquarters, al-Laja, lying southeast of Damascus.

Qaysites and the Yemenites

The conquest of Syria by the Muslim Arabs in the middle of the seventh century introduced into the land two political factions later called the Qaysites and the Yemenites. The Qaysite party represented the Ḥijaz and Bedouin Arabs who were regarded as inferior by the Yemenites who were earlier and more cultured emigrants into Syria from southern Arabia. Druzes and Christians grouped in political rather than religious parties so the party lines in Lebanon obliterated racial and religious lines and the people grouped themselves regardless of their religious affiliations, into one or the other of these two parties. The sanguinary feuds between these two factions depleted, in course of time, the manhood of the Lebanon and ended in the decisive battle of Ain Dara in 1711, which resulted in the utter defeat of the Yemenite party. Many Yemenite Druzes thereupon immigrated to the Hawran region and thus laid the foundation of Druze power there.

Civil War of 1860

Meeting of Druze and Ottoman leaders in Damascus, about the control of Jebel Druze.

The Druzes and their Christian Maronite neighbors, who had thus far lived as religious communities on friendly terms, entered a period of social disturbance in the year 1840, which culminated in the civil war of 1860. For this disturbance the Ottoman Sultan was, in a great measure, responsible. The Sultan, realizing that the only way to bring the semi-independent people of Lebanon under his direct control was to sow the seeds of discord among the people themselves, inaugurated in the mountain a policy long tried and found successful in the Ottoman provinces, the policy of "divide and rule".

Also, after the Shehab dynasty converted to Christianity the Druze community and feudal leaders came under attack from the regime with the collaboration of the Catholic Church, and the Druze lost most of their political and feudal powers. Also, the Druze formed a strong ally with Protestant Britain and allowed Protestant missionaries to enter Mount Lebanon, creating tension between them and the Catholic Maronites. The civil war of 1860 cost the Christians some ten thousand lives in Damascus, Zahle, Deir al-Qamar, Hasbaya and other towns of Lebanon.

The European powers then determined to interfere and authorized the landing in Beirut of a body of French troops under General Beaufort d’Hautpoul, whose inscription can still be seen on the historic rock at the mouth of the Dog River (Nahr El-Kalb). Following the recommendations of the powers, the Ottoman Porte granted Lebanon local autonomy, guaranteed by the powers, under a Christian governor. This autonomy was maintained until World War I.[22][23]

Modern history

In Lebanon, Syria and Israel the Druze have official recognition as a separate religious community with its own religious court system. Their symbol is an array of five colors, green, red, yellow, blue and white. Each color pertains to a symbol defining its principles: green for ˤAql "the Universal Mind", red for Nafs "the Universal Soul", yellow for Kalima "the Truth/Word", blue for Sabq "the Antagonist/Cause" and white for Talī "the Protagonist/Effect". These principles are why the number five has special considerations among the religious community, it is usually represented symbolically as a five-pointed star.

In Lebanon

Prophet Job shrine in Lebanon the Chouf region.
File:Jumblat1t.jpg
Walid Jumblatt.

The Druze community played an important role in the formation of the modern state of Lebanon, and even though they are a minority they played an important role in the Lebanese political scene. Before and during the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), the Druze were in favor of Pan-Arabism and Palestinian resistance represented by PLO. Most of the community supported the Progressive Socialist Party formed by the Lebanese leader Kamal Jumblatt and they fought alongside other leftist and Palestinian parties against the Lebanese Front that was mainly constituted of Christians. After the assassination of Kamal Jumblatt on March 16, 1977, his son Walid Jumblatt took the leadership of the party and played an important role in preserving his father’s legacy and sustained the existence of the Druze community during the sectarian bloodshed that lasted till 1990.

In August 2001 Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir toured the predominantly Druze Chouf region of Mount Lebanon and visited Moukhtara, the ancestral stronghold of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. The tumultuous reception that Sfeir received not only signified a historic reconciliation between Maronites and Druze, who fought a bloody war in 1983-1984, but underscored the fact that the banner of Lebanese sovereignty had broad multi-confessional appeal[24] and was a cornerstone for the Cedar Revolution. Other “pro-Syrian” political parties are supported by some Druzes such as the Lebanese Democratic Party led by Talal Arslan and other minor political figures.

In Syria

Sultan Pasha al-Atrash.

In Syria, most Druze live in the Jabal al-Druz, a rugged and mountainous region in the southwest of the country, which is more than 90 percent Druze inhabited, some 120 villages are exclusively so.

