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Druze or Druse (dro͞oz), religious community of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, with important overseas branches in the Americas and Australia. The religious leadership prefers the name Muwahhidun (Unitarians). While preserving many Islamic symbols, the Druze religion also incorporates Gnostic and neo-Platonic tenets. In the 10th cent. Cairo Hamza ibn Ali, a Persian dai (preacher, propagandist) and Muhammad al-Darazi, a Turkish dai who gave his name to the sect, pronounced the sixth Fatimid caliph and Ismaili imam, al-Hakim, as Divine. After al-Darazi's death (1020), Hamza declared himself to be the true manifestation of the Divine reality of al-Hakim. Hamza was successful in greater Syria, and a series of pastoral letters written at that time form the Druze scripture, the Kitab al-hikma, or Rasail al-Hakim. Since the Druze religion was seen as an abrogation of Islam, the concealment of the substance of the faith is a religious obligation, marriages outside the faith are forbidden, and initiation from lay status (jahil, ignorant) to clerical (aqil, knower) is restricted. The Druze formed principalities that fought the Crusaders and secured considerable independence under nominal Mamluk and Ottoman rule. In the 19th cent. the rise of the Christian Maronites undermined Druze power in the Mount Lebanon region. The ensuing conflict scarred relations between the two communities and provided an opportunity for European intervention. After the dissolution of the Ottoman sultanate and the establishment of the French mandate in Syria (1920), the Druze leadership played a crucial role in launching and sustaining the anti-French revolt (1925–27), after which an autonomous Druze state was created by the French in southern Syria. In 1944 the Druze agreed to surrender their autonomous rights in the Jebel Druz [jebel=mountain], as their section of Syria is called. Since then the Druze have been active in the political life of Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. Druze officers were noticeable in the history of Syria in the 1950s and 1960s. Walid Jumblatt and other Druze leaders took active roles during the Lebanese civil war. In Israel, the Druze were granted a “nationality” status distinct from the Arabic-speaking population, and are expected to serve in the Israeli army.


See R. B. Betts, The Druze (1988).

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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

In the early years of the eleventh century, a religious community came into existence that combined monotheism with beliefs about reincarnation. At first a secret sect with its own scriptures, the Druze allowed no religious conversion either in or out, insisting on marriage within the group. The sect was tied to their land and based on a close-knit family structure, with members obeying the word of the clan patriarchs.

The ancestry of the Druze is Arab. They split off from Islam when the sect migrated from Egypt to Lebanon. Very quickly they established themselves from Mount Hermon into the Galilee, and all the way to Syria. Today isolated communities may be found around the world. Many, especially in Israel, identify with Christianity, but wherever they are found they are famous for strict loyalty to their host nation. Known as the "Sons of Grace," they believe very strongly in the coexistence of all religions and ethnic groups. In religiously and culturally volatile places like Israel, this notion is becoming more and more difficult.

The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers © 2004 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Arabic, Duruz), Arabs who are adherents of an Islamic sect. One of the branches of the Ismailitic movement. Most of the Druze live in Lebanon and Syria, but a few of them have settled in Israel. There are as many as 400,000 Druze (1969).

The Druze sect originated at the beginning of the 11th century under the influence of the preaching of the Batinite missionary Darazi (after whom the sect was named) among the Ismailis of Egypt and southern Lebanon. One of the most important Druze ideologists was al-Sayyid Abdullah al-Tanuhi (died 1480). The Druze combine monotheism with a belief that the deity was most recently reincarnated in the Fatimid caliph Hakim, who ruled from 996 to 1021, and the expectation of his second coming. They adhere to the doctrine of the transmigration of souls among the members of their sect.

The Druze have a closed organization headed by the uqqal (“the wise ones,” “those who know”), who guide the mass of believers (the juhhal —“the ignorant”). The religious meetings of the uqqal are held in places of worship located outside populated areas.

Throughout the Middle Ages and the modern period the Druze have had a hereditary landowning aristocracy and dynasties of ruling emirs (for example, the Maani and the Shihabs). The greatest increase in the power of the Druze emirs in Lebanon was reached during the reigns of Fakhr al-Din II Maan, who ruled from 1590 to 1633, and Bashir II Shihab, who ruled from 1788 or 1789 to 1840. The principal occupation of the population was farming. Before the beginning of the 20th century very few of the Druze engaged in crafts or trade. At the beginning of the 18th century some of them resettled in the Hauran (Syria), in the region of Jabal Druz.

From the 1840’s through the 1860’s armed clashes occurred between the Druze and the Christian Maronites, stemming from class conflicts between the Maronite peasants and their Druze feudal lords. Religious antagonism was ignited by the rival European powers in Lebanon and Syria. (The most important conflicts took place in 1841, 1845, and 1860.) Frequent anti-Turkish revolts (1869, 1888, 1894-97, 1904, and 1910) were provoked by the attempts of Ottoman authorities during the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century to put an end to Druze “rights,” such as exemption from compulsory military service, the right to bear arms, and the unlimited power of the Druze aristocracy over the rest of the Druze population.

Under the French mandate (1920-43) the Druze of Syria and Lebanon took part in the anti-imperialist struggle. Jabal Druz was the center of the general Syrian national uprising of 1925-27. The Progressive Socialist Party of Lebanon, which was founded in 1949 under the leadership of Kamal Jumblatt and which drew a significant number of its members from the Druze, actively participated in the anti-imperialist uprising in the summer of 1958.


Beliaev, E. A. Musul’manskoe sektanstvo. Moscow, 1957.
Hanna Abu Rashid. Jabal al-Duruz. Cairo, 1925.
Hitti, P. K. The Origins of the Druze People and Religion. New York, 1918.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Prime Minister Saad Al Hariri, a long-time ally of Jumblatt, called off a cabinet meeting, to avoid any confrontation between his Druze ministers.
Druze religious literature is said to be only accessible to a group of religious initiates called the 'Uqqal' which translates to mean a group of wisemen.
Israeli and multicolored Druze flags covered nearly every inch of the walls, and his desk was stacked with posters bearing a Jewish Star of David in the Druze colors: green, red, yellow, blue and white.
"We were born here, we will die here, we love this country, we have defended it, and we will continue to live here together -- Jews, Arabs, Druze, Circassians, Bedouins, as equal brothers.
"In recent hours we witness the intensifying of the fighting at the area of the Druze village of Hader in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights," he said.
The Druze, who follow a secretive offshoot of Shia Islam, have been divided during Syria's civil war, with some members fighting on the government side and others sympathising with the opposition.
According to the Israeli webpage, the units of the Israeli border carried out the arrests at night, increasing the number of detainees from the Syrian Golan Druze villages from 20 to 29.
Overnight Sunday, an Israel Defense Forces ambulance carrying wounded Syrians was attacked by a group of Druze from the village of Hurfesh in the upper Galilee.
The Druze faith, related to Islam, Christianity and Judaism, is practiced by around 1.5 million people, mostly in Syria, Lebanon and Israel.
Jabhat al-Nusra and the Druze of Idlib Province While most analysis of the Druze in Syria focuses on their positions in Suwayda province- where they constitute the majority of the population- as well as Jabal al-Sheikh in Damascus/Quneitra provinces, it should be remembered that there is also a Druze community in the Jabal al-Samaq area of Idlib province, more widely known as Jabal al-Zawiya.