Druze ( MOWAHHIDOON )

Religion and group of people with somewhere between 350,000 (estimate of Western scholars) and 900,000 (figures as presented by the Druze ) members (our estimates put it at around 600,000 in the Middle East and nearly 700,000 all over the world), living in Lebanon,Syria, Israel, and Jordan, often in mountainous regions. There are also important Druze communities abroad, living in Australia, Europe and USA.

The Druze call themselves muwahhidun , 'monotheists'.

 

 

MEANING OF THE DRUZE STAR

The Druze star symbolizes the five wise superior ministers, each with his quality.
Green is for "the mind", 'al-'akl, which is necessary for understanding the truth.
Red is for "the soul", 'an-nafs.
Yellow is for "the word", 'al-kalima, which is the purest form of expression of the truth.
Blue, 'as-sabik is for the mental power of the will.
White, 'al-tali, is the realization of Blue, where its power has been materialized in the world of matter.

Theology


The theology of Druze religion is called hikma and its main theme is that God incarnated himself in the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim, who disappeared in 1021. While most Muslims believe he died in 1021, the Druze disagree and believe that al-Hakim is awaiting to return to the world in order to bring a new golden age to true believers.

Druze believe in one God and claim that the qualities of God cannot be understood or defined by humans. Al-Hakim is worshiped in Druze religion, he is called 'Our Lord' and his cruelties and eccentricities are all interpreted symbolically.

But while God incarnated himself in al-Hakim in his unity, other aspects of God can be incarnated in other human beings. These aspects are represented with 5 superior ministers. Under the ministers one finds three other groups: functionaries, preachers, and heads of communities. The knowledge of this hierarchal system is the highest knowledge in the Druze religion.

The moral system of Druze religion consists of seven principles:

  1. Truthfullness - love of the truth
  2. Fellowship - take care of one another
  3. Abandoning false beliefs
  4. Avoidance of confusion - avoid evil
  5. Accept divine unity in humanity
  6. Acceptance of all al-Hakim's acts
  7. Submission in accordance to al-Hakim's will

Central in the the Druze world system is the belief in reincarnation, where all souls are reborn as humans, good as well as bad. Good people have a more fortunate rebirth than bad people. Behind this system is the belief that man cannot reach perfection and unite with God. Hell and heaven in this world view differ from most other Middle Eastern religions, and bear clear resemblances with Gnostic philosophy and religion, as heaven is only spiritual, where man stops being man and is saved from more rebirths. Hell is just as spiritual and is the distance from, and the longing to, unity with God which goes on in life time after life time for the bad.

 

Beliefs:

  • The Druse hold the Qur'an to be sacred, but look upon it as an outer shell, holding an "inner, esoteric meaning". Their religious texts are known collectively as "Kitab Al Hikma" (The Book Of Wisdom). It is a collection of books, of which the first six are most commonly used.
  • They are firmly monotheistic, believing in a single God.
  • They recognise the major prophets Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Each major prophets had seven minor prophets; each of the latter had twelve disciples, including Daniel, Plato and other individuals from Biblical and Greek history. Prophets are not worshipped, although their names may be called out for help in times of trouble. The prophets are considered special people who are free of mistakes and of sin.
  • In common with the followers of many Eastern religions, they believe the transmigration of the soul: that, at death, one's soul is instantaneously reincarnated (in time and space); it is reborn into another life.
  • Through successive reincarnations, the soul eventually unites with the Cosmic Mind "al- aaqal al kulli." The Cosmic Mind is considered as "God's will" from whom the universe came into being.
  • They conception of heaven and hell is spiritual in nature. "Heaven is the ultimate happiness that the soul encounters when it unites and meets its creator...Hell is...the bitter feeling of being deprived endlessly of the glorious presence of the Mighty."

     

    Practices:

  • Ordinary members, Jahill (singular) and Juhaall (plural), do not normally have access to religious texts. They attend only the first part of their religious meetings. The remainder of the meetings are reserved for the Sheiks. There is no actual prohibition of the reading of religious books. It is just that if a person becomes educated in the truth of God and of life and yet do not follow the duties arising from these truths, then their judgment would be worse that if they had remained uneducated.
  • The Druze do not:- practice recitation of the creed, reciting prayers five times a day, wed to multiple wives, fasting during the month of Ramadan and making a pilgrimage to Mecca. Thus, they are not regarded by Muslims as Islamic.
  • Druze leaders are a group of ascetics called uqqal (sages)
  • Religious meetings are held on Thursdays.
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    Organisation of the Druze Community

    The hikma is only known to an elite of religiously trained men, the uqqal. Most Druze know only parts of their religion's theology, and they are referred to as juhhal, 'ignorants'. One out of 50 members of the uqqal, reach as high as perfection, and are called 'ajawid, 'noble', and work as the real leaders of the Druze religion. The uqqal take care of the religion for the juhhal, and they alone attend the religious meetings taking place at the night between Thursday and Friday, in ordinary buildings in the outskirts of Druze villages. For the Druze, the centre of religious activities is located to the mountainous region called Jabalu d-Duruz in Syria. The juhhal perform few of the typical Muslim rituals, prayer is not performed in mosques, fast is not performed during the Muslim month of Ramadan, and there are no obligations of performing the hajj, Muslim pilgrimage.

