Druze دروز
Druze star.svg
Druze star
Total population
1,000,000 to 2,500,000
Regions with significant populations
 Syria 700,000[1]
 Lebanon 250,000[1]
 Israel 120,000[1]
 Jordan 20,000[2]
Outside the Middle East 100,000
 United States 20,000[3]
 Canada 10,000
 Venezuela 5,000
 Australia 3,000[4]
 Colombia 3,000
Unitarian Druze
Rasa'il al-hikmah (Epistles of Wisdom)

Hebrew (in Israel)
French (in Lebanon and Syria)

Spanish (in Colombia and Venezuela)

The Druze (Arabic: درزي, derzī or durzī‎, plural دروز, durūz, Hebrew: דרוזיםdruzim) are an esoteric, monotheistic religious community, found primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, which emerged during the 11th century from Ismailism. The Druze have an eclectic set of beliefs that incorporate several elements from Abrahamic religions, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism and other philosophies. The Druze call themselves Ahl al-Tawhid (People of Unitarianism or Monotheism) or al-Muwaḥḥidūn (Unitarians, Monotheists) – the official name of the sect is al-Muwaḥḥidūn al Durūz (The Unitarian Druze).



The Druze people reside primarily in Syria, Lebanon, and Israel.[5] The Israeli Druze are mostly in Galilee (81%), around Haifa (19%), and in the Golan Heights,[6] which is home to about 20,000 Druze.[7] 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.[8][9]

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 those of the other peoples of the eastern Mediterranean region.[10]

The number of Druze people worldwide exceeds one million, with the vast majority residing in the Levant or East Mediterranean.[11]


Origin of the name

The name Druze is derived from the name of Anushtakīn ad-Darazī (from Persian, darzi, "seamster") who was an early preacher. Although the Druze consider ad-Darazī a heretic[12] the name had been used to identify them.

Before becoming public, the movement was secretive and held closed meetings in what was known as Sessions of Wisdom. During this stage a dispute occurred between ad-Darazi and Hamza bin Ali mainly concerning ad-Darazi's ghuluww (Arabic, "exaggeration"), which refers to the belief that God was incarnated in human beings, especially 'Ali and his descendants, including Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah who was the current Caliph, and ad-Darazi naming himself "The Sword of the Faith" which led Hamza to write an epistle refuting the need for the sword to spread the faith and several epistles refuting the beliefs of the ghulat.

In 1016 ad-Darazi and his followers openly proclaimed their beliefs and called people to join them, causing riots in Cairo against the Unitarian movement including Hamza bin Ali and his followers which led to the suspension of the movement for one year and the expulsion of ad-Darazi and his supporters.[13]

Although the Druze religious books describe ad-Darazi as the "insolent one" and as the "Calf" who is narrow minded and hasty, the name "Druze" is still used for identification and for historical reasons. In 1018 ad-Darazi was assassinated for his teachings, some sources claim to be executed by Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah.[12][14]

Some authorities see in the name "Druze" a descriptive epithet, derived from Arabic dâresah ("those who study").[15] Others have speculated that the word comes from the Arabic-Persian word Darazo (درز "bliss") or from Shaykh Hussayn ad-Darazī, who was one of the early converts to the faith.[16] In the early stages of the movement, the word "Druze" is rarely mentioned by historians, and in Druze religious texts only the word Muwaḥḥidūn ("Unitarian") appears. The only early Arab historian who mentions the Druze is the 11th century Christian scholar Yahya of Antioch, who clearly refers to the heretical group created by ad-Darazī rather than the followers of Hamza ibn 'Alī.[16] 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."[17]

Early history

The Druze faith began as a movement in Ismailism, that was mainly influenced by Greek philosophy and gnosticism and opposed certain religious and philosophical ideologies that were present during that epoch.

The faith was preached by Hamza ibn 'Alī ibn Ahmad, a Persian Ismaili mystic and scholar. He came to Egypt in 1014 and assembled a group of scholars and leaders from across the world to establish the Unitarian movement. The order's meetings were held in the Raydan Mosque, near the Al-Hakim Mosque.[18]

In 1017, Hamza officially revealed the Druze faith and began to preach the Unitarian doctrine. Hamza gained the support of the Fātimid Caliph al-Hakim, who issued a decree promoting religious freedom prior to the declaration of the divine call.

