LOCATION: Lebanon; Syria; Israel; Jordan
POPULATION: Under 1 million
RELIGION: Secret Druze faith (Muhwahhidun)
1 • INTRODUCTION
The Druze are both a religious and an ethnic group. The group originated in Cairo, Egypt, in AD 1009–10. They then spread to the mountains of southern Lebanon and beyond. The Druze faith grew out of the Ismaili sect of Shi'ah Islam. However, disillusioned with the Ismailis, the Druze turned to Caliph al-Hakim of Egypt as their deliverer.
Persecution of the Druze began early in their history. Their earliest leaders were forced into hiding, and many Druze were murdered. The survivors in southern Lebanon and Syria became secretive in order to survive. For the most part, no new converts have been accepted by the Druze since AD 1043. One must be born a Druze; no one can become one by choice.
Today, the Syrian Druze community is growing, as many have fled the former Druze center in war-torn Lebanon.
2 • LOCATION
The total Druze population throughout the world is probably under 1 million. Approximately 900,000 live in Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and Jordan. The largest communities outside the Middle East are in North and South America. There are smaller groups in Australia, West Africa, and Western Europe.
Most Druze are still hardy, independent farmers living in mountain villages of less than 10,000 people. All Druze villages are located on hills or mountains, primarily for purposes of defense. In Lebanon, most Druze have olive groves and fruit orchards. In southern Syria, they are more likely to be wheat farmers.
3 • LANGUAGE
The Druze speak Arabic, with some distinguishing features. For example, they have kept the qaf, the strong guttural k sound of classical Arabic. (It has been dropped or changed to a j or hard g sound in other Arabic dialects.) They have also retained the dad, a soft d sound that has been lost in other Arabic dialects.
Today most Druze children are given names that are common to Christians and Muslims, such as Samir, Salim, Fu'ad, or Fawzi for boys.
4 • FOLKLORE
The Druze believe that the number of souls of believers and nonbelievers was fixed at Creation. Thus, every time a Druze dies, another Druze is born. The soul of the deceased immediately enters the body of the newborn.
5 • RELIGION
Because the Druze faith is surrounded by secrecy, few of their beliefs are known to the world. However, it is known that they believe in one God.
In every community, only a few Druze of each generation learn all the details of their faith. The rest are called the juhhal, or "noninitiated." They are given a simplified outline of the faith to follow.
The initiated, called ùqqal, or "enlightened," are put through rigorous tests. Once initiated, they wear a heavy white turban. They never wear bright colors, swear or use obscene language, drink alcohol, or smoke. At religious services, the juhhal attend only the first part of the service, where community affairs are discussed. Then they leave so the ùqqal can engage in prayer, study, and meditation.
The Druze believe that prayer and ritual are unnecessary when true knowledge of God's unity is gained. They consider prayer to be a constant state of being, rather than something one does at certain times of day.
Women have been included in the ùqqal since the beginning of the Druze movement.
The Druze have shrines that they visit frequently, called mazar or maqam, located on the tops or sides of hills and mountains. At the tomb of the holy man or woman to whom the shrine is dedicated, the Druze pray quietly, leave small gifts of food and money, and take away small pieces of colored cloth as tokens of divine blessing to be kept in their homes or in the family car. Some families come for extended stays to sacrifice animals in the fulfillment of a vow. Others just have picnics or spend a quiet weekend there.
6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS
Religious observance of holy days is not important to the Druze. However, annual religious festivals do attract thousands of Druze to the shrines of certain holy men and women, such as al-Nabi Shuayb. There is also an annual pilgrimage to the alleged burial place of Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, near the Horns of Hittim in Galilee.
7 • RITES OF PASSAGE
Unlike Muslims and Jews, the Druze do not practice circumcision of males.
Weddings are small gatherings. However, they can be extravagant, depending on the wealth of the family.
Funerals are huge community events; people from all over attend. Funeral arrangements are made immediately after death. The ceremony is held the next day at the latest. The body is washed and dressed in the finest clothes available. It is buried above ground level just outside the village. Every Druze village has a mawqaf, or "stopping place." This is a small cement or stone amphitheater with rows of seats. Hundreds, even thousands, can gather there to honor and remember a deceased person and give condolences to the family.