The Jabal Druze always played a far more important role in Syrian politics than its comparatively small population would suggest. With a community of little more than 100,000 in 1949, or roughly three percent of the Syrian population, the Druzes of Syria's southeastern mountains constituted a potent force in Syrian politics and played a leading role in the nationalist struggle against the French. Under the military leadership of Sultan Pasha al-Atrash the Druzes provided much of the military force behind the Great Syrian Revolt of 1925-1927. In 1945 Amir Hasan al-Atrash, the paramount political leader of the Jabal, led the Druze military units in a successful revolt against the French, making the Jabal Druze the first and only region in Syria to liberate itself from French rule without British assistance. No Syrians played a more heroic role in the struggle against colonialism or shed more blood for independence than the Druzes. At independence the Druzes, made confident by their successes, expected that Damascus would reward them for their many sacrifices on the battlefield. They demanded to keep their autonomous administration and many political privileges accorded them by the French and sought generous economic assistance from the newly independent government.

Well led by the Atrash household and jealous of their reputation as Arab nationalists and proud warriors, the Druze leaders refused to be beaten into submission by Damascus or cowed by threats. When a local paper in 1945 reported that President Shukri al-Quwatli (1943-1949) had called the Druzes a "dangerous minority" Sultan Pasha al-Atrash flew into a rage and demanded a public retraction. If it were not forthcoming, he announced, the Druzes would indeed become "dangerous" and a force of 4,000 Druze warriors would "occupy the city of Damascus." Quwwatli could not dismiss Sultan Pasha's threat. The military balance of power in Syria was tilted in favor of the Druzes, at least until the military build up during the 1948 War in Palestine. One advisor to the Syrian Defense Department warned in 1946 that the Syrian army was "useless," and that the Druzes could "take Damascus and capture the present leaders in a breeze."

During the four years of Adib Shishakli's rule in Syria (December 1949 to February 1954) the Druze community was subjected to a heavy attack by the Syrian regime. Shishakli believed that among his many opponents in Syria, the Druzes were the most potentially dangerous, and he was determined to crush them. He frequently proclaimed: "My enemies are like a serpent: the head is the Jabal Druze, the stomach Homs, and the tail Aleppo. If I crush the head the serpent will die." Shishakli dispatched 10,000 regular troops to occupy the Jabal Druze. Several towns were bombarded with heavy weapons, killing scores of civilians and destroying many houses. According to Druze accounts, Shishakli encouraged neighboring bedouin tribes to plunder the defenseless population and allowed his own troops to run amok.

Shishakli launched a brutal campaign to defame the Druzes for their religion and politics. He accused the entire community of treason, at times claiming they were agents of the British and Hashimites, at others that they were fighting for Israel against the Arabs. He even produced a cache of Israeli weapons allegedly discover in the Jabal. Even more painful for the Druze community was his publication of "falsified Druze religious texts" and false testimonials ascribed to leading Druze sheikhs designed to stir up sectarian hatred. This propaganda was also broadcasted in the Arab world, mainly Egypt. Shishakli was assassinated in Brazil on September 27, 1964 by a Druze seeking revenge for Shishakli's bombardment of the Jabal Druze. After the Shishakli’s military campaign, the Druze community lost a lot of its political influence but many Druze military officers played an important role when it comes to the Baathist regime currently ruling Syria.[3]

In Israel

File:Prophet Jethro shrine.jpg
Prophet Jethro shrine in Israel.
Druze man in Peki'in.

In Israel the majority of the approximately 120,000 Druze consider themselves a distinct ethnic group and do not identify themselves as Arab.[25] Since 1957 the Israeli government has also designated the Druze a distinct ethnic community, at the request of the community's leaders.

Daliyat Al-Karmel, Israeli Memorial to 355 Druze killed while fighting for Israel

Druze are prominent in the Israel Defense Forces and in politics. A considerable number of Israeli Druze soldiers have fallen in Israel's wars since the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and the bond between is commonly known by the term brit damim ("covenant of blood"), although in recent years this expression has been criticized because Israel has been accused of not providing enough opportunity for Israeli Druze youth beyond the traditional military relationship.[26]

Israeli Druze served in the Israeli army, voluntarily during 1948-1956, and at the community leaders' request, compulsorily ever since.[27] Their privileges and responsibilities are the same as those of Israeli Jews. All Druze are drafted, but exemptions are given for religious students and for various other reasons, as in the majority Jewish population. Israeli Druze have achieved high positions of command in the Israeli military, far beyond their proportion in the general population of Israel. In the 2006 Lebanon War the all-Druze Herev [sword] Battalion, through their knowledge of the Lebanese terrain, suffered no casualties and claim to have killed 20 Hezbollah fighters, triggering suggestions that the battalion be transformed into a sayeret (elite unit).[28] In 1996 Azzam Azzam, a Druze Israeli businessman, was accused by Egypt of spying for Israel and was imprisoned for eight years, an accusation denied by the Israeli government.