Remove ye the causes of fear and estrangement from yourselves. Do away with the corruption of delusion and conformity. Be ye certain that the Prince of Believers hath given unto you free will, and hath spared you the trouble of disguising and concealing your true beliefs, so that when ye work ye may keep your deeds pure for God. He hath done thus so that when you relinquish your previous beliefs and doctrines ye shall not indeed lean on such causes of impediments and pretensions. By conveying to you the reality of his intention, the Prince of Believers hath spared you any excuse for doing so. He hath urged you to declare your belief openly. Ye are now safe from any hand which may bring harm unto you. Ye now may find rest in his assurance ye shall not be wronged. Let those who are present convey this message unto the absent so that it may be known by both the distinguished and the common people. It shall thus become a rule to mankind; and Divine Wisdom shall prevail for all the days to come.[19]

Al-Hakim became a central figure in the Druze faith even though his own religious position was disputed among scholars. John Esposito states that al-Hakim believed that "he was not only the divinely appointed religio-political leader but also the cosmic intellect linking God with creation.",[20] while others like Nissim Dana and Mordechai Nisan state that he is perceived as the manifestation and the reincarnation of God or presumably the image of God.[21][22]

Some Druze and non-Druze scholars like Samy Swayd and Sami Makarem state that this confusion is due to confusion about the role of the early heretical preacher ad-Darazi, whose teachings the Druze rejected as heretical.[23] These sources assert that al-Hakim rejected ad-Darazi's claims of divinity,[14][24][25] and ordered the elimination of his movement while supporting that of Hamza ibn Ali.[26]

Al-Hakim disappeared one night while out on his evening ride - presumably assassinated, perhaps at the behest of his formidable elder sister Sitt al-Mulk. The Druze believe he went into Occultation with Hamza ibn Ali and three other prominent preachers, leaving the care of the "Unitarian missionary movement" to a new leader, Bahā'u d-Dīn.

The closing of the faith

Al-Hakim was replaced by his underage son, 'Alī az-Zahir. The Unitarian Druze movement, which existed in the Fatimid Caliphate, acknowledged az-Zahir as the Caliph, but followed Hamzah as its Imam.[14] The young Caliph's regent, Sitt al-Mulk, ordered the army to destroy the movement in 1021.[12] At the same time, Bahā'a ad-Dīn as-Samuki was assigned the leadership of the Unitarian Movement by Hamza Bin Ali.[14]

For the next seven years, the Druze faced extreme persecution by the new caliph, al-Zahir, who wanted to eradicate the faith.[27] This was the result of a power struggle inside of the Fatimid empire in which the Druze were viewed with suspicion because of their refusal to recognize the new Caliph, Ali az-Zahir, as their Imam. Many spies, mainly the followers of Ad-Darazi, joined the Unitarian movement in order to infiltrate the Druze community. The spies set about agitating trouble and soiling the reputation of the Druze. This resulted in friction with the new caliph who clashed militarily with the Druze community. The clashes ranged from Antioch to Alexandria, where tens of thousands of Druze were slaughtered by the Fatimid army.[12] The largest massacre was at Antioch, where 5000 Druze religious leaders were killed, followed by that of Aleppo.[12] As a result, the faith went underground in hope of survival, as those captured were either forced to renounce their faith or killed. Druze survivors "were found principally in southern Lebanon and Syria." In 1038, two years after the death of al-Zahir, the Druze movement was able to resume because the new leadership that replaced him had friendly political ties with at least one prominent Druze leader.[27]

In 1043 Bahā'a ad-Dīn declared that the sect would no longer accept new pledges, and since that time proselytization has been prohibited.[14][27]

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 powerful warriors serving the Muslim rulers of Damascus against the Crusades, 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.[28]

In the early period of the Crusader 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.[29]

Persecution during the Mamluk and Ottoman period

Having cleared Syria of 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 Hanbali Sunni scholar Ibn Taymiyyah calling for jihad against all non-Sunni Muslims like the Druze, Alawites, Ismaili, and twelver Shiites. al-Malik al-Nasir inflicted a disastrous defeat on the Druze at Keserwan 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.[29]

Consequently, the 16th and 17th 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 ("fiscal concession") to one of the region's amirs, 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 amir. 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.[30]

Ma'an dynasty

Fakhreddin castle in Palmyra

With the advent of the Ottoman Turks and the conquest of Syria by Sultan Selim I in 1516, the Ma'ans 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 19th century has proven a haven of refuge to Druze emigrants from Lebanon and has become the headquarters of Druze power.[29]

Under Fakhreddin II, the Druze dominion increased until it included almost all Syria, extending from the edge of the Antioch plain in the north to Safad in the south, with a part of the Syrian desert dominated by Fakhreddin'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.

