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The Druze sect developed out of Shia Ismaili Islam, a philosophical movement based in the Fatimids Caliphate, in the 10th century, a time of particular cultural wealth. The religion did not attempt to reform mainstream Islam but aimed to create a whole new religious body influenced by Greek philosophy, Gnosticism and Christianity, among others. The main actors were Tariq al-Hakim, also known as al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, the 16th Fatimi Caliph, and Hamza ibn-Ali ibn-Ahmad, the main architect of the movement. It was Hamza who first publicly proclaimed that Hakim was God. Hakim opposed this claim which was apostasy. Because the Druze considered Tariq al-Hakim to be the incarnation of God, they were persecuted by orthodox Muslims, especially after Hakim's death in 1021. The Druze took up taqiyya (dissimulation), a practice whereby they conceal their true beliefs and outwardly accept the religious beliefs of those amongst whom they live, even as they retained their true convictions in secret. The Druze believe that Hakim disappeared and will return in the end days. The Druze have played major roles in the history of the Middle East. They were mostly scattered in Mount Lebanon, which was known as the Mountain of the Druzes, and later the similarly-named Jabal el-Dourouz in Syria.

The Druze faith keeps its tenets secret. They are publicly open about very few details of their faith (borrowing from the Shia Islam practice of taqiyya) and they do not accept converts nor recognize conversion from their religion to another. This is due to many religious, political and historical reasons: the Druze were violently and brutally persecuted for centuries by other religious communities. The Druze believe in the unity of God, whence comes their own name for themselves: Tawheed. They are monotheism in the same way as Jews and Muslims. Their theology has a Neo-Platonism view about how God interacts with the world through emanations and also is similar to some gnosticism and other esotericism sects. They are not however also influenced by the Sufi philosophy, as many think. The principles of the Druze faith are: guarding ones tongue (honesty), protecting ones brother, respecting the elderly, helping others, protecting ones homeland, belief in one God. Another well-known feature of the Druze religion is a fervent belief in human-only reincarnation for all the members of the community. They eschew polygamy, tobacco smoking, alcohol, and consumption of pork. The Druze are not allowed to intermarry with Muslims, Jews or members of any other religions. However, these rules are often disregarded in modern day societies. It is also known that the Druze believe in five cosmic principles, represented by the five colored Druze star: intelligence (green), soul (red), word (yellow), precedent (blue), immanence (white). These virtues were personified in several people, among them Adam. Sometimes later figures would come to signify the same principle. The Druze consider the Old Testament prophets, as well as Jesus and Muhammad, to be true prophets. They also believe in the wisdom of classical Greek philosophers such as Plato. In addition, they have an array of wise men that founded the religion in the 11th century. Individual prayer, as in Islam, does not exist. The Druze are split internally into two groups. The inner group are called Uqqal, Knowledgeable Initiates. Male Uqqal have moustaches and shaven heads, and wear dark clothing with white hats. The outer group, called Juhhal, the Ignorant, are not allowed access to the secret Druze holy literature. Between 10 to 20% of Druze are Uqqal, the Juhhal supply their material needs, and tend to form the Druze political and military leadership. Women can not only become Uqqal but are considered especially suitable. About one in 50 Uqqal attains the elevated status of Ajaweed, gaining a special say in religious and cultural matters. One of the Druzes holy books is called the Hikma Book or the Book of Wisdom, largely compiled by a mysterious figure called Muqtana. They denounce materialism, especially materialism relative to religion. Thus, their places of worship are usually very modest, and their religious figures (Ajawd) lead very modest lifestyles. Prayer is usually conducted discreetly and among family and friends. There is little official hierarchy in the religious community, except for the Shaykh al-Aqel, whose role is more political and social rather than religious. A religious figure is admired for his wisdom and lifestyle. Druze women can opt to wear a mandl or transparent loose white veil, especially in the presence of religious figures. They are considered equal to men in all aspects, and are thought to be spiritually more suited to becoming members of the Uqqal than men. Today contradictory literature and hoaxes surround the Druze, mainly due to adopted beliefs that were used to protect them from persecutors, or simply due to outsiders telling rumors and stories. For example, it is still unclear to most outsiders whether the Druze follow the same traditions of fasting as Muslims in the month of Ramadan. This is because the Druze have followed these traditions for numerous centuries in order to protect themselves. More orthodox Druze hold that they should not follow these traditions, but should follow a different fasting tradition still practiced by religious figures instead.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 Page last updated: Friday, November 25, 2005 22:04:51 -0500