8 • RELATIONSHIPS
Among themselves (and others they feel they can trust), the Druze are extremely hospitable and generous. Almost all Druze villages have one or more mudafat, guest houses where visitors can stay.
The Druze look after the less fortunate in their community. There is no such thing as a Druze beggar. If an extended family cannot support one of its members, the rest of the community will help out.
9 • LIVING CONDITIONS
Most Druze still live in small villages. Some villages have electricity and telephone service; others do not. Almost all villages now have regular bus and taxi service to major nearby cities.
10 • FAMILY LIFE
The most important factor in Druze family life is a woman's honor (ird). For this reason, women are very restricted socially, even though they have equal rights politically and religiously. Marriages are almost always arranged by the family. Marriage partners usually come from the same village and often from the same extended family (including first cousins). The groom pays the bride's family a dowry. Polygamy (having more than one spouse) is forbidden, as is marriage to a non-Druze.
The Druze prefer sons to daughters, particularly for the firstborn child. They will continue to have children until a son is born. The average family has five or six children, but Druze families can be as large as ten to twelve children.
Divorce is difficult to obtain, but women as well as men can initiate the proceedings. The failure of a woman to bear children (particularly sons) is a frequent cause for divorce.
11 • CLOTHING
Druze living in small villages still wear traditional clothing. Women wear a blue or black peasant dress with a gauzy white head covering called a mandil . They wear red slipperlike shoes. The ùqqal (initiated) wear baggy pants that are tight at the ankle. Juhhal (uninitiated) men wear the common Arab head scarf, the keffiyeh . The ùqqal wear heavy white turbans. Most Druze men have large moustaches with waxed tips.
12 • FOOD
Most Druze families grow their own fruit and vegetables and bake their own bread. They eat a mostly vegetarian diet, with meat only on special occasions. Typical foods include olives; mountain bread (paper-thin, round, unleavened bread); yogurt; chickpeas flavored with onions, garlic, and tahini (sesame paste); and bulghur (cracked wheat). Salad is made of tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, and other herbs, with olive oil and lemon juice. Meats include lamb, kid (young goat's meat), chicken, and beef.
13 • EDUCATION
Among the younger generation of Druze (under age twenty-five), literacy is almost universal. Most girls traditionally stopped their formal schooling after six years of basic elementary education. Today more girls attend secondary school, and some even go on to university or professional training (as nurses or teachers, for example).
14 • CULTURAL HERITAGE
Druze poetry does not have any love songs. Instead, it focuses on themes such as the love of God and of one's native countryside. Druze writers include poet Samih al-Qasim and Shaqib Arslan, known as "the prince of eloquence" (amir al-bayan). Among classical musicians, pianist Diana Taqi al-Din is a Druze. A well-known performer of traditional Middle Eastern music was singer and composer Farid al-Atrash (1916–76).
15 • EMPLOYMENT
The Druze were traditionally farmers. Now they can now be found in all areas of business. These include banking, trade, retail, and transportation services. Druze women rarely work outside the home.
16 • SPORTS
The Druze enjoy most popular sports, including hunting, fishing, soccer, basketball, tennis, volleyball, water skiing, and water polo.
17 • RECREATION
Druze families often enjoy picnics at religious shrines on mountaintops and hillsides. They may spend an entire weekend at these sites, relaxing in the quiet atmosphere.
18 • CRAFTS AND HOBBIES
The Druze are known for their weaving, carpet-making, and basketry.
19 • SOCIAL PROBLEMS
Because they are such a close-knit society, the Druze have very few social problems. Living in small mountain villages, the Druze have learned to take care of their own. However, they have suffered almost constant persecution from outsiders.
20 • BIBLIOGRAPHY.
Betts, Robert Brenton. The Druze . New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1988.
Makarem, Sami Nasib. The Druze Faith . Delmar, N.Y.: Caravan Books, 1974.