In January 2004 the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel, Shaykh Mowafak Tarif, signed a declaration calling on all non-Jews in Israel to observe the Seven Noahide Laws as laid down in the Bible and expounded upon in Jewish tradition. The mayor of the Galilean city of Shfaram also signed the document.[29] The declaration includes the commitment to make a "...better humane world based on the Seven Noahide Commandments and the values they represent commanded by the Creator to all mankind through Moses on Mount Sinai."[29]

Support for the spread of the Seven Noahide Commandments by the Druze leaders reflects the biblical narrative itself. The Druze community reveres the non-Jewish father-in-law of Moses, Jethro, whom Muslims call Shuˤayb. According to the biblical narrative, Jethro joined and assisted the Jewish people in the desert during the Exodus, accepted monotheism, but ultimately rejoined his own people. The tomb of Jethro near Tiberias is the most important religious site for the Druze community.[30] It has been claimed that the Druze are actually descendents of Jethro.

Beliefs of the Druze

The Druze are considered to be a social group as well as a religion, but not a distinct ethnic group. Also complicating their identity is the custom of Taqiya - concealing or disguising their beliefs when necessary - that they adopted from Shia Islam. Druze in different states can have radically different lifestyles. Some claim to be Muslim, some do not. The Druze faith is said to abide by Islamic principles, but they tend to be separatist in their treatment of Druze-hood. Druze does not allow conversion to the religion. Marriage between Druze and non-Druze is discouraged for religious, political and historical reasons.

The Druze have a holy book called "Kitab Al Hikmah" or the book of wisdom.

ˤUqqāl and Juhhāl

Druze Sheikh (ˤUqqāl) wearing religious dress.

The Druze are split into two groups. The largely secular majority, called al-Juhhāl (جهال) ("the Ignorant") are not granted access to the Druze holy literature. They are around 80% of the Druze population, and generally distance themselves from religious issues - for this reason they are able to fill governmental positions (sometimes disproportionately to the Druze's share of the general population) in the nations that they inhabit which endorse other religions. They often do not consider themselves to have most of the religious responsibilities that the faith includes, but practice personal prayer.

The religious group, which includes both men and women (about 20% of the population), is called al-ˤUqqāl (عقال), ("the Knowledgeable Initiates"). They have a special mode of dress designed to comply with Quranic traditions. Women can opt to wear al-mandīl, a loose white veil, especially in the presence of other people. They wear al-mandīl on their head to cover their hair and wrap it around their mouth and sometimes over their nose as well. They wear black shirts and long skirts covering their legs to their ankles. Male ˤuqqāl grow moustaches, and wear dark clothing with white turbans.

Al-ˤuqqāl have equal rights to al-Juhhāl, but establish an informal hierarchy of respect based on religious service. The most influential 5% of so become Ajawīd, recognized religious leaders, and from this group the local community usually chooses its official Shaykh al-ˤAql. His role is primarily as political and social leader of the community, but he is also recognized as religious authority as well - and must commit to a humble, celibate (interestingly, including celibate marriage), pious, modest lifestyle somewhat akin to some Christian clergy positions.

The Druze believe in the unity of God (rejecting concepts such as the holy trinity and they also do not believe in messiahs), and are often known as the "People of Monotheism" or simply "Monotheists". Their theology has a Neo-Platonic view about how God interacts with the world through emanations and is similar to some gnostic and other esoteric sects. There are Sufi influences in their philosophy as well. Some individual Druze sheikhs interpret Quranic phrases to talk about reincarnation, but contrary to popular perception this is not part of the primary theology of the faith.

Druze principles focus on honesty, loyalty, filial piety, altruism, patriotic sacrifice, and monotheism. They reject polygamy, tobacco smoking, alcohol, consumption of pork and marriage to non-Druze, though these rules are only seriously enforced among ˤUqqāl. Druze generally follow the Sunni train of thought on history, honoring Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman, Ali and others, but follow an egalitarian ethic towards other sects.

