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Druze star

The Druze (Arabic: درزي, derzī or durzī, plural دروز, durūz; דרוזים, Druzim; also transliterated Druz or Druse) are a distinct Semitic community based mostly in the Middle East whose religion has been influenced by Islam and other philosophies, including Greek philosophy. Druze consider themselves theologically as "an Islamic Unist, reformatory sect",[1] although they are not considered Muslims by most Muslims in the region. The Druze call themselves Ahl al-Tawhid ("People of Monotheism") or al-Muwahhidūn ("Monotheists"). The origin of the name Druze is traced to Nashtakin ad-Darazi, one of the first preachers of the religion.

Druze acceptance of Noahide Law

Islam has a different tradition on Noah and his descendants; the Qur'an mentions additional narrative on Noah. As stated before, the Jewish authority Maimonides has maintained that Islam is a Noahide religion, although the Medieval sage Nissim of Gerona disagrees.

In April 2006, the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel, Sheikh Mowafak Tarif, signed a declaration calling on all non-Jews in Israel to observe the Noahide Laws as laid down in the Bible and expounded upon in Jewish tradition. The mayor of the Galilean city of Shefa-'Amr (Shfaram) - where Muslim, Christian and Druze communities live side by side - also signed the document. The declaration includes the commitment to make a better

humane world based on the Seven Noachide Commandments and the values they represent commanded by the Creator to all mankind through Moses on Mount Sinai.

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 Muslim Arabs 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. In fact, the tomb of Jethro in Tiberias is the most important religious site for the Druze community. [1]


The Druze reside primarily in Syria and Lebanon, with smaller communities in Israel and Jordan.

Large communities of expatriate Druze also live outside the Middle East, in the United States, Canada, Latin America, West Africa, Australia and Europe. They use the Arabic language and follow a social pattern very similar to the East Mediterraneans of the region. While most Druze consider themselves Arabs, some living in Israel do not.[2]

There are thought to be as many as 1 million Druze worldwide, the vast majority in the Levant or East Mediterranean.[3] However, some estimates of the total Druze population have been as low as 450,000.[4]

A Druze woman in Istanbul during the time of the Ottoman Empire.


Analogous with Jews, Druze are an ancient people who preexist modern constructs of identity. In some ways, Druze are a nation, an ethnicity, a tribal kinship, a religion, and so on, and in some ways not really any of these.

A noted traveler Benjamin of Tudela wrote about the Druze in his diary in 1167. He describes the Druze as "Mountain dwellers, monotheists, [who] believe in soul transfigurations and are good friends with the Jews".

In the 11th century AD, Druze religious thought further developed through the Ismaili sect, a sub group of Shia Islam. The religion did not attempt to change mainstream Islam but to create a whole new religious body influenced by Greek philosophy and Gnosticism, including a form of reincarnation, where Druze reincarnate as future descendents. They keep their theology secretive, although it is known that they believe in one God and seven prophets - Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and Muhammad bin Ismail Nashtakin ad-Darazi. They revere Jethro and make an annual pilgrimage to his tomb at the Horns of Hittin.

Druzes believe the Fātimid caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, who ruled over Egypt (985–1021), to be an actual incarnation of God. The first to hold that view was a man called Hasan ibn Haidara al-Ahram, an Ismaili Da'i and courtier of al-Hakim. After his assassination, his cause was taken up by the Persian immigrant Hamza ibn ˤAlī ibn Aḥmad, who in a 1017 letter demanded that all officers and courtiers should acknowledge divinity of al-Hakim and the previous Fatimid Caliphs and Ismaili Imams. Hamza became the actual architect of the group.

It remains unclear whether al-Hakim shared these views, but he at least tolerated Hamza's activities. However, Hakim disappeared one night in 1021 under still unclear circumstances. According to historical research, he was most probably assassinated on orders of his older sister. The Druze however believe that Hakim went into occultation and will return in the end of days as the Qā'im "Ariser" or Mahdi "Guider".

After Hakim's disappearance, the Druze were forced to take to taqiyya, the practice of concealing their true beliefs common among Ismailis. They outwardly accepted the religious beliefs of those amongst whom they lived even as they secretly retained their true convictions.

Hamza was succeeded as leader by a young Turk called Nashtakin ad-Darazi, after whom the Druzes take their name.

The Druze have played major roles in the history of the Levant. They were mostly scattered in the Chouf Mountains, which are part of Mount Lebanon (known for some time as the Mount of the Druzes), and later the eponymous Jabal al-Durūz (Mount of the Druzes) in Syria. In 1860, Druzes committed massacres of Maronite Christians.

