Origin (§ 1) 

Mohammedan Forerunners of the Druses (§ 2).

Obscurity of the Druse Religion (§ 3).

Doctrine of God (§ 4).

The “Administrators” (§ 5). 

Nature of the Soul (§ 6).

Knowledge (§ 7).

Ethics and Customs (§ 8) 

Druses are the adherents of a composite sect which still exists in Syria, especially in the Lebanon. From their use of the Arabic language the Druses, who term themselves "Confessors of the Unity (of God)," seem to be a mixture of Syrians and Arabs. Their type, on the other hand, would indicate that they are descendants of the pre-Mohammedan Aramaic population. The steady resistance of this liberty-loving community to the State has aided in the preservation of their religion through the centuries, while they feel, on the other hand, that they form a distinct nation simply because of their religious isolation. By their tenacity, cunning, and valor they have succeeded in resisting all attempts at subjugation, and still form a State within a State. They now number about 100,000, although in recent years political circumstances have led many families to emigrate from Lebanon to the Hauran, where they have settled among the peasants and Bedouins of that region. It is worth noting that there are two Druse villages on Mt. Carmel, and they have a sanctuary there at which they perform a yearly sacrifice.


1. Origin. The origin of the religion is closely connected with the Egyptian Fatimite calif al-Hakim bi'amri-llah (996-1021). His chief object was the propagation of the tenets of the sect of the Ismailiyyah, the main source of the doctrines of the Druses, in Egypt, where the people were adherents of orthodox Sunnite Mohammedanism. In 1017 a Turk named Darazi, a member of the Ismailiyyah, who had come from the East and had been made a confidant of al-Hakim, published a work asserting that the soul of Adam had passed to Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Mohammed. whence it had descended to the Fatimites, and thus had come to al-Hakim. The heretic barely escaped with his life from the fury of the people, but the calif aided him to flee to Syria, where at Wadi al-Taim, in the southern Lebanon, he founded the sect which received its name from him, duruz being the plural of darazi. Three years later the Persian sectary Hamzah again sought to propagate kindred doctrines in Egypt, but was forced to take refuge in flight with Darazi, whose theological authority he became. A few years later the calif al-Hakim mysteriously disappeared, and the Druses believe that he is concealed somewhere as the incarnation of the divinity and will appear at the end of time as the Mahdi.


2. Mohammedan Forerunners of the Druses. In origin the Druses were both political and religious, since they were closely connected with the Shiites, the strict legitimists who upheld the claims of Ali and the first three califs, but rejected the Ommiads and the Abbassids. These Shiites, especially in Persia, regarded Ali and his descendants, the Imams, as incarnations of the Deity, and held that the soul of an Imam passed immediately at his death into the body of his successor. Since it was politically dangerous to appear as an Imam, the theory of a hidden Imam was developed, of whom the Mahdi is to be the last. The missionary activity of the various Shiite sects included northern Africa, and was accepted by the Fatimite califs. Of these sects the Ismailiyyah and the Karmathians were the most important for the development of the Druses. The Ismailiyyah rose about 765. After the death of the Imam Jaafar a schism was caused by the fact that some accepted his son Musa as the seventh Imam, while others gave this honor to his other son, Ismail. The same period saw a development of the theory that incarnations of the divinity had been sent to earth to bring man nearer to God and to reveal his will. These prophets, who were called "speakers" (nați), were Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, and Mohammed al-Mahdi, the son of Ismail. These prophets, each of whom marked an advance on the teachings of his predecessors, were aided by a "silent one," who spoke nothing on his own authority, but proclaimed and promulgated the tenets of the "speakers." These "silent ones" are the Imams, so that Seth was the Imam to the prophet Adam, Shem to Noah, Ishmael to Abraham, Aaron to Moses, Peter to Jesus, Ali to Mohammed, and Abdallah ibn Maimun to Mohammed al-Mahdi, and between each prophet came seven Imams. This entire system of prophets and Imams was accepted, though with modifications, by the Druses. The Abdallah ibn Maimun just mentioned was an adherent of a dualistic sect and used his propaganda of the doctrines of the Ismailiyyah solely to advance his teachings which were a confused mixture of Zoroastrian, Manichean, and, Greek concepts. His missionaries were charged to lead suitable adepts of the new faith through various stages (at first seven, and later nine) to his own nihilistic and materialistic point of view, thus alienating them not only from Shiite Mohammedanism, but from all positive religion. Abdallah's propaganda naturally brought upon him the hostility of the authorities, and he was forced to flee to the town of Salamiyyah in Syria. Many adherents were won in Persia and the lands lying along the Euphrates, while on the lower Euphrates the Karmathians split off from the Ismailiyyah and formed a political party with communistic tenets. The Ismailiyyah also made their way back to Africa before the califate of al-Hakim bi'amri-llah, as noted above, and communities of them still exist in Syria.