In 1618 political changes in the Ottoman sultanate had resulted in the removal of many enemies of Fakhr-al-Din from power, signaling the prince's triumphant return to Lebanon soon afterwards.

In 1632 Ahmad Koujak was named Lord of Damascus. Koujak was a rival of Fakhr-al-Din and a friend of the sultan Murad IV, who ordered Koujak and the sultanat navy to attack Lebanon and depose Fakhr-El-Din.

This time the prince decided to remain in Lebanon and resist the offensive, but the death of his son Ali in Wadi el-Taym was the beginning of his defeat. He later took refuge in Jezzine's grotto, closely followed by Koujak who eventually caught up with him and his family.

Fakhr-al-Din finally traveled to Turkey, appearing before the sultan, defending himself so skillfully that the sultan gave him permission to return to Lebanon.

Later, however, the sultan changed his orders and had Fakhr-al-Din and his family killed on 13 April 1635 in Istanbul, the capital city of the Ottoman Empire, bringing an end to an era in the history of Lebanon, a country which would not regain its current boundaries, which Fakhr-al-Din once ruled, until Lebanon was proclaimed a republic in 1920.

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 Christian missionaries were admitted into the country. Beirut and Sidon, which Fakhr-al-Dīn beautified, still bear traces of his benign rule.

Shihab Dynasty

Druze woman wearing a tantour, Chouf, Lebanon – 1870s

As early as the days of Saladin, and while the Ma'ans were still in complete control over southern Lebanon, the Shihab tribe, originally Hijaz 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 17th century (1697) the Shihabs succeeded the Ma'ans in the feudal leadership of Druze southern Lebanon, although they reportedly professed Sunni Islam, they showed sympathy with Druzism, the religion of the majority of their subjects.

The Shihab leadership continued until the middle of the 19th century and culminated in the illustrious governorship of Amir Bashir Shihab II (1788–1840) who, after Fakhr-al-Din, was the most powerful 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.[29]

Qaysites and the Yemenites

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

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.[29]

Civil War of 1860

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.[29]

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 an alliance with Britain and allowed Protestant missionaries to enter Mount Lebanon, creating tension between them and the Catholic Maronites, who were supported by the French.

The Maronite-Druze conflict in 1840–60 was an outgrowth of the Maronite Christian independence movement, directed against the Druze, Druze feudalism and the Ottoman-Turks. The civil war was not therefore a religious war, except in Damascus, where it spread and where the vastly non-Druze population was anti-Christian. The movement culminated with the 1859–60 massacre and defeat of the Christians by the Druzes. The civil war of 1860 cost the Christians some ten thousand lives in Damascus, Zahlé, Deir al-Qamar, Hasbaya and other towns of Lebanon.

The European powers then determined to intervene, 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 Nahr al-Kalb. French intervention on behalf of the Maronites did not help the Maronite national movement, since France was restricted in 1860 by Britain, which did not want the Ottoman Empire dismembered. But European intervention pressured the Turks to treat the Maronites more justly.[31] 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.[29][32]

Rebellion in Hauran

The Hauran rebellion was a violent Druze uprising against Ottoman authority in the Syrian province, which erupted in 1909. The rebellion was led by al-Atrash family in an aim to gain independence, but ended in brutal suppression of the Druze, significant depopulation of the Hauran region and execution of the Druze leaders in 1910.

Modern history

In Lebanon, Syria, and Israel, the Druze have official recognition as a separate religious community with its own religious court system. Druze are known for their loyalty to the countries they reside in,[33] though they have a strong community feeling, in which they identify themselves as related even across borders of countries.[34]

Despite their practice of blending with dominant groups in order to avoid persecution and because the Druze religion doesn't endorse separatist sentiments, urging the Druze to blend with the communities they reside in, nevertheless the Druze have had a history of brave resistance to occupying powers, and they have at times enjoyed more freedom than most other groups living in the Levant.[34]

In Syria

Druze warriors preparing to go to battle with Sultan Pasha al-Atrash in 1925

In Syria, most Druze live in the Jebel al-Druze, 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.[35]

Flag of Jabal el Druze representing the five Druze principles; other variations of the flag exist

The 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 Druze 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 Druze provided much of the military force behind the Syrian Revolution of 1925–1927. In 1945, Amir Hasan al-Atrash, the paramount political leader of the Jebel al-Druze, led the Druze military units in a successful revolt against the French, making the Jebel al-Druze the first and only region in Syria to liberate itself from French rule without British assistance. At independence the Druze, 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.[35]

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

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."[35]

