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The Druze (Muwahhidun)

By: Hammud Quteish

The Druze (Tawhid, Muwahhidun - meaning believers in unity or one-ness) are of Arab, Yemeni and Hijazi stock. They migrated in the wake of the collapse of the Ma`rib dam to Hira in Iraq, and thereafter to Greater Syria. This is attested to by the fact that the major Druze families bear Arabic names such as: "Ma'niyyun", "Tannukhiyyun" and "Arslaniyyun", who are of the lineage of the Abi Al-Jaysh. This evidence refutes the claims of certain books, namely, that the Druze are of Phoenician or Greek or French origin.

The 'Tawhid' religion has derived a good deal of its wisdom and philosophy from Greek culture, Sufism and Indian wisdom. The Druze are spread in numerous countries of the world. Some are characterized as Druze and others are known as 'Muwahhidun'. There exist Druze Muwahhidun in certain countries and are known by other names. We have come to know this based on the spread of the missionaries and their advocacy of the Tawhid creed in several countries and regions, such as Hejaz, Greater Syria, Andalusia, Turkey, India, China and others..

The majority of Druze live in Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan, and there are small communities spread in Europe, North and South America.

The Tawhidi creed is one of the Islamic schools of thought, since the Druze faith branched out from Ismailism as a philosophical creed in the era of the Fatimid caliphate. The Druze religion did not aim to create a new concept of Islam but, rather to establish a religious nucleus which is different from the general (predominant) Islamic current. It was influenced by the Qur'an and the Sunnah and based its creed upon them.

The formal name of the Druze sect is Al-Muwahhidun. They were named Druze based on the name of Nishtkin Al-Durzi (or Darazi - died about 1020 C.E.) who partook in the call, but then seceded from it and revolted against its pillars and principles, and distorted its content. This is attributable to his animosity to Imam Hamzah Ibn Ali.

The Druze inhabit mountainous regions in Syria, Lebanon and Israel. They are known for their generosity, manliness, honesty, their assistance of the oppressed, and their loyalty to friend and neighbor, their compassion for others and respect for other faiths. The Druze have suffered in the past from persecution, owing to their small numbers and the secretiveness of their faith. However, through their strong faith and belief in their creed they were cohesive and preserved their unity and existence.

The Druze hold that Al-Hakem Bi Amr-Ellah  (Abu 'Ali al-Mansur al-Hakim 985-1021 C.E.). is the imam based on the saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him): "Even if only one day of this world remains, God would prolong that day until He sends a man (of me) or of my kin whose name is like mine and his father's name is like my father's name, who shall fill the earth with justice just as it had been filled with oppression and injustice. And the Mahdi must appear four hundred years after the appearance of the Prophet Muhammad, and so this corresponds to the appearance of Al-Hakim Bi Amr-Ellah and his proclamation of the Tawhid call in 408 Hijri. Al-Hakem Bi Amr-Ellah is an Alid from the house of the Prophet, and is an Ismaili Imam who filled the world with justice and faith. As for Hamzah Ibn Ali, according to the Druze faith, he is the awaited mahdi and he is the one with the capability to unveil. and possesses sainthood".

The Druze believe in five parameters , and they are custodians of the Tawhid rite, which prevailed in the various stages of unveiling, and they are the purpose of existence, the masters of all nations, and the wellspring of the wisdom and mercy of God.

Al-Muwahhidun believe in the unity of the creator and reason, and they designated the following hudud or parameters:

1) Reason: which is manifested in Imam Hamzah Ibn Ali.

2) The soul: the missionary Abu Ibrahim Al-Tamimi.

3) The word: Muhammad Ibn Wahb.

4) The former: Abu Al-Hayyiz Salamah Al-Samiri.

5) The successor: Baha Eddine Abu Al-Hassan named Al-Muqtani.

The beginning of the call to the Druze faith was in Egypt in the age of Al-Hakem Bi Amr Ellah. Al-Hakem proclaimed the start of the call in the evening of Friday the first day of 408 Hijri. He assigned the leadership of the call to Imam Hamzah Ibn Ali Ibn Ahmad, and on that day, he issued a decision calling upon people to practice their faith without fear or concealment. Planning by the ruler to ready the people to embrace an anticipated role preceded the Tawhidi call. These preparations were overseen by Al-Hakem, and they continued for seven consecutive years. The missionaries embarked upon readying the people through reason and knowledge to absorb and welcome the new phase.

