The Druze are an enigma wrapped in a puzzle. They are named after a man whose full name they refuse to speak out loud because they hate him, so they would rather be called the Mowahhidun1. They are a faith that is limited to a hereditary membership that may have been a race before it became a religious entity. They have distinct practices that create a division between the enlightened, called the 'Uqqal, and the unready, known as the Jtuhal, and they also have many females in their higher faithful positions, believing that women are less corruptible than men2. Not particularly caring whose government they are under as long as they are accorded respect, the Druze usually have no trouble serving in the military and government of whatever country they are in.
Can You Keep a Secret?
While nominally accused of being Muslims, they and the Islamic community have a problem with this designation. The reasons are very compelling. While their sacred texts, guessed to number anywhere from one to 111, are restricted to the knowledge and possession of a very few3, scholars have guessed from what little is known about them that their beliefs reflect an eclectic bag of influences, including Gnostic Christianity, Platonism, Ismailist and Shiite thought, Judaic mysticism, and Hindu mythology, with a dash of Zoroastrianism thrown in for good measure.
The Druze have traditionally been allowed to pray in any faith that holds sway over the region they inhabit. This is a form of protective camouflage that has proven necessary over the centuries since their membership was closed in 1025 AD4. While they acknowledge the usefulness of the Koran, the Torah and the Christian Bibles, they are thought to believe that there are three layers to every holy text:
- the obvious, accessible to anyone who can read or hear;
- the hidden, accessible to those who are willing to search and learn; and
- the hidden hidden (a concept known as Anagoge), inaccessible to all but a few really enlightened individuals who truly understand the nature of the universe.
Do It Again, but Get It Right This Time
Scholars think that the Druze believe in reincarnation, immediately. They supposedly believe that not a breath is lost between death and rebirth, and that their spirits have existed since before the creation of the first human body and will continue to travel through time until the destruction of the last human body, when their spirits will return to their proper place in the Universe. In the meantime, there are other spirits of a similar nature and similar durability who are in opposition to them and are dedicated to trying to stop the Druze spirits from completing the journey.
A Little World of Their Own
Historically, the Druze have preferred to live in their own exclusive enclaves. Given their history of being attacked by various groups such as the Mamelukes, Maronites and the French, they often choose to live on mountains or the highest defensible spot available, such as Mount Carmel or Mount Hermon in the Middle East. Intermarriage with people outside the faith is forbidden. Conversion to another faith or leaving the faith5 is grounds for having your spirit reincarnated into a suitably punishing existence next time around6.
Once Upon a Time
Though nobody really knows where they came from, if in fact the Druze ancestors were a distinct ethnic group, they first showed up on the radar in Egypt in 1016AD.
By 1050AD, they were mostly to be found in what is now Lebanon, hanging around Mount Hermon, and in Syria, taking up the Golan Heights.
Although their beliefs are supposedly composed of a ragbag of ideas that were popular in that part of the world at that time, they apparently believe that their core faith actually inspired the Jews, Christians, Platonists, Ismailists, Hindus and Zoroastrians alike, coming from the beginning of time. So, what was splintered by other cultures and tainted by useless ritual is slapped back together and stripped down to its fighting weight by the enlightened of the Mowahhidun, the 'Uqqal.
Really Important People
At the top of their list is Jethro, the father-in-law and mentor of Moses. They even built him a tomb where Saladin supposedly found his footprint in a rock.
Also high on their list are the usual suspects: Adam, Abraham, Ismael, Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Plato, Pythagoras, Aristotle, Alexander the Great, John the Baptist (or Al-Khidr, the 'Green One'), Jesus, Muhammad, Salaman and Al-Hakim bin-Amr Allah.
Al-Hakim, the Sixth Fatimid Caliph of Cairo7, is an interesting character no matter who is talking about him. Some hate him to this day, others think he was divinely inspired, while a tenacious few simply think he was nuts. From what little is firmly confirmable about him, he really couldn't have cared what anyone thought.
Then there is Hamza bin 'Ali ibn Ahmad, Al-Hakim's publicist, who is owed some back pay since the boss did a disappearing act on 13 February, 1021, and hasn't been seen since, although he is expected at any time.
Following Hamza in order of usefulness is Baha al-Din al-Muqtana, the man who took the pastoral letters of Hamza, the divine edicts of Al-Hakim, and a few chapters from himself and others, and assembled them into the Rasa'il al-Hikmah (Epistles of Wisdom).
The 'Sons of Grace'
If you didn't know any of this other stuff about them, you would just think the Druze were nice, hospitable Arabic-speaking folk who dress in a distinctive manner and have a very interesting attitude toward their females. They are famous for their hospitality, even though they don't keep any liquor or tobacco around.