During the four years of Adib Shishakli's rule in Syria (December 1949 to February 1954) (on August 25, 1952: Adib al-Shishakli created the Arab Liberation Movement (ALM), a progressive party with pan-Arabist and socialist views),[36] 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 Jebel al-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 Jebel al-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.[35]

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 discovered 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 also was broadcast 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 Jebel al-Druze.[35]

He forcibly integrated minorities into the national Syrian social structure, his "Syrianization" of Alawite and Druze territories had to be accomplished in part using violence, he declared: "My enemies are like serpent. The head is the Jabal Druze, If I crush the head the serpent will die" (Seale 1963:132).[35] To this end, al-Shishakli encouraged the stigmatization of minorities. He saw minority demands as tantamount to treason. His increasingly chauvinistic notions of Arab nationalism were predicated on the denial that "minorities" existed in Syria. [37]

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.[35]

In Lebanon

Prophet Job shrine in Lebanon the Chouf region

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 the 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 until 1990.

In August 2001, Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir toured the predominantly Druze Chouf region of Mount Lebanon and visited Mukhtara, 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[38] and was a cornerstone for the Cedar Revolution. The second largest political party supported by Druze is the Lebanese Democratic Party led by Prince Talal Arslan the son of Lebanese independence hero Prince Magid Arslan. Many Druze also support the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.

In Israel

Beliefs of the Druze

Tree of the Ismāʿīlī Shia Islam; Druze indicated as Brown in color.

The Druze are considered to be a social group as well as a religious sect, 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 and the esoteric nature of the faith, in which many teachings are kept secretive. 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, and their religion differs from mainstream Islam on a number of fundamental points.[39]

Druze does not allow conversion to the religion. Marriage between Druze and non-Druze is strongly discouraged for religious, political and historical reasons.[citation needed]

God in the Druze faith

The Druze conception of the deity is declared by them to be one of strict and uncompromising unity. The main Druze doctrine states that God is both transcendent and immanent, in which He is above all attributes but at the same time He is present.[40]

In their desire to maintain a rigid confession of unity, they stripped from God all attributes (tanzīh) which may lead to polytheism (shirk). In God, there are no attributes distinct from his essence. He is wise, mighty, and just, not by wisdom, might, and justice, but by his own essence. God is "the Whole of Existence", rather than "above existence" or on His throne, which would make Him "limited." There is neither "how", "when", nor "where" about him; he is incomprehensible.[41]

In this dogma, they are similar to the semi-philosophical, semi-religious body which flourished under Al-Ma'mun and was known by the name of Mu'tazila and the fraternal order of the Brethren of Purity (Ikhwan al-Ṣafa).[29]

Unlike the Mu'tazilla, however, and similar to some branches of Sufism, the Druze believe in the concept of Tajalli (meaning "theophany").[41] Tajalli, which is more often misunderstood by scholars and writers and is usually confused with the concept of incarnation,

...is the core spiritual beliefs [sic] in the Druze and some other intellectual and spiritual traditions.... In a mystical sense, it refers to the light of God experienced by certain mystics who have reached a high level of purity in their spiritual journey. Thus, God is perceived as the Lahut [the divine] who manifests His Light in the Station (Maqaam) of the Nasut [material realm] without the Nasut becoming Lahut. This is like one's image in the mirror: one is in the mirror but does not become the mirror. The Druze manuscripts are emphatic and warn against the belief that the Nasut is God.... Neglecting this warning, individual seekers, scholars, and other spectators have considered al-Hakim and other figures divine.

...In the Druze scriptural view, Tajalli 'takes a central stage.' One author comments that Tajalli occurs when the seeker's humanity is annihilated so that divine attributes and light are experienced by the person."[41]

The concept of God incarnating either as or in a human seems "to contradict with what the Druze scriptural view has to teach about the Oneness of God, while tajalli [sic] is at the center of the Druze and some other, often mystical, traditions."[41]


Druze Sacred texts include the Kitab Al Hikma (Epistles of Wisdom).[42]


The Druze believe that many teachings given by prophets, religious leaders and holy books have esoteric meanings preserved for those of intellect, in which some teachings are symbolic and allegorical in nature, and divide the understanding of holy books and teachings into three layers. These layers, according to the Druze, are:

  • The obvious or exoteric (zahir), accessible to anyone who can read or hear;
  • The hidden or esoteric (batin), accessible to those who are willing to search and learn through the concept of (exegesis); and
  • The hidden of the hidden, a concept known as anagoge, inaccessible to all but a few really enlightened individuals who truly understand the nature of the universe.[43]