Imam Hamzah was born on the same day in which was born Al-Hakem (375 Hijri) in the Iranian city of Khorasan, and he studied in its university. The imam began preaching to people the paradigm of Tawhid, and he took as helpers three main missionaries who consecutively assumed the task of preaching the call before his arrival and his appointment as imam by the ruler. The missionaries disseminated their noble knowledge and spread the centers of wisdom, and they would take an oath of allegiance from all who embraced their creed. This oath of allegiance would be tantamount to a covenant, which the believers would pledge themselves to. And the believer should be of sound mind, mature, free and not a slave. This covenant was binding on all who believed.

The call (da`wa) went through arduous times. It was preached intermittently according to the circumstances that the missionaries would go through, until it was finally closed in the year 435 at the behest of Baha Eddine, who took charge of the da`wa in the wake of the disappearance of Imam Hamzah along with his three brothers Ismail, Mohammad and Salamah.

The human according to the Tawhid philosophy possesses absolute freedom of choice. However, the exercise of freedom of choice is limited as a result of what has accumulated for the human through the preceding and present generations insofar as acts which he has chosen for himself, and which have made the scope of his freedom limited, and which have impacted on him. The difficulties we encounter in our time are a product of our previous evil deeds: In this connection the Qur'an states: "Whatever good befalls you, it is from God, and whatever befalls you of evil is from yourself" Hence, the Muwahhidun believe that punishment befalls those who apparently pronounce Tawhid but who in fact disobey God's commands to shun corruption.

The Druze believe that the body is perishable, but then another one takes its place. The body in fact is a means to manifesting spiritual forces. Those who are devout and God fearing hold that the purity of the soul makes religious observance for the human a way to transcend the shortcomings of life towards the higher planes, so that one can be closely in communion with the One God who is Omnipotent; thereby, he attains wisdom, and through it the human comes closer to God; and to the extent of such nearness he apprehends reality, which is the source of happiness. The Druze believe in the hereafter, in divine reward and punishment and judgment. Reckoning is meted out to the person given that he is an eternal being, and he is judged based on what he did over millions of years of the stages lived by his spirit. As for rewards, they are through spiritual, and not bodily pleasures. The bliss of paradise is spiritual and not corporeal, because, the soul, when it reaches paradise with its purity and transcendence, all its acts are adoration and praise of God, and because the souls, in the course of successive reincarnations, are purified through good deeds. Hence, the Druze believe in reincarnation, and that God Almighty created humans all at one time, and that the number of people in this world is fixed, given that when each human dies his soul goes to the body of a newly born human.

Reincarnation has been proven by studies and revealed religion. The Qur'an states: "Whenever their skins are wholly burned, We will exchange them for other skins".

How is it that you disbelieve in God when you were dead and He revived you, then he makes you dead and then givens you life again. Socrates emphasized that the soul continues to exist after the body perishes, and so did Pythagoras, who was the first to hold that there is reincarnation, when he said that he was, in a former life, one of the heroes of Troy, and he proved this by his ability to identify his shield. The Druze believe that one who embraces and accepts the call and adheres to the truth in the past, will be born near those who accepted the call like him in the past.. Belief in this creed reinforces solidarity among Druze, and attenuates the hatred spawned by conflicts and disputes, by virtue of their belief that one is born in the house of his adversary- which augments national affinity, cohesion and equality among them.

How do we define a Druze person?

A Druze person is the son (or daughter) of Druze persons, and hence, belongs to the Tawhid faith, which is essentially obedience and surrender to the Will of God, and an absolute faith in His unity, and compliance with His books.

We have previously mentioned that the Druze live in four main countries, and the Druze sect in those countries went through both good and difficult times, and had been exposed to persecution, siege and banishment, and was targeted by certain powerful quarters, but this sect, which is small in number, but loyal to its Arab belonging and religious teachings, has been able over hundreds of years to remain cohesive and believing in its creed, observing of its teachings and beliefs, and respectful of, and peacefully living side by side, with the other sects.

The Druze have proven in the countries aforementioned that they possess an entity and that they fought and rightfully won their full rights based on their faith in equality between all humankind without discrimination.

In their homelands, the Druze practice all professions, and are involved in all fields. In those countries, the Druze have succeeded in having a judicial system particular to them, in order to oversee and organize all their political rights insofar as elections, nomination for posts and service in public and governmental institutions. Amongst them are executives, ministers and parliamentarians, civil and religious judges and consultants, pilots and sailors, craftsmen and artists, farmers, writers and poets.

A Druze person believes in fate, and that the life span of a human is ordained, and that if he should die he will be born anew in a new garment and a new body. Hence, we find in them courage and manliness, and a lack of fear of death.

