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Shi'a Islam


Doctrines Druze beliefs deviate markedly from those of mainstream Islam, consisting of an amalgamation of Neo-Platonic, Isma'ili, and extreme Shi'ite beliefs. The movement derives its name from an Isma'ili missionary, al-Darazi (d.1019/20), who proclaimed the divinity of the sixth Fatimid caliph, Abu 'Ali al-Mansur al-Hakim (985-1021). The principal figure, however, behind the formation of the movement's beliefs was Hamzah ibn 'Ali (d. 1021) who not only taught the divinity of al-Hakim but claimed that he himself was the cosmic intellect. The Druzes attach particular importance to speaking the truth among themselves (although it is permissible to lie to outsiders and even to pretend to accept the religious beliefs of the ruling majority). They believe that Hakim and Hamzah will return to the world and establish a just order ruled by Druzes. Some sects believe in reincarnation and the temporary manifestation of God in human form. They assemble for worship on Thursdays, rather than Fridays, and reject much of Islamic legal practice. The Druze scripture is the Rasa'il al-hikmah (Epistles of Wisdom), most of which was composed by Hamzah's successor, Baha al-Din al-Muqtana.

History Druze religion has its origins in the second decade of the 11th century, when al-Darazi and Hamzah ibn Ali declared the sixth Fatimid caliph to be the incarnation of the godhead. Following the death of al-Hakim in 1021 the Druze sect in Egypt was subjected to persecution and disappeared. The sect, however, flourished in Syria where it had been established by Darazi's followers, and reached as far as Iraq, Iran and India. During the Ottoman period the Druze were allowed to govern themselves. In the 17th and 18th centuries the sect was bitterly divided between the Qaysis and Yamanis who engaged in a series of violent conflicts with each other. Throughout the 19th century, until the end of the first world war, the Druzes were almost continually in conflict with Maronite Christians. The worst incident occurred in 1860 when the Druzes burned 150 Christian villages, and killed some 11,000 people. Following the end of the first world war and the collapse of the Ottoman empire the Druze, like other groups in the region, came under the jurisdiction of the European powers who took control of the Middle East. The Druzes constituted important min ority groups in three of the countries that were set up in the region in the 1940s: Syria, Lebanon and Israel. The Druzes existed in Syria as a deprived minority denied political power and many educational opportunities. In 1966 fears of a possible Druz e inspired coup led to the purging of Druze officers from the Syrian army and the persecution of the Druzes, causing many to flee to the Lebanon and Jordan. The capture of the Golan heights by Israel in 1973 led to the further depletion of the Druze popu lation of Syria. In Lebanon the history of the Druze has very much been tied up with the unfortunate history of the country. During the first twenty-five years of the country's history the various religious groups succeeded in coexisting without conflict. However, the denial of effective political power to Lebanon's Muslims by the Christian majority led to the outbreak of civil war in 1958 and in 1975. One important consequence of the post-1975 conflict for the Druzes of Lebanon was the establishment of links between themselves and the Druzes of Syria and Israel as these two countries became involved in Lebanon's civil war. The Druzes of Israel have enjoyed the most stability and prosperity of all the Middle Eastern Druze communities. Of all the non-Jewish communities in Israel the Druzes have been the most loyal to the state. The refusal of the Druzes to involve themselves in the Arab-Israeli conflict and the loyalty of the majority of the Druzes to the state of Israel has led them to be treated relatively favourably by the Israeli authorities.

Symbols The main symbol of the Druzes is the five-pointed star. This can often be found outside Druze shrines.

Adherents It is difficult to say with accuracy what the global population of the Druze community is. In Syria the Druzes number about 260,000 (Makarem 1974, 3); in Jordan about 3,000 (ibid); in Israel 89,300 (Europa Publications Ltd. I 1996, 1679); and in Lebanon 250,000 (Europa Publications Ltd., II 1996). Small Druze communities also exist in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Australia.

Main Centre
 There are numerous Druze centres in the Middle East. In Syria the Druze population is concentrated in the Jabal Al-Duruz region which borders Jordan and Israel. In Lebanon they are concentrated in the centre of the country to t he east of Beirut. In Israel they are concentrated in Galilee.