Unlike some Islamic esoteric movements, known as the batinids at that time, the Druzes don't believe that the esoteric meaning abrogates or necessarily abolishes the exoteric one. Hamza bin Ali refutes such claims by stating that if the esoteric interpretation of taharah (purity) is purity of the heart and soul, it doesn't mean that a person can discard his physical purity, as salah (prayer) is useless if a person is untruthful in his speech and that the esoteric and exoteric meanings complement each other.[44]

Precepts of the Druze faith

The Druze follow seven precepts that are considered the core of the faith, and are perceived by them as the essence of the pillars of Islam. The Seven Druze precepts are:

  1. Veracity in speech and the truthfulness of the tongue.
  2. Protection and mutual aid to the brethren in faith.
  3. Renunciation of all forms of former worship (specifically, invalid creeds) and false belief.
  4. Repudiation of the devil (Iblis), and all forces of evil (translated from Arabic Toghyan meaning "despotism").
  5. Confession of God's unity.
  6. Acquiescence in God's acts no matter what they be.
  7. Absolute submission and resignation to God's divine will in both secret and public.[45]

Religious symbol

Druze star.svg

The Druze strictly avoid iconography but use five colors as a religious symbol: green, red, yellow, blue, and white. Each color pertains to a metaphysical power called Haad, literally meaning a limit, as in the limits that separate humans from animals, or the powers that makes the animal body human. Each Haad is color coded in the following manner: green for Aql "the Universal Mind/Nous", red for Nafs "the Universal Soul/Anima mundi", yellow for Kalima "the Word/Logos", blue for Sabq "the Potentiality/Cause/Precedent", and white for Lahq "the Future/Effect/Immanence". The mind generates qualia and gives consciousness. The soul embodies the mind and is responsible for transmigration and the character of oneself. The word which is the atom of language communicates qualia between humans and represent the platonic forms in the sensible world. The Sabq and Lahq is the ability to perceive and learn from the past and plan for the future and predict it. The colors can be arranged in a vertically descending stripes or a five-pointed star. The stripes is a diagrammatic cut of the spheres in neoplatonic philosophy while the five pointed star embodies the golden ratio, phi, as a symbol of temperance and a life of moderation.

ʻUqqāl and Juhhāl

Druze Sheikh (ʻUqqāl) wearing religious dress

The Druze are divided into two groups. The largely secular majority, called al-Juhhāl (جهال) ("the Ignorant") are not granted access to the Druze holy literature or allowed to attend the initiated Uqqal's religious meetings. They are around 80% of the Druze population and are not obliged to follow the ascetic traditions of the Uqqal.

The initiated religious group, which includes both men and women (about 20% of the population), is called al-ʻUqqāl (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 heads to cover their hair and wrap it around their mouths and sometimes over their noses as well. They wear black shirts and long skirts covering their legs to their ankles. Male ʻuqqāl grow mustaches, and wear dark Levantine/Turkish traditional dresses, called the shirwal, with white turbans that vary according to the Uqqal's hierarchy.

Al-ʻuqqāl have equal rights to al-Juhhāl, but establish a hierarchy of respect based on religious service.The most influential 5% of Al-ʻuqqāl become Ajawīd, recognized religious leaders, and from this group the spiritual leaders of the Druze are assigned. While the Shaykh al-ʻAql, which is an official position in Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, is elected by the local community and serves as the head of the Druze religious council, judges from the Druze religious courts are usually elected for this position. Unlike the spiritual leaders, the Shaykh al-ʻAql's authority is local to the country he is elected in, though in some instances spiritual leaders are elected to this position.

The Druze believe in the unity of God, 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. Druze philosophy also shows Sufi influences.

Druze principles focus on honesty, loyalty, filial piety, altruism, patriotic sacrifice, and monotheism. They reject tobacco smoking, alcohol, consumption of pork, and marriage to non-Druze. Also, in contrast to most Islamic sects, the Druze reject polygamy, believe in reincarnation, and are not obliged to observe most of the religious rituals. The Druze believe that rituals are symbolic and have an individualistic effect on the person, for which reason Druze are free to perform them, or not. The community does celebrate Eid al-Adha, however, considered their most significant holiday.