3. Obscurity of the Druse Religion. The doctrines of the Druses mark an advance over the tenets of the Ismailiyyah and the Karmathians, their immediate predecessors, and they regard the teachings of the Ismailiyyah, like Shiitism and Islam in general, as superseded by their own and even hostile to them. On the other hand, the Mohammedans consider the Druses infidels, and Islamic writings seldom mention them. The difficulty of a clear presentment of the confused doctrines of the Druses is increased by the fact that their religion is esoteric, its adherents being forbidden to reveal its mysteries to non-believers and being required to hide their religious books from all. Druses who have been initiated into the faith seldom become converts to other religions, and from the uneducated nothing can be learned. Many dogmas and customs, moreover, which formerly had a distinct religious meaning, now survive as unintelligible remnants, especially as the Druses seldom pursue deep religious studies, and the very fact that the religion is secret (as it must be on account of the Mohammedan attitude toward it) renders it peculiarly liable to the danger of degenerating into meaningless phrases and ceremonies. The many-sided character of their religion makes it possible for Druses to emphasize the Islamic elements of their faith in conversing with Mohammedans and to follow a similar course with Christians or even with freemasons.


4. Doctrine of God. According to the teaching of the Druses, God is one, and the confession of his unity is the first duty of religion. While this coincides with the Koran, their doctrine that God is devoid of all attributes, having neither origin, limitations, definitions, names, or anthropomorphism of any sort, makes them closely akin to the rationalistic Mutazilah. This philosophical concept of God might seem to lead to pantheism, but its principal result was the theory that the Diety, in order to approach more closely to man, has revealed himself in bodily form, and has accordingly hidden himself in men; although man does not thereby become the Divinity. God ever remains the same, even in these forms which serve him as a veil, and it is, therefore, the duty of each one to attain through these manifestations a knowledge of God and a proof of his existence. The last of the ten (or nine) incarnations of the Divinity was the calif al-Hakim.


5. The “Administrators.” The real administrators of the world and the actual preachers or priests for mankind, however, are the "bonds " (udud), or "revelations" (ayyat), which are also called by many other names. The chief terms are derived from the fact that before the origin of the Druses the Mohammedan sect of the Bataniyyah interpreted every expression of the Koran allegorically and applied it to persons. In the system of the Druses such administrators were primarily abstract ideas which were later regarded as incarnate. The persons in whom they dwelt, who have lived at various times under various names, are regarded, however, merely as bearers of the one unchanged idea. The first of these administrators was Will, a figure of perfect purity created by God from the light which streams from him, and from it all else comes. It is also universal Wisdom, from which all truths are an emanation. Although it is a "speaker," it has appeared at various times as an Imam, its last incarnation being Hamzah, who had attended Adam as Shatniel, Noah as Pythagoras, Abraham as David, and who was Eleazar, the true Messiah, in the days of Jesus. When, however, Wisdom saw that he had no equal, he became proud, and thus was born Darkness, the author of disobedience in every form. Wisdom then implored forgiveness, and at his prayer God created as the second administrator the universal Soul, who received the knowledge of truth from Wisdom, to whom she stands in the relation of a wife, the other administrators deriving their existence from her. The soul has likewise been incarnate at certain times, as in Enoch and Hermes, while Hamzah regarded his contemporary Abu Ibrahim Ismail ibn Muhammad as an incorporation of this principle. The union of Wisdom and Soul produced the Word (in the Neoplatonic sense), while Soul's need of assistance against the adversary resulted in the fourth administrator, the "Preceding," or "Left Wing." On this principle the writings of the Druses are vague and scanty, although it is apparently derived from the allegorism of the Bataniyyah. The fifth and last administrator, called the "Following," or the "Right Wing," is important as being identified with the last noteworthy author of the sect, Abu'l-Hassan Ali, surnamed al-Muktanah or Baha al-Din, who established the doctrines of the Druses on a dogmatic basis about 1038.


A subordinate hierarchy must be distinguished from the one just described. On the "Following" are dependent the spiritual leaders of the Druses, who are called, in decreasing order, Da'i ("missionary"), Ma'dhun ("he to whom it is permitted"), and Mukassir ("breaker," i.e., of the doctrines of other beliefs). These subordinate hierarchs are invariably regarded as men. The five celestial administrators are opposed, furthermore, by five principles of error, who have been incarnate in Mohammed, Ali, and others.


6. Nature of the Soul. Both the universe and man were created in their present form, so that they are as immutable as God himself. Man is composed of two essentials, wisdom and soul, and of one accident, body. The souls have been created from eternity, but are later than universal Wisdom. The number of souls, like that of men, remains invariable; when a man dies his soul enters another body, generally without remembrance of the past, the souls of unbelievers again becoming infidels and the souls of the faithful remaining believers. They do not, however, enter the bodies of animals, but are reincarnated in better or worse human forms according to their deeds in their former life. The number of Druses, therefore, neither increases nor diminishes, but they also believe that in the farthest parts of China coreligionists live, where the soul of a dead Druse may find its reincarnation. Souls pass through a certain process of purification until the end of time, when al-Hakim and Hamzah will again appear and when the souls will commingle in the Imam.


7. Knowledge. True knowledge consists in insight into the nature and dogmas of unitarianism, the cardinal feature of the religion of the Druses. It is divided into five parts, two concerned with nature, especially with the healing of men and animals, and two with religion. The first of the latter is understanding of external religion, or revelation, and was the function of the “speakers,” Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed. The second religious truth is that each of these "speakers" had an asas ("foundation," a synonym for the "silent ones"), who represented the interpretation of revelation. These “speakers” all typified true religion or the unitarianism of the Druses, which is also taught in the Pentateuch, in the Psalms, in the Gospel, and in the Koran, although these books are a mixture of truth and falsehood and have been superseded by the teaching of the Druses. In their knowledge of religion the Druses are divided into "initiates" ('uḳḳal) and "ignorant" (juhhal), the former having a much higher rank, and the latter being denoted by distinctive clothing. There are also apparently many intermediate grades. The places of worship of the Druses are situated in lonely spots outside the villages. The initiates gather there frequently, but the nature of worship in these khalwas is unknown. They are often said to reverence a calf, which, if true, may represent a principle of evil.


In conformity with their doctrine of the immutability of bodies and spirits, the Druses make no religious propaganda whatever. When al-Hakim returns, however, he will either destroy or subjugate the misbelievers, and will found an earthly kingdom in which his followers will rule in wealth. The time of the coming of this Messianic kingdom is unknown, although signs will herald its approach, one portent being a period when the Druses are in a most pitiable plight and the Christians have gained power over the Mohammedans.


8. Ethics and Customs. The ethics of the Druses are closely connected with the practise of their faith, but the Mohammedan prescriptions of prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, and the like, already allegorized away by the Bataniyyah, are altogether discarded. According to De Sacy, the seven religious duties of the Druses are as follows; to speak the truth; to watch over their mutual safety; to follow the religion which they have professed, and to renounce the faith and worship of vanity and falsehood; to separate themselves from evil spirits and men of false creed; to confess the unity of God, as it has existed throughout the centuries; to be content with the acts of God, whatever they may be; and to submit entirely to the divine guidance in weal and wo. They are also enjoined to abstain from unlawful gain, to be dignified, and to refrain from cursing. The use of wine and tobacco is forbidden, at least to the initiates, while grave misdemeanors are punished severely, and even with exclusion from the community. Women are more highly esteemed among them than by the modern Mohammedans, and are usually instructed in reading and religion, although, in conformity with ancient Oriental usage, they are veiled in the presence of strangers.


It is impossible, with the sources thus far known, to give a complete presentment of the religion of the Druses, nor do they themselves possess a perfect system of all their dogmas, for in the course of centuries many new doctrines have been developed, and others have been forgotten. Although their faith is not without its dark aspects, the Druses have sought with all their might to preserve their views and customs, and to defend against external influences their consciousness of nationality, which rests upon a foundation of religion.

(A. SOCIN †.)


Bibliography: S. de Sacy, Exposé de la religion des Druzes, 2 vols., Paris, 1838; C. Niebuhr, Reisebeschreibung, ii. 428 sqq., Copenhagen, 1778; C. H. Churchill, Ten Years' Residence in Lebanon, . . . Full Account of the Druze Religion, 4 vols. (vol. iv. is Druzes and Maronites under Turkish Rule), London, 1853-62; G. W. Chasseaud, Visits to the Druzes of Lebanon, ib. 1854; Earl of Carnarvon, Recollections of the Druzes of Lebanon, ib. 1860; B. H. Cowper; Sects in Syria, ib. 1860; H. Petermann, Reisen im Orient, i. 375 sqq, Leipsic, 1860; H. Guys, Théogonie des Druses, Paris, 1863; idem, La Nation Druse, son histoire, sa religion, ses mæurs, Marseilles, 1864; R. Dozy, Het Islamism, Haarlem, 1880; L. Oliphant, Land of Gilead, London, 1880; idem, Haifa, or Life in Modern Palestine, ib. 1887; A. Müller, Der Islam im Morgen- und Abendland, i. 629 sqq., Berlin, 1885; T. Waldemeier, Autobiography:... Sixteen Years in Syria, London, 1886; W. Ewing, Arab and Druze at Home, ib. 1907.