The Druze (Arabic: duruzī درزي, pl. durūz دروز) are a small and distinct religious community residing mainly in Lebanon, Israel, Syria,Turkey and Jordan (small communities of expatriates also exist, notably in the US, Canada, Latin America, Australia, and Europe). They use the Arabic language and follow a social pattern very similar to the Arabs of the region. They are not considered Muslim by most Muslims in the region, although some Druze say that their religion is an Islamic one. Most Druze consider themselves to be Arabs , although some Israeli Druze do not. There are about 1 million Druze worldwide, the vast majority in the Middle East .
The Druze call themselves Ahl al-Tawhīd "The People of Monotheism". The origin of the name Druze is debated but is usually traced to Muhammad al-Darazi , an early messenger of the sect who is considered a heretic by the Druze today.
History of the Druze
The religion developed out of Ismaili Islam, a philosophical movement based in the Fatimid 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-Hakīm, also known as al-Hakīm bi-Amr al-Lāh, the Caliph who claimed to be God, and Hamza ibn-'Ali ibn-Ahmad , the main architect of the movement. It was Hamza who first publicly proclaimed that Hakīm was God. Hakīm was opposed by orthodox Muslims for what was considered apostasy. He was resented for his extreme violence, and religious minorities (such as Christians) were persecuted under him—in 1010, Hakīm destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
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The Druze have played major roles in the history of the Levant. They were mostly scattered in Mount Lebanon, which was known as the Mountain of the Druzes, and later the similarly-named Jabal al-Durūz (Mount of the Druzes) in Syria.
The Druze also played a major role in the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990). They organized a militia (probably the strongest militia in the Lebanon war) under the leadership of Walid Jumblatt, (son of Kamal Jumblatt), in opposition to the Maronite Christian Phalangist militia of Bachir Gemayel. Mount Lebanon. They were based in the Mount Lebanon area (especially the Chouf ).
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. The symbol can also be represented in a five-sided star. This is why the number "5" has special considerations among the religious community.
In Israel, Druze vote in elections and usually identify themselves as Israeli citizens; a number prefer to identify themselves as Arabs (but not specifically as Palestinians)2. However, many Druze living in the Golan Heights consider themselves Syrian and refuse Israeli citizenship, while the remainder consider themselves Israeli. Some Israeli Druze complain that their villages do not receive the same grants and subsidies that are given to Jewish communities.
Israeli Druze also serve in the Israeli army, voluntarily since 1948, and—at the community's request—compulsorily since 1956. Their privileges and responsibilites are the same as Israeli Jews; thus, all Druze are drafted, but exemptions are given for religious students and for various other reasons; however, conscientious objectors typically face jail time  (see also Refusal to serve in the Israeli military).
Prominent Druze Figures
Fakhreddin II , descendant of the Ma'an Dynasty , ruled at its height what is now Lebanon, part of Syria, Israel and even part of Turkey. Kamal Jumblatt was founder of the Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party in the mid-20th century, and 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. Other notable figures include Ayoob Kara , a Druze Knesset member of the Likud party, and Colonel Imad Fares , the acclaimed commander of the Givati Brigade from 2001–2003. Azzam Azzam was accused of spying for Israel by Egypt, and jailed there for 8 years, before being released in late 2004.
Radio announcer Casey Kasem, born Kamal Amin Kasem to Lebanese Druze immigrants to the U.S., is probably that country's most well-known figure of Druze heritage. About 20,000 Druze live in the United States.
Beliefs of the Druze
The Druze faith keeps its tenets secret. They are publicly open about very few details of their faith (borrowing from the Shiite 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. It is also against their religion to rule their own country. The Druze are to remain loyal to the leaders of the land in which they reside and obey its laws.
The Druze believe in the unity of God, whence comes their own name for themselves: Ahl al-Tawhīd (The People of Monotheism). They are monotheists in the same way as Jews and Muslims. Their theology has a Neo-Platonic view about how God interacts with the world through emanations and also is similar to some gnostic and other esoteric sects. They are not however also influenced by the Sufi philosophy, as many think.
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, 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 10–20% 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 ajawīd, gaining a special say in religious and cultural matters.
One of the Druze's holy books is called the "Hikma Book" or the "Book of Wisdom", largely compiled by a mysterious figure called al-Muqtana . They denounce materialism, especially materialism relative to religion. Thus, their places of worship are usually very modest, and their religious figures (ajawīd) 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 mandīl 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.
- Identity Repertoires among Arabs in Israel, by Muhammad Amara and Izhak Schnell; Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol. 30, 2004