Origins of the Druze people

Ethnic origins

The Druze faith extended to many areas in the Middle East, but most of the surviving modern Druze can trace their origin to the Wadi al-Taymour in South Lebanon, which is named after an Arab tribe Taymour-Allah (formerly Taymour-Allat) which, according to Islamic historian, al-Tabari, first came from Arabia into the valley of the Euphrates where they were Christianized prior to their migration into the Lebanon. Many of the Druze feudal families whose genealogies have been preserved by the two modern Syrian chroniclers Haydar al-Shihabi and al-Shidyaq seem also to point in the direction of this origin. Arabian tribes emigrated via the Persian Gulf and stopped in Iraq on the route that was later to lead them to Syria. The first feudal Druze family, the Tanukh family, which made for itself a name in fighting the Crusaders, was, according to Haydar al-Shihabi, an Arab tribe from Mesopotamia where it occupied the position of a ruling family and apparently was Christianized.[29]

The Tanukhs must have left Arabia as early as the second or third century A.D. The Ma'an tribe, which superseded the Tanukhs and produced the greatest Druze hero in history, Fakhr-al-Din, had the same traditional origin. The Talhuq family and 'Abd-al-Malik, who supplied the later Druze leadership, have the same record as the Tanukhs. The Imad family is named for al-Imadiyyah--the Kurdish town of Amadiya, northeast of Mosul inside Kurdistan, and, like the Jumblatts, is thought to be of Kurdish origin. The Arsalan family claims descent from the Hirah Arab kings, but the name Arsalan (Persian and Turkish for lion) suggests Persian influence, if not origin.[29]

The 1911 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica states that the Druzes are "a mixture of refugee stocks, in which the Arab largely predominates, grafted on to an original mountain population of Aramaic blood."[46]

Nevertheless, many scholars formed their own hypotheses: for example, Lamartine (1835) discovered in the modern Druzes the remnants of the Samaritans;[47] Earl of Carnarvon (1860), those of the Cuthites whom Esarhaddon transplanted into Palestine;[48] Professor Felix von Luschan (1911), according to his conclusions from anthropometric measurements, makes the Druze, Maronites, and Alawites of Syria, together with the Bektashis, 'Ali-Ilahis, and Yezidis of Asia Minor and Persia, the modern representatives of the ancient Hittites.[49]

During the 18th century, there were 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. Following their dramatic defeat, the Yemeni faction migrated to Syria in the Jebel-Druze region and its capital, Soueida. However, it has been argued that these two factions were of political nature rather than ethnic, and had both Christian and Druze supporters.


In a 2005 study of ASPM gene variants, Mekel-Bobrov et al. found that the Israeli Druze people of the Carmel region have among the highest rate of the newly evolved ASPM haplogroup D, at 52.2% occurrence of the approximately 6,000-year-old allele.[50] While it is not yet known exactly what selective advantage is provided by this gene variant, the haplogroup D allele is thought to be positively selected in populations and to confer some substantial advantage that has caused its frequency to rapidly increase.

According to DNA testing, Druze are remarkable for the high frequency (35%) of males who carry the Y-chromosomal haplogroup L, which is otherwise uncommon in the Mideast (Shen et al. 2004).[51] This haplogroup originates from prehistoric South Asia and has spread from Pakistan into southern Iran.

Cruciani in 2007 found E1b1b1a2 (E-V13) [one from Sub Clades of E1b1b1a1 (E-V12)] in high levels (>10% of the male population) in Turkish Cypriot and Druze Arab lineages. Recent genetic clustering analyses of ethnic groups are consistent with the close ancestral relationship between the Druze and Cypriots, and also identified similarity to the general Syrian and Lebanese populations, as well as a variety of Jewish lineages (Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Iraqi, and Moroccan) (Behar et al 2010).[52]

Also, a new study concluded that the Druze harbor a remarkable diversity of mitochondrial DNA lineages that appear to have separated from each other thousands of years ago. But instead of dispersing throughout the world after their separation, the full range of lineages can still be found within the Druze population.[53]

The researchers noted that the Druze villages contained a striking range of high frequency and high diversity of the X haplogroup, suggesting that this population provides a glimpse into the past genetic landscape of the Near East at a time when the X haplogroup was more prevalent.[53]

These findings are consistent with the Druze oral tradition, that claims that the adherents of the faith came from diverse ancestral lineages stretching back tens of thousands of years.[53]

Israeli Knesset member Ayoob Kara, a Druze himself, speculated that the Druze are descended from one of the Lost Tribes of Israel, probably Zebulun. Kara stated that the Druze share many of the same beliefs as Jews, and that he has genetic evidence to prove that the Druze were descended from Jews.[54]

That was after the Israeli author Tsvi Misinai claimed that the cultural and genetic background of Arabs living west of the Jordan River, proved that the majority of them descended from the Jewish nation,and that the genetic cluster of Druze coincides closely with those of the Samaritans, and is very close to the genetic clusters of Ashkenazim, Sephardim, and Jews from the Caucasus, but he asserted that such findings do not prove Kara's conclusion since several Jewish villages in Palestine converted to Druze faith which means the samples can be linked to those lineages and not a broad Druze linkage.[54]

