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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.
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 minority 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 Druze 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 population 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.
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Small Mohammedan sect in Syria, notorious for their opposition to the Marionites, a Catholic people dwelling on the slopes of the Lebanon. Their name is derived as a plural form of Dorazy, the proper name of a Persian at the court of El Hakim in Egypt (about 1015). They subsequently repudiated all connection with this Mohammed Ibn Ismail el-Dorazy, and styled themselves Unitarians, or Muwahhedin, on account of the emphasis they lay on the unity of God. Their history begins with the arrival of Dorazy in the Wady el-Teim, after his flight from Egypt. This Persian had had the audacity to read to a large multitude in a mosque a book tending to prove that El Hakim, the mad Fatimite caliph, was an incarnation of God. Escaping from the crowd, who were enraged at this blasphemy, he fled to the valley between Hermon and the Southern Lebanon, and with the support of his master preached his doctrine to these mountaineers, already given to Batenite doctrine and therefore predisposed to accept a further incarnation of the Deity. He was soon superseded by another Persian, Hamzeh Ibn Ahmed El Hady, who became the real founder of the sect and the author of its sacred books. After the assassination of El Hakim, Hamzeh wrote a treatise to prove that El Hakim had not really died but only disappeared to test the faith of his followers. This disappearance and ultimate return of El Hakim are the cardinal points of the Druze faith today. The sacred books of the Druzes, successfully hidden from the world for eight centuries, have since the middle of the last century found their way into European libraries. They are written in Arabic and effect the style of the Koran. They consist of six volumes containing 111 treatises of a controversial character or explanatory epistles to individual persons. Each book takes its name from its first treatise. Their speculations strongly reflect their Persian origin.
The Druze doctrine concerning God is characterized by its abstraction from all Divine attributes; these, it declares, would imply limitation in the Supreme Being. God, however, manifested Himself first in the Universal Mind, then in the Universal Soul, and again in the Word. These three form the first great manifestation. The second great manifestation began with the residence of the Universal mind in Adam for a thousand years; after which Enoch took his place, and in turn was followed by the seven ministers, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Ibn Ishmail; the seventh is unknown. God appeared ten times in human form, for the last time in El Hakim. The Druzes teach a distinction between Jesus, the son of Joseph, and the Christ. Christ instructed Jesus, but finally Jesus disobeyed Christ and was crucified in consequence. Christ, who was concealed under the form of one of the disciples of Jesus, stole the body of Jesus from the grave, and gave out the report that Christ had risen, in order that the true Druzes might be concealed for awhile in the religion of Jesus. The Druzes are firm believers in the transmigration of souls, and this transmigration will never end; after the Judgment Day death will continue, but it will be painless for the saved, who will live to the age of 120 years, and whose souls will forthwith be reborn and re-enter a life of peace and pleasure. The Druze are unshakably convinced that the whole of China is peopled with adherents of their religion. The Judgment Day, or rather the golden age for the Druzes, will be at hand when the Christians wax greater than the Mohammedans, some nine hundred years after the disappearance of El Hakim. Then the Christians, aided by the King of Abyssinia, a sort of Antichrist named "The Antagonist", will march against the Caaba in Mecca. The hosts of Christ and Mohammed will meet, but only to be both overcome by 2,500,000 Chinese Druzes. Moslems and Christians will both be reduced to everlasting slavery, and the Unitarians will reign forever. The Druze religion contains several moral precepts: veracity, love of the brethren, forsaking of idolatry, repudiation of devils, acknowledgement of God's unity at all times, secrecy in religion, and resignation to the will of God.
The Druzes are divided into two main classes: the Ukkal, or initiated, and the Juhhal, or uninitiated; among the former the Iwayid profess the strictest Druze principles. They meet on Thursday evenings for worship, which consists almost exclusively in reading their sacred books. They often comply with the outward observances of Islam and even make pretense of being Mohammedans, but they are officially designated as unbelievers. They live mostly in Lebanon, but are also found in the Hauran and in the districts near Damascus; their total number is estimated at 100,000 or a few thousand more. Encouraged by Turkish authorities, the Druze in 1860 attacked the Catholic Marionites, and are said to have massacred some ten thousand of them. The massacres were stayed mainly through English and French intervention.
Publication information Written by J.P. Arendzen. Transcribed by M. Donahue. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume V. Published 1909. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York
Wortabet, Researchers into the Religions of Syria (London, 1860); Churchill, the Druze and Marionites (London, 1862); Socin in Realencyk.für prof. Theol. (Leipzig, 1898), s.v. Drusen; Neumann, Das Volk des Drusen (Vienna, 1878).
Unfortunately, we are not aware of any scholarly texts on this subject which have yet been translated into English. We know that a number of Arabic scholars have written wonderful texts in Arabic, and look for the day when we will be able to add higher quality texts to this presentation.
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