The Druze are divided into two:

1) The materialists (corporealists): these are ignorant of the matters of religion.

2) The spiritualists: these are the clergymen who have adhered to the teachings of the religion and who have grasped its essence and meaning. They learned and preserved their religious books, and they practice a spiritual life that is rooted in piety and a pure and absolute faith in God Almighty. Among them are those who are ascetics and who indulge in what is permissible but abstain from what is religiously prohibited, and they do not indulge in corporeal pleasures and perform worship with veneration. For them, honesty and sincerity are of paramount importance in their conduct, and they treat people with tolerance, respect and goodness.

In every town where there are Druze, we find a modest building for prayer, which is called khalwa (retreat), which has two separate sections, one for women and the other for men.

For each khalwa there is a Sheikh who is elected by the spiritualists to manage its affairs, and he is surrounded by a number of religious Sheikhs who offer their counsel.

In every country in which Druze live there is a Sheikh 'Aql who is elected by the clergymen, and who is the spiritual leader of the sect (community) or Sheikh 'Aql.

Prayer

For the Druze, there are no specific times for prayer. In fact prayer is laudable at any time during the day. However, prayer is obligatory on the eve of Monday and Friday- but why the eve of Friday? Because in this evening in the year 408 the tawhid da`wa (call) was initiated.

The Druze festivals

The Druze have several festivals, and most of these festivals involve visiting the tombs of righteous prophets. Among these festivals:

1) Bayram.

2) Prophet Shu`ayb festival.

3) Prophet Khidr festival.

4) Prophet Sablan festival.

The clergymen ('Uqqal) fast the month of Ramadan and celebrate the Eid. In these festivals, the clergymen assemble in the sacred sites for prayer, consultation and information sharing concerning the affairs of the religion and sect.

Marriage for the Druze

According to the Druze religion a Druze man should not marry a non-Druze woman. In case this should take place his offspring are not considered Druze, they cannot marry Druze persons and they shall not be accepted as clergymen.

The marriage contract is the same as that of Muslims, as is the 'fatiha'- the opening chapter of the Qur'an. Moreover, a Druze man is not permitted to marry more than one woman, and in case of divorce, he has no right to speak or sit with his divorced wife in the same place, or to marry her once again.

Rituals and prayers for a dead person are the same as those performed by Muslims. This proves that the Druze faith is one of the Islamic schools of law and thought, which derived a good deal from Sufi ideas and doctrines.

Prohibitions for the Druze

1) Consumption of alcohol.

2) Drugs and stimulants.

3) Pork.

4) Smoking and other matters prohibited by the three revealed religions.

Women in Druze Society

For the Druze, women have a special standing, for they are the mothers and teachers. In the past, in fact, they held important positions across history. Today, Druze women are educated, and 95% of them have completed secondary education, and 25% enroll in higher education. In recent times, Druze women work side by side with men in order to meet the expenses of the family. The majority of Druze religious women are above the age of thirty. As for men, they partake in all walks of life. Most of the men of religion are fifty years old and above. However, changes have been witnessed in the few preceding years, where young men have joined the ranks of the clergy. Moreover, we can observe religious schools which instruct youngsters in the principles of religion and in all religious topics.

Druze attire

Religious Druze wear special attire that distinguishes them from the other sects. In fact, they wear the Arab attire which is navy blue and a starkly white turban. Moreover, the religious person maintains his moustache and does not shave or trim it. Also, he has a clean-shaven head.

Religious books

The books kept by the clergymen  ( Rasa'il al-hikmah - Epistles of Wisdom ) are five in number . They are epistles that are handwritten and that were sent to the missionaries. These epistles contain a philosophy that is replete with wisdom. These books are kept by various individuals and are not held by only one person.

It is said that there exists a sixth book, but it is not available. It is believed that it was destroyed during the period of persecution perpetrated against the Druze in Egypt.

Number of Druze

The Druze in the world number a million and a half: Syria 700 thousand, Lebanon 500 thousand, Israel 100 thousand, Jordan 25 thousand. The remainder are scattered across the globe.

Charity Donations

Charity donations (Sadaka) are not obligatory on Druze (as a tax), but they believe that Sadaka is a duty to the poor and the needy and it is left to each person to provide for the needy in his or her last will and testament.

 

Copyright

This article is copyright by the author. The translation is copyright by Saida Nusseibeh and http://www.mideastweb.org MidEastWeb for Coexistence. Please do link to these page. Please do not copy our Web pages to other Web pages, including forums without permission or reproduce them in any other form except printouts for classrooms. Contents subject to change without notice.


 

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