The Druze also played a major role in the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990). They organized a militia under the leadership of Walid Jumblatt (son of Kamal Jumblatt), in opposition to the Maronite Christian Phalangist militia of Bachir Gemayel in the Mount Lebanon area (especially the Chouf) where the Druze militia were successful in winning the war. A peace treaty was then signed between the Druze and Maronite leaders which has enabled them to live peacefully together and later become allies.

Genetic testing

According to DNA testing, Druze are remarkable for their high frequency (35%) of males who carry the Y-chromosomal haplogroup L, which is very rare in the Mideast. (Shen et al 2004) [2]. This haplogroup originates from around prehistoric India.

The Druze today

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 Rūħ "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 Israel

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

In Israel, Druze usually identify themselves as Arabs (but not as Palestinians).[5] In 1996, Azzam Azzam, a Druze Israeli businessman, was accused by Egypt of spying for Israel and was imprisoned for eight years. The Israeli government denied this accusation.

However, many Druze living in the Golan Heights consider themselves Syrian and refuse Israeli citizenship, while the remainder consider themselves Israeli. In general elections, the majority of Druze villages have similar voting patterns as the general public.

Israeli Druze also serve in the Israel Defense Forces|Israeli army, voluntarily since 1948, and—at the community's request[citation needed] —compulsorily since 1956. Their privileges and responsibilities are the same as those of Israeli Jews; thus, all Druze are drafted, but exemptions are given for religious students and for various other reasons. Most recently in the 2006 Lebanon War, the all-Druze Herev [sword] Battalion, through their knowledge of the Lebanese terrain, suffered no casualties and are reported to have killed 20 Hezbollah fighters, triggering suggestions that the battalion will be transformed into an elite unit[6].

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. 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."

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. In fact, the tomb of Jethro near Tiberias is the most important religious site for the Druze community.[7] It has been claimed that the Druze are actually descendents of Jethro.

Prominent Druze figures

  • Fakhreddin II (1588–1635), descendant of the Ma'an Dynasty, ruled at its height what is now Lebanon, part of Syria, Israel and even part of Turkey.
  • L'Emir Magid Arslan was the leader of the independence of Lebanon in 1943 when the president Bechara el Khoury with fellow ministers were taken to prison to rachaya by the French. His sons L'Emir Faysal Arslan and L'Emir Talal Arslan fought each other democratically to gain seat in the Lebanese Parliament but L'Emir Talal Arslan won the seat because of Syria's influence over Lebanon during the Lebanese elections in 1992.
  • Kamal Jumblatt founded the Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party in the mid-20th century and was a major thinker and philosopher; his son Walid Jumblatt remains prominent in Lebanese politics.
  • In Israel, Salah Tarif, a former captain in the paratrooper and the tank divisions of the Israeli Army, has been a Knesset member since 1992. He has served as the Deputy Speaker and the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and was appointed Minister Without Portfolio in the Sharon government of 2001.
  • Colonel Imad Fares, acclaimed commander of the Givati Brigade of the Israeli Army from 2001–2003.
  • Major General Hussain Fares, commander of the Israel Border Police.
  • Lieutenant General Salim Slim, commander of the Lebanese Judiciary Police.
  • Azzam Azzam was accused of spying for Israel by Egypt and jailed there for eight years before being released in late 2004.
  • The famous musician Farid Al Attrach, born in Syria's Jabal al-Durūz to Prince Fahed al Atrash (brother of Sultan Basha al Atrash). He moved to Egypt with his mother, brother and sister Asmahan (born Amal), who was also a famous singer. He composed hundreds of songs and acted in many movies. Al-Atrache revived the Eastern musical traditions with such pieces as "Lahn al-Khulud" and the Rabeeh Opera.
  • Radio announcer Casey Kasem, born Kamal Amin Kasem to Lebanese Druze immigrants to the USA, is probably that country's most well-known figure of Druze heritage. About 50,000 Druze live in the United States.
  • Sultan Pasha al-Atrash was leader of the revolution against the French occupation of Lebanon and Syria in the 1920s. He is viewed by many Druze, as well as many non-Druze Arabs, as a symbol of courage and defiance to outside influence and occupation.
  • Mohammed Nafah, Secrerary General of the Israeli Communist Party Maki.
  • Majalli Wahabi, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, appointed as acting President of Israel in February of 2007.
  • Rami Ayyash, a famous Lebanese singer who suffered from cancer, which is now treated.

Beliefs of the Druze

The Druze faith keeps its tenets secret. They are publicly open about very few details of their faith (they practice taqiyya) and they do not accept converts and strongly discourage 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, hence their preference for the name "People of Monotheism" or "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. They are not, however, influenced by the Sufi philosophy, as many believe. The Druze believe in reincarnation and are pantheistic.

The principles of the Druze faith are: guarding one's tongue (honesty), protecting one's brother, respecting the elderly, helping others, protecting one's homeland, and 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 reject polygamy, tobacco smoking, alcohol, or consumption of pork, although pork and alcohol may be consumed in many non-religious and/or al-Juhhāl households.