Flag

The Druze have a five colored flag created to distinguish them from other Islamic sects. There are many differing interpretations of the flag, but the one most commonly accepted is that the five colors refer to Fatimah, her father (Muhammad), her husband (Ali), and her two sons. Other interpretations link these colors to others religious figures, prophets, and ideas. The Druze have accepted as prophets Adam, Muhammad, Noah (Nūħ), Abraham (Ibrāhīm), Sarah, Jacob (Yaˤqub), Moses (Mūsā), Solomon (Sulaymān), John the Baptist (Yahya), Jesus (Isā) and Jethro, or Shuayb. They also believe in the wisdom of classical Greek philosophers such as Plato and Pythagoras, who are recognized as prophets of a lower stature. In addition, they honor an array of "wise men" who founded the religion in the 11th century. The five colors in the flag are also sometimes interpreted as follows: Red stands for courage, bravery and love. Yellow is knowledge, wisdom, enlightenment, or wheat. Green is nature and earth. Blue is patience, forgiveness, sky and water. White is purity, peace and conciliation. Druze places of worship are usually very modest. Prayer is conducted discreetly, among family and friends.

See also

Further reading

  • Minorities in the Middle East: Druze Communities 1840-1974 edited by B. Destani, 4 volumes Archive Editions.[4]
  • I, the Divine: A Novel in First Chapters by Rabih Alameddine [5]
  • The Druze Faith by Sami Nasib Makarem

References

  1. ^ Lebanon Congressional Research Service Brief, Updated March 16, 2006
  2. ^ The Druze in the Middle East: Their Faith, Leadership, Identity and Status, By Dana, Nissim
  3. ^ "Press Release: The Druze Population of Israel" (PDF). Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. April 19, 2007.  (in Hebrew)
  4. ^ US State Department International Religious Freedom Report 2005
  5. ^ Institute of Druze Studies - Druze Traditions
  6. ^ Al-Maðhab at-Tawḥīdī ad-Durzī p. 66 by Najib Israwi, cited in Samy Swayd 1998, The Druzes: An Annotated Bibliography, ISBN 0-9662932-0-7
  7. ^ Druze
  8. ^ "Localities and Population, by District, Sub-District, Relition and Population Group" (PDF). Statistical Abstract of Palestine 2006. Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics. 
  9. ^ Institute of Druze Studies: Druzes
  10. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=2nCWIsyZJxUC&pg=PA99&lpg=PA99&dq=druze+population+lebanon&source=web&ots=XpkTcA-TUj&sig=0K6Vh-8YA-A6_CUCH619FPd5EJw
  11. ^ Rabah Halabi, Citizens of equal duties — Druze identity and the Jewish State, p. 55 (in Hebrew)
  12. ^ Druze set to visit Syria BBC News Online, 30 August 2004. Retrieved 8 September 2006.
  13. ^ Major Branches of Religions Ranked by Number of Adherents Adherents.com. Last updated 28 October 2005. Retrieved 8 September 2006.
  14. ^ http://evolutsioon.ut.ee/publications/Shen2004.pdf
  15. ^ Al-Najjar, Abdullah (1965). The Druze Sect and the Unitarians(Math'hab AlDruz wal Muwahideen. Dar AlMaarif in Egypt.  Unknown parameter |Language= ignored (|language= suggested) (help)
  16. ^ Hitti, Philip (1928). Origins of the Druze People and Religion. Colombia University Press. pp. 15–16. 
  17. ^ The Druzes and the Maronites under the Turkish Rule from 1840 to 1860, Charles Churchill published in 1862
  18. ^ The Druze Sect and the Unitarians, Abdullah Al-Najjar published in 1965 in Arabic
  19. ^ Origins of the Druze People and Religion, Philip K. Hitti, published in 1924 pages 13-14
  20. ^ The Historical archive of Yehya Bin Saeed Al Antaki, published in 1927 page 223 (in Arabic)
  21. ^ Druze History
  22. ^ The Druzes and the Maronites under the Turkish Rule from 1840 to 1860, Charles Churchill published in 1862
  23. ^ Origins of the Druze People and Religion, Philip K. Hitti, published in 1924
  24. ^ Dossier: Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir (May 2003)
  25. ^ Identity Repertoires among Arabs in Israel, Muhammad Amara and Izhak Schnell; Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol. 30, 2004
  26. ^ Norton, A.R. 1996. [ISBN 9004112510]
  27. ^ The Druze Minority in Israel in the Mid-1990s by Gabriel Ben-Dor
  28. ^ "Druze Herev Battalion Fights 32 Days With No Casualties", Israel National News
  29. ^ a b "Islam Religious Leader Commits to Noahide "Seven Laws of Noah"". Institute of Noahide Code. Retrieved 2007-07-15. 
  30. ^ Druze Religious Leader Commits to Noachide "Seven Laws" - Inside Israel - Israel News - Arutz Sheva

External links

Sources

Communities

Other links