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Total population
Hamza and Al Hakim[5]
Regions with significant populations
 United States50,000[12]
Unitarian Druze
Epistles of Wisdom (Rasa'il al-hikma) and the Quran[16]

Druze (/ˈdrz/;[18] Arabic: دروز; Durūz, plural Druzes) is an Arab religious sect and community. It is estimated that there are more than 1 million Druzes in the world today, and most of them live in the Middle Eastern countries, especially in Lebanon and Syria. There are some smaller Druze communities around the world.[19] 'Druze' is the name given to the community by outsiders, and the term is not used by Druzes themselves. Instead, they call themselves muwaḥḥidūn (“unitarians”).[20] Druze’s origin is Shi'i Islam of Fatimad dynasty,[20] but Druzes hold distinctive beliefs and practices and put much emphasis on philosophy and spirituality.[19][20][21][22]

Origin[change | change source]

Early history[change | change source]

al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah elaborates Druze doctrine[change | change source]

It is believed that the origin of Druze comes from Fatimid dynasty in Egypt in the 11th century. Because Fatimas were derived of Shi’a Islam called Isma’ilis, the root of Druze is also the branch of Shi’a. The sixth caliph of Fatimid dynasty, al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, played an important role to elaborate the Druze doctrine. In Druze manuscript, he is regarded as the founder of Druze.[20]

Hamza Ibn 'Alli came to Cairo for missionary work[change | change source]

In 1016, a Persian man called Hamza Ibn 'Ali came to Cairo to help al-Hakim. At that time, al-Hakim attempted to spread the belief of Druze. In 1017, al-Hakim designated Hamza as an imam, and Hamza especially contributed to elaborate the Druze doctrine and to spread the belief by sending missionaries.[20]

The arrival and execution of Muḥammad al-Darāzī[change | change source]

There was conflict over the Druze doctrine between Hamza and Muḥammad al-Darāzī. Darāzī was also a Druze missionary who arrived in Cairo in 1016. He offered his service to al-Hakim and was recruited as a missionary.[21] In order to get more support from al-Hakim than Hamza, Darāzī began to alter the teaching by Hamza and declared that the presence of al-Hakim is divine. However, al-Hakim did not appreciate it and people began to criticise Darāzī’s corrupted teachings. In 1019, Darāzī is said to be executed or killed.[20]

The disappearance of al-Hakim[change | change source]

In 1021, al-Hakim disappeared suddenly during his trip to the east Cairo for reasons unknown.[20] After his disappearance, his successor of Fatimad caliph al-Zāḥir oppressed the Druze movement to spread its doctrine. Druze gradually fell into decline in Egypt, but in Syria and Lebanon the belivers remained because of the effort by the missionaries.[19]

The declaration of Druze shutting out from outsiders[change | change source]

In 1043, the Druze doctrine prohibited its believers from believing other religion and outsiders from becoming a new member of Druze. Since then, Druze has been the closed community and has kept the policy until now. [20][23]

Origin of the name 'Druze'[change | change source]

The term Druze was given to the community by outsiders. They apparently mixed up Muḥammad al-Darāzī, one of the early missionaries of Druze, as the founder of the religion. However, because of his misbehavior, Druzes and its manuscripts regard Darāzī as the first betrayer. Therefore, the term never used in the Druze manuscripts and the members reject using it. Instead, the Druzes call themselves Muwwahhidun, meaning 'Unitarians'.[20]

Beliefs and practices[change | change source]

Two classes: the Initiated ('uqqal) and the Uninitiated (juhhal)[change | change source]

Within the Druze community, the strict religious authority exists. The religious elite has a huge impact on the rest of the people, and that makes the community members closely united. There are two main classes in Druze community: the initiated or wise ('uqqal) and the uninitiated or ignorant (juhhal).[24] The duty of the initiated is telling its mystical, complex teaching and oral traditions to the uninitiated. The initiated study the Druze’s belief by discussing and reading its holy scripture in a prayer house (khalwa or majlis). In order to become the initiated, it is required to show deep respect and dedication to the God and to go through the long process of application. Women also have the chance to become the initiated. According to Druze doctrine, women are more spiritually matured than men, so women are required to take less-severe training to become the initiated. The initiated people are easily recognised because of their dark clothes with white and rounded turbans.[20]

Reincarnation (taqamus)[change | change source]

According to the Druze manuscripts, after the someone’s dead, the soul is soon incarnated, meaning the soul gets a new human body and reborns as a different person. A soul is incarnated without changing its religion, skin colour or race, so a Druze reborns as a Druze over time. This idea comes from one of the Druze doctrines that the number of Druze souls is constant.[19][22]

Marriage[change | change source]

For Druzes, it is quite rare and strongly discouraged to get married with a non-Druze person in order to maintain the religious teaching secret from outsiders. In addition, because only a child whose parents are both Druze is accepted as a Druze, the marriage within Druze community is important to prevent the number of Druzes from decreasing. But nowadays for many young Druzes living in a small community outside the Middle East have difficulty finding their Druze partner.[19][22]

Worship services[change | change source]

The Druze worship places are called majlis or khalwa. Druzes worship there normally on Thursday evenings. Both the initiated and the uninitiated join the gathering. There, some religious ceremonies such as spiritual readings and prayer are conducted under the direction of the initiated. After the open session is over, the uninitiated leave the hall and only some initiated are permitted to remain there and join a limited session. There, they discuss and meditate mystical reading and transcription.[20]

The religious symbol[change | change source]

