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.
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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