Druze religion does not allow them to intermarry with Muslims, Jews, or members of any other religions.

It is also known that Druze believe in five cosmic principles, represented by the five colored Druze star: intelligence/reason (green), soul (red), word (yellow), precedent (blue), and immanence (white). These virtues take the shape of five different spirits which, until recently, have been continuously reincarnated on Earth as prophets and philosophers including Adam, the ancient Greek mathematician and astronomer Pythagoras, and the ancient Pharao of Egypt Akhenaten, and many others. The Druze believe that, in every time period, these five principles were personified in five different people who came down together to Earth to teach humans the true path to God and nirvana, but that with them came five other individuals who would lead people away from the right path into "darkness".

The Druze believe in prophets like Adam, Muhammed (mohamad), Noah (Nūħ), Abraham (Ibrāhīm), Sarah, Jacob (Yaˤqub), Moses (Mūsā), Solomon (Sulaymān), John the Baptist (Yahya), and Jesus (Isā) (as mentioned above, in contrast to members of the other monotheistic faiths, they also elevate Jethro, or Shuˤayb, father-in-law of Mūsā, to the status of major prophet). They also believe in the wisdom of classical Greek philosophers such as Plato and Pythagoras, who have the same stature as other prophets. In addition, they have an array of "wise men" that founded the religion in the 11th century.

Individual prayer does not exist. Druze are not required to follow the Muslim duties of prayer, fasting, or pilgrimage to Mecca. However, they may have to be inclined to.

One of the faith's holy books is called the Kitābu l-Ħikma or "Book of Wisdom", largely compiled by a mysterious figure called al-Muqtana. It has six volumes and is compiled in chapters, each covering a specific issue. The teachings denounce materialism, especially materialism relative to religion. The sacred books of the Druzes, successfully hidden from the world for eight centuries, have since the middle of the 19th century found their way into European libraries. [8]

As the religion is surrounded in secrecy (Arabic: باطنية i.e. internal 'not to be declared') a strict system is followed to hide the articles and sacred books of Druze.[9].

ˤUqqāl and Juhhāl

The Druze are split into two groups. The outer group, called al-Juhhāl (جهال), "the Ignorant", are not granted access to the secret Druze holy literature. They form the Druze political and military leadership and generally distance themselves from religious issues. They comprise perhaps 90% of the Druze.

The inner group are called al-ˤUqqāl (عقال), "the Knowledgeable Initiates". Women are considered especially suitable to become ˤUqqāl; they are regarded to be spiritually superior to men.

Druze women who are ˤuqqāl can opt to wear al-mandīl, a transparent loose white veil, especially in the presence of religious figures. 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, shave their heads, and wear dark clothing with white turbans.

The ˤuqqāl themselves are also divided into two groups; about 10% are al-Ajawīd, a term that means "The Good Ones (diminutive)". They are the leaders of the spiritual life of the Druze.

Druze places of worship are usually very modest and the Ajawīd lead very modest lifestyles. Prayer is usually conducted discreetly, among family and friends. There is little official hierarchy in the religious community except for the Shaykh al-ˤAql, whose role is more political and social than religious. A religious figure is admired for his wisdom and lifestyle.

Contradictory literature surrounds the Druze mainly due to adopted beliefs that were used to protect them from persecutors and due to the rumors and stories of outsiders. 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 centuries in order to protect themselves. Many orthodox Druze hold that they should not follow these traditions, but should follow a different fasting tradition still practiced by religious figures instead. The Druze have other fasting traditions, such as fasting during the ten days before Eid ul-Adha, the last night of which is spent in prayer. The Druze fast is more difficult than the traditional Ramadan fast in that only one light meal is allowed in the evening.

See also

  • List of Druze

Further reading

  • Minorities in the Middle East: Druze Communities 1840-1974 edited by B. Destani, 4 volumes Archive Editions ISBN: 1840971657more information


  1. 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
  2. Walid Jumblatt, head of Lebanese Progressive Party. Op-ed: 'The Arabs must unite above all else' (free registration required).
  3. Druze set to visit Syria BBC News Online, 30 August 2004. Retrieved 8 September 2006.
  4. Major Branches of Religions Ranked by Number of Adherents Adherents.com. Last updated 28 October 2005. Retrieved 8 September 2006.
  5. Identity Repertoires among Arabs in Israel, by Muhammad Amara and Izhak Schnell; Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol. 30, 2004
  6. "Druze Herev Battalion Fights 32 Days With No Casualties", Israel National News
  7. http://www.arutzsheva.com/news.php3?id=56379
  8. The Catholic Encyclopedia: under Druzes.
  9. موسوعة الأديان والمذاهب المعاصرة (رابطة العالم الإسلامي)

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