See also


  1. ^ a b c The Economist. 390. Economist Newspaper Ltd.. 2009. p. 49. http://books.google.com/?id=ub8aAQAAMAAJ&q=%22The+Druze+are+an+ancient+sect+within+Islam.+The+Golan+ones+are+part+of+a+Syrian+Druze+community+that+numbers+700000.+Another+250000+live+in+Lebanon+and+about+100000+in+Israel+proper%22&dq=%22The+Druze+are+an+ancient+sect+within+Islam.+The+Golan+ones+are+part+of+a+Syrian+Druze+community+that+numbers+700000.+Another+250000+live+in+Lebanon+and+about+100000+in+Israel+proper%22. Retrieved 14 April 2011. 
  2. ^ US State Department International Religious Freedom Report 2005
  3. ^ Institute of Druze Studies - Druze Traditions
  4. ^ "Druze Population of Australia by Place of Usual Residence (2006)". Australian Bureau of Statistics. http://www.abs.gov.au/CDataOnline. Retrieved 27 July 2010. 
  5. ^ Druze
  6. ^ "Press Release: The Druze Population of Israel" (DOC). Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. 2009-04-23. http://www.cbs.gov.il/www/hodaot2009n/11_09_077b.doc.  (Hebrew)
  7. ^ 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. "Localities and Population, by District, Sub-District, Religion and Population Group" (PDF). Statistical Abstract of Palestine 2006. Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics. http://www1.cbs.gov.il/shnaton57/st02_07x.pdf. 
  8. ^ Institute of Druze Studies: Druzes
  9. ^ Dana, Nissim (2003). The Druze in the Middle East: Their Faith, Leadership, Identity and Status. Sussex University Press. pp. 99. ISBN 1903900360. http://books.google.com/?id=2nCWIsyZJxUC&pg=PA99&lpg=PA99&dq=druze+population+lebanon. 
  10. ^ Rabah Halabi, Citizens of equal duties—Druze identity and the Jewish State, p. 55 (Hebrew)
  11. ^ "Druze set to visit Syria". BBC News Online. 2004-08-30. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3612002.stm. Retrieved 2006-09-08. "Around 80,000 Druze live in Israel, including 18,000 in the Golan Heights." 
  12. ^ a b c d e "About the Faith of The Mo’wa’he’doon Druze" by Moustafa F. Moukarim
  13. ^ "Al-Darazî and Ḥamza in the Origin of Druze Religion" by MGS Hodgson - 1962
  14. ^ a b c d e Swayd, Samy (1998). The Druzes: An Annotated Bibliography. Kirkland, WA, USA: ISES Publications. ISBN 0966293207. 
  15. ^ 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, page 606
  16. ^ a b Al-Najjar, 'Abdullāh (1965) (in Arabic). Madhhab ad-Durūz wa t-Tawḥīd (The Druze Sect and Unism). Egypt: Dār al-Ma'ārif. 
  17. ^ Hitti, Philip K (2007) [1924]. Origins of the Druze People and Religion, with Extracts from their Sacred Writings (New Edition). Columbia University Oriental Studies. 28. London: Saqi. pp. 13–14. ISBN 0863566901. 
  18. ^ druze.com
  19. ^ 01. ismaili.net, Islam Heritage F.I.E.L.D
  20. ^ Melville's Clarel and the Intersympathy of Creeds by William Potter page 156
  21. ^ Minorities in the Middle East: A History of Struggle and Self-expression by Mordechai Nisan page 95
  22. ^ The Druze in the Middle East: Their Faith, Leadership, Identity and Status, Nissim Dana
  23. ^ Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia by Josef W. Meri, Jere L. Bacharach.published by Routledge (2006), ISBN 0415966906
  24. ^ The Olive and the Tree: The Secret Strength of the Druze by Dr Ruth Westheimer and Gil Sedan
  25. ^ Swayd, Sami (2006). Historical dictionary of the Druzes. Historical dictionaries of peoples and cultures. 3. Maryland USA: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810853329 
  26. ^ M. Th. Houtsma, E.J. Brill's first encyclopaedia of Islam 1913-1936
  27. ^ a b c Rebecca Erickson. "The Druze". Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements. http://www.sacredtribesjournal.org/images/Encyclopedia/The_Druze.pdf. 
  28. ^ druzeheritage.org
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Origins of the Druze People and Religion, by Philip K. Hitti, 1924
  30. ^ Druze History
  31. ^ Abraham, Antoine (1977). "Lebanese Communal Relations". Muslim World 67 (2): 91–105. doi:10.1111/j.1478-1913.1977.tb03313.x. 
  32. ^ The Druzes and the Maronites under the Turkish Rule from 1840 to 1860, Charles Churchill published in 1862
  33. ^ Michael J. Totten. "The Tower of the Sun". http://pajamasmedia.com/michaeltotten/2010/10/03/the-tower-of-the-sun/. 
  34. ^ a b Tore Kjeilen. "Druze". http://lexicorient.com/e.o/druze.htm. 
  35. ^ a b c d e f g Joshua Landis. "Shishakli and the Druzes: Integration and intransigence". The Syrian Land: Processes of Integration and Fragmentation. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1998: 369-396.. T. Philipp & B. Schäbler, eds.. http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/L/Joshua.M.Landis-1/Joshua_Landis_Druze_and_Shishakli.htm. 
  36. ^ syrianhistory.com
  37. ^ books.google.com
  38. ^ Dossier: Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir (May 2003)
  39. ^ The Druze in the Middle East: Their Faith, Leadership, Identity and Status, By Dana, Nissim
  40. ^ The Druze Faith by Sami Nasib Makarem
  41. ^ a b c d Druze Spirituality and Asceticism By Dr. Samy Swayd, SDSU (An abridged rough draft)
  42. ^ Religion - Druze Faith
  43. ^ BBC - h2g2 - The Druze
  44. ^ "The Epistle Answering the People of Esotericism" (batinids), Epistles of Wisdom, Second Volume (a rough translation from the Arabic version)
  45. ^ Origins of the Druze People and Religion, by Philip K. Hitti, published in 1924, page 51.
  46. ^ "1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, DRUSES, or DRUZES (Arab. Druz)". http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/DRO_ECG/DRUSES_or_DRUZES_Arab_Druz_.html. "There is good reason to regard the Druses as, racially, a mixture of refugee stocks, in which the Arab largely predominates, grafted on to an original mountain population of Aramaic blood." 
  47. ^ Voyage, by Lamartine, II, page 109.
  48. ^ Recollections of the Druses of Lebanon (London, 1860), pp. 42-43.
  49. ^ Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (London, 1911), page 241.
  50. ^ "Ongoing Adaptive Evolution of ASPM, a Brain Size Determinant in Homo sapiens", Science, 9 September 2005: Vol. 309. no. 5741, pp. 1720-1722.
  51. ^ evolutsioon.ut.ee
  52. ^ "The genome-wide structure of the Jewish people".
  53. ^ a b c American Technion Society (2008, May 12). Genetics Confirm Oral Traditions Of Druze In Israel, ScienceDaily.
  54. ^ a b Lev, David (25 October 2010). "MK Kara: Druze are Descended from Jews". Israel National News. Arutz Sheva. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/140251. Retrieved 27 October 2010. 

