The Druze people are a unique and enigmatic religious community predominantly residing in Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. Originating in the 11th century, the Druze faith emerged as an offshoot of Ismaili Shia Islam.

Beliefs and Mythology

The Druze religion is monotheistic, as adherents believe in one God. However, the faith incorporates aspects of Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, and other philosophical and religious traditions. Central to the Druze belief system is the concept of the divine emanations of God, which are represented by five cosmic principles known as Haddādin. These principles are personified by historical figures who are believed to have been the embodiments of these divine attributes.

The five cosmic principles and their corresponding historical personifications are:

  • Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah: The "Essence" of God, Al-Hakim was a Fatimid caliph considered the founder of the Druze faith.

  • Hamza ibn Ali ibn Ahmad: The "Universal Intellect," Hamza was the first Druze missionary and leader who spread the teachings of the faith.

  • Isma'il ibn Muhammad: The "Universal Soul," Isma'il was a disciple of Hamza and a prominent Druze missionary.

  • Muhammad ibn Wahb: The "Word," Muhammad was another disciple of Hamza who played a significant role in the early Druze community.

  • Salama ibn Abdul Wahhab: The "Preceder," Salama was an influential figure in the development of Druze doctrine.

Unique Beliefs and Practices

One unique belief in Druze theology is the concept of "taqiyya," which allows followers to conceal their faith when facing persecution or danger. This practice has contributed to the secretive nature of the Druze community and its traditions.

The Druze also believe in the transmigration of souls or reincarnation. This belief dictates that the soul is eternal and moves from one body to another, a process known as "gilgul." The cycle of reincarnation continues until the soul reaches spiritual perfection and reunites with the divine.

Another distinguishing feature of the Druze faith is the division of its adherents into two main groups: the "uqqal" (the wise or initiated) and the "juhhal" (the uninitiated or ignorant). Only the uqqal have access to the Druze's sacred texts and secret religious teachings.

Rituals and Ceremonies

The Druze religion has several rituals and ceremonies, many of which emphasize moral and ethical values. The most important ritual is the "khalwa," a religious gathering where the uqqal come together to pray, meditate, and read from the sacred texts. Khalwas take place in dedicated prayer houses called "khalwat."

Another significant ritual is the "zikr" (remembrance), a form of prayer and meditation that focuses on the repetition of God's names and attributes. The zikr is performed in a group setting, led by a spiritual leader known as a "shaykh al-'aqil."

The Druze also observe a number of religious festivals, including the annual "Id al-Adha" (Feast of the Sacrifice) and the "Id al Fitr" (Feast of Breaking the Fast), which mark important events in the Islamic calendar. Additionally, the Druze celebrate the "Ziyarat al-Nabi Shu'ayb," a pilgrimage to the tomb of the Prophet Shu'ayb (Jethro), who is revered as a significant figure in Druze tradition.

Deities, Heroes, and Mythological Figures

While the Druze faith is monotheistic, it does not involve a pantheon of deities or mythological creatures as seen in other religions. The primary focus of Druze belief is on the divine attributes personified by historical figures, as mentioned earlier. However, there are a few notable figures and stories that hold importance in the Druze tradition.

  • Nabi Shu'ayb (Prophet Jethro): As the father-in-law of Moses and a revered prophet in the Druze tradition, Nabi Shu'ayb is believed to have received divine wisdom and guidance directly from God. The pilgrimage to his tomb is an important event in the Druze religious calendar.

  • Al-Khidr: Often associated with the Islamic figure of the "Green Man" or the prophet Elijah, Al-Khidr is venerated in the Druze tradition as a wise and immortal figure who possesses hidden knowledge. Some Druze stories recount encounters between Al-Khidr and various historical personages, emphasizing the moral and ethical lessons imparted by Al-Khidr.

  • Al-Hakim's Disappearance and Return: Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, the founder of the Druze faith, mysteriously disappeared in 1021. According to Druze belief, he did not die but went into occultation, hiding from the world to test the faith of his followers. The Druze anticipate Al-Hakim's eventual return, at which point he will bring justice and establish a new era of peace and enlightenment.