     

    Druze Women

    Druze women can attain positions of religious significance, and some have indeed achieved high rank. Regarding personal status, their rights are almost identical to those of men; actually, Druze women are preferred over men in joining the uqqal, because they are considered to be better "spiritually prepared". Consequently, there are more women than men among the uqqal. Female uqqal take part in the religious assemblies in the hilwah (prayer house), but sit separately from the men.

    Uqqal men and women usually intermarry. If a juhal wishes to marry a member of the uqqal, the former is expected to declare in advance his/her intention to join in the near future. Druze men, both uqqal and juhal, may not have more than one wife, nor may they remarry their divorced wife, or even be under the same roof with her. Also, a male uqqal may not be alone with a woman who is not a close relative (spouse, daughter, sister, mother) nor even respond to her greeting unless a third person is present. Both men and women are encouraged to guard themselves against immodest or impulsive behavior.

     

    Life Styles

    The Druze follow a life style of isolation where no conversion is allowed, neither out of, or into, the religion. When Druze live among people of other religions, they try to blend in, in order to protect their religion and their own safety. They can pray as Muslims, or as Christians, depending on where they are. This system is apparently changing in modern times, where more security has allowed Druze to be more open about their religious belonging. Druze have earlier been reported to practice polygamy. But there is no evidence of such a practice among Druze today. Druze abstain from wine and tobacco. There are clear prohibitions against any practice that could involve profanity of the religion. Druze have a strong community feeling, where they identify themselves as related even across borders of countries. There are sources suggesting that the Druze was a people of their own even before conversion to the faith al-Hakim. Unsubstantiated theories point in direction of the Druze being descendants of Persian colonists, while another theory says they are descendants of Christians from the time of the crusades. The latter is not very likely, due to the fact that the first crusade came about 80 years after al-Hakim's disappearance. Despite their practice of blending with dominant groups in order to avoid persecution, 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.

     

    History

    The Druse are a fiercely independent group concentrated in Lebanon around the base of Mount Hermon, and in the mountains behind Beirut and Sidon. A few villages are also located on the Golan Heights, in Syria and just inside the Northern border of Israel.

    Very little information is known about the Druse religion. It started in the 9th Century CE as a break-away group from Islam. Darazi (a preacher) and Hamza ibn Ali ibn Ahmad (a Persian mystic) were instrumental in popularizing the religion. Darazi announced that God had manifested himself in human form as al-Hakim Bi-amr Allah, (985 or 996-1021 CE), a Muslim caliph from Cairo Egypt. The Druse now believe that Darazi distorted the message; he was, in essence, excommunicated and later executed. His writings are now considered blasphemous.

    The Druse refer to themselves as Mowahhidoon (plural) or Mowahhid (singular) which means " monotheistic ". Unfortunately, the rest of the world tends to refer to them as "Druze" or "Druse", a name derived from their fallen preacher Darazi.

    After the death of their leader Baha al-Din in 1031 CE, their religion became exclusive: they do not accept converts; they do not marry outside their faith. They do not leave the faith. They currently total about 200 to 300 thousand members. The Druse keep their religion secret, and often pose as members of the locally dominant religion.

  • 1017: The religion is established in Cairo. The religious orientation gets its name from one of the earliest followers of Caliph al-Hakim, Muhammadu d-Darazi. It is believed that it spread to many regions in the Middle East and North Africa, but that it is only the Druze that kept it up.
  • 1516: The Druze comes under Turkish pressure as the Levant is conquered by the Ottomans. The Druze offers strong opposition, and keep a higher level of independence than their neighbours.
  • 1918: Druze participates in the army of Faisal, thereby breaking a principle of non-participation outside their own community. 1921 March 4: The Druze are granted autonomy in the region of Jabalu d-Duruz, from the League of Nations.
  • 1925: The Druze revolt, where Druze leaders protests against the liberalization of the society as promoted by French governor of Jabalu d-Duruz. The revolt ends with the arrest of the Druze leaders, and their being exiled to Palmyra.
  • 1927: The Druze revolt is over, and the French starts a politics that is intended to keep the Druze away from Arab nationalism, and hence dependent upon the safety offered by the French.
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