Further reading

  • Sakr Abu Fakhr: "Voices from the Golan"; Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 29, No. 4 (Autumn, 2000), pp. 5–36.
  • Jean-Marc Aractingi et Christian Lochon , Secrets initiatiques en Islam et rituels maçonniques-Ismaéliens, Druzes, Alaouites,Confréries soufies; éd. L'Harmattan, Paris, 2008 (ISBN 978-2-296-06536-9 ).
  • Rabih Alameddine: I, the Divine: A Novel in First Chapters, Norton (2002). ISBN 0-393-32356-0.
  • B. Destani, ed.: Minorities in the Middle East: Druze Communities 1840–1974, 4 volumes, Slough: Archive Editions (2006). ISBN 1840971657.
  • R. Scott Kennedy: "The Druze of the Golan: A Case of Non-Violent Resistance"; Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Winter, 1984), pp. 48–6.
  • Dr. Anis Obeid: The Druze & Their Faith in Tawhid, Syracuse University Press (July 2006). ISBN 0815630972.
  • Shmuel Shamai: "Critical Sociology of Education Theory in Practice: The Druze Education in the Golan"; British Journal of Sociology of Education, Vol. 11, No. 4 (1990), pp. 449–463.
  • Samy Swayd: The Druzes: An Annotated Bibliography, Kirkland, Washington: ISES Publications (1998). ISBN 0966293207.
  • Bashar Tarabieh: "Education, Control and Resistance in the Golan Heights"; Middle East Report, No. 194/195, Odds against Peace (May–Aug., 1995), pp. 43–47.

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