Druze flag

The Druze flag and its symbol star have the same five colours and each colour has two meanings: spiritual principles and key figures. In the Druze manuscript, there are five people who are respected by their contribution to Druze, and five cosmic spiritual elements that are main principles of existence for Druzes.[19][22]

Druze symbol star
The Meaning of the Symbol Colour
Colour Principle Person
Green the Universal Intelligence (al'Aql) Hamza Ibn 'Alli
Red the Universal Soul (al-Nafs) Ismail Ibn Mohammad
Yellow the Word (al-Kalima) Mohammad Ibn Wahb
Blue the Preceding (al-Sabiq) Salama Ibn Abdul-Wahhab
White the Following (al-Tali) Ali Ibn Ahmad

Druze community in each country[change | change source]

The majority of Druzes are living in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon and Syria. Because of the economic and political instability, some Druzes emigrated outside the Middle East and small communities are found in the United States, Canada, Europe, South America and Australia. However, because of its strong feeling of unity, they are closely related to their hometown and companions.[20][19]

Lebanon[change | change source]

In Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, the legal and administrative center of Druze is located. Over 300,000 Druze are living in Lebanon, which is around 7% of the total population of the country. The western edges of the Lebanon Mountains is the most populated area of Druzes. Since the independence of Lebanon, Druze has kept much power for the country’s politics.[19]

Syria[change | change source]

There are around 600,000 Druze in Syria and the country has the largest population of Druze in the world. Around 6% of the Syrian population is Druze. Suwayda, the city located in the area of Jabal al-Durūz, holds the huge number of Druzes. In 1925, Druze leader Sulṭān al-Aṭrash rose a rebellion against French rule and it was considered to be the first nationalist movement in Syria.[20]

Israel[change | change source]

The population of Druze in Israel is less than 1% of the total population, but the Druze's contribution to the Israeli government is not small. Although Druze is an Arab community, theyl are patriotic citizens and many have been fighting for Israel against Palestine.[19]

Sources[change | change source]

  1. Carl Skutsch (7 Nov 2013). Skutsch, Carl (ed.). Encyclopedia of the World's Minorities. Routledge. p. 410. ISBN 978-1-135-19388-1. Total Population: 800,000
  2. Robert Brenton Betts (1 Jan 1990). The Druze (illustrated, reprint, revised ed.). Yale University Press. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-300-04810-0. The total population of Druze throughout the world probably approaches one million.
  3. Donna Marsh (11 May 2015). Doing Business in the Middle East: A cultural and practical guide for all Business Professionals (revised ed.). Hachette UK. ISBN 978-1-4721-3567-4. It is believed there are no more than 1 million Druze worldwide; most live in the Levant.
  4. Samy Swayd (10 Mar 2015). Historical Dictionary of the Druzes (2 ed.). Rowman & Littlefield. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-4422-4617-1. The Druze world population at present is perhaps nearing two million; ...
  5. Daftary, Ferhad. "ḤĀKEM BE-AMR-ALLĀH". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  6. http://gulf2000.columbia.edu/images/maps/Syria_Religion_Detailed_lg.png
  7. Irshaid, Faisal (19 June 2015). "Syria's Druze under threat as conflict spreads". BBC News.
  8. Lebanon – International Religious Freedom Report 2008 U.S. Department of State. Retrieved on 2013-06-13.
  9. "Palestinians say they number 12.1 million worldwide". Times of Israel. 2015.
  10. International Religious Freedom Report, US State Department, 2005
  11. "Tariq Alaiseme [reportedly to be] vice-president of Venezuela" (in Arabic). Aamama. 2013.: Referring governor Tareck El Aissami.
  12. Druze Traditions, Institute of Druze Studies, archived from the original on 14 January 2009
  13. "Dating Druze: The struggle to find love in a dwindling diaspora". www.cbc.ca. Retrieved July 18, 2020.
  14. "Druze Population of Australia by Place of Usual Residence (2006)". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 27 July 2010.
  15. "European Druze Society". www.europeandruzesociety.com.
  16. "Druze and the Seven Commandments". Meer. Retrieved 16 December 2023.
  17. Berdichevsky, Norman (22 February 2018). Nations, Language and Citizenship. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-2700-0.
  18. "Definition of druze". Dictionary.com. 2013-07-18. Retrieved 2019-08-26.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 19.5 19.6 19.7 19.8 "Al-ḥudūd | Druze religion | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2023-05-17.
  20. 20.00 20.01 20.02 20.03 20.04 20.05 20.06 20.07 20.08 20.09 20.10 20.11 20.12 Swayd, Samy S. (2009). The A to Z of the Druzes. The A to Z guide series. Lanham (Md.): Scarecrow press. ISBN 978-0-8108-6836-6.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Westheimer, Ruth; Sedan, Gil (2007). The Olive and the Tree: The Secret Strength of the Druze. Lantern Books. ISBN 9781590561027.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 "Druze: the great survivors". Arab News. 2022-07-07. Retrieved 2023-05-17.
  23. "Appendices: Containing Extracts from the Druze Sacred Writings", The Origins of the Druze People and Religion With Extracts from Their Sacred Writings, Columbia University Press, pp. 55–74, 1928-12-31, doi:10.7312/hitt93904-009, ISBN 978-0-231-89601-6, retrieved 2023-05-17
  24. Longva, Anh Nga; Roald, Anne Sofie (2012). Religious minorities in the Middle East: domination, self-empowerment, accommodation. Social, economic, and political studies of the Middle East and Asia. Leiden Boston: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-20742-4.