The Druze faith originated and evolved in a totally Islamic atmosphere.It is Written in one of its Epistles that the Fatimid Caliph (Prince ofBelievers) Al Hakim Bi Amr Allah declared that every person in his kingdomhad the right to adopt the religion he liked. This decree made it possiblefor some Ishmaili preachers to construct a new dogma. This dogma inheritedalmost all the Ishmaili teaching and modified certain rules.
The decree stated:
Remove ye the causes of fear and estrangement from yourselves. Doaway with the corruption of delusion and conformity. Be ye certain thatthe Prince of Believers hath given unto you free will, and hath sparedyou the trouble of disguising and concealing your true beliefs, so thatwhen ye work ye may keep your deeds pure for God.He hath done thus so thatwhen you relinquish your previous beliefs and doctrines ye shall not indeedlean on such causes of impediments and pretensions. By conveying to youthe reality of his intention, the Prince of Believers hath spared you anyexcuse for doing so. He hath urged you to declare your belief openly. Yeare now safe from any hand which may bringeth harm unto you. Ye now mayfind rest in his assurance ye shall not be wronged. Let those who are presentconvey this message unto the absent so that it may be known by both thedistinguished and the common people. It shall thus become a rule to mankind;and Divine Wisdom shall prevail for all the days to come.
The time was the beginning of the 11th century A.D., the place was Cairo,the capital of Egypt, in the Era of the Fatimid dynasty during the reignof the caliph Al Hakim Bi Amr Allah.We have clear evidences that this caliphgranted this new Call (Daawa) his financial, political, and moral support.
Al Hakim was aiming to reign all the Islamic Empire, so he encouraged theIshmaili preachers to call for a new dogma which permits the Unificationbetween two main Islamic sects i.e. the Sunna and the Shi'aa. He himselfwas a descendant of the family of Muhammad (pbuh); and it was believedby the different Shi'aa parties, that the members of this family are qualifiedto continue the message of their Ancestor the prophet Muhammad (pbuh).Every Imam descending from the family of the prophet has the right to legislateand to develop for the welfare of the Umma because he inherits the Divineknowledge from his ancestors. He is invincible,impeccable and exempt fromcommitting mistakes.
It is evident that this new religious approach was very ambitious and itwas not easy for a prince to make his people change their traditional beliefsand customs of worship to convert to it, moreover the kingdom of Al Hakimconsisted of more than one religion: The Sunna and Copts in Egypt, Orthodox,in addition to Islamic esoteric sects and Christian minorities. For thissake Al Hakim mobilised all his staff to reach for this new movement. Theadoption to such movement was optional. The preachers were counting ona new understanding to the Koran and the other Holy Books.
This new look at religion demanded an omniscient character to the knowledgeof its canvasser (promoter).This new theology was inherited from the effortsmade by Ikhwan Al Safa who preceded this new call. The two parties (IkhwanAl Safa and the Fatimid Preachers) were aiming at the same goal:The reunificationof religions under one belief titled as Al Tawhid (i.e.Monotheism) forthat sake high estimation was given to philosophy in addition to the threecelestial religions. Ikhwan Al Safa considered philosophy on the same levelas Islam; and they considered the work of Aristotle and Plato as validas the Koran.
However, we find that the Fatimid movement was a logical consequence tothe Ishmaili jurisprudences about the Islamic doctrine. So, it is not strangeto see the Koran is at the origin of every new thought or conduct, butthe interpretation of verses was different. There is also a philosophicaltouch which makes the issues treated more relevant and logical.
Hence, the Druze faith descending from the Fatimid religious trend wasnot an innovation independent from its precedent esoteric movement of theIshmailism. The difference between these two confessions is very slight.The two confessions inherited the same metaphysical issues from the neo-platonismphilosophy and they built up a new approach to the moral concepts and IslamicEthics was adopted by both.
But we have to be cautious about the Islamic identity of monotheism orTawhid, because if we look at this trend with a fundamentalists eye, manyobstacles will hinder us from accepting this trend as Islamic. Legislationin the Tawhid regarding a number of issues differs radically from the commonIslamic view. We have in hand for example: the reincarnation, monogamy,and the free will to transmit inheritance.
These legislations seems to be quite different from the Islamic laws. Yet,the Tawhid doctrine refers these issues to the Koran. A new understandingof the verses was possible by means of esotericism and allegory, and thisled to a new look at ethics and traditions. So a progress in human relationshipswas set on, and a new kind of justification was made without violatingthe scripts of the Koran. This new Islamic trend was formulated to bringover the new believers from all the precedent dogmas of Islam, Christianity,and Judaism.
In spite of its simple requirement with respect to other confessions ,this new call did not find much success. One of the main causes of thatfailure is the quarrels which took place between its preachers notablyHamza Ibn Ali and Mohammed Al Darazi. Al Darazi proclaimed without thepermission of Hamza the Imam that Al Hakim is the incarnation of God onearth; and such a claim did not match with the other doctrines. So a generalrefutation spread between the people of Egypt. This refutation evolvedinto a struggle between the traditional Muslims and the new believers andled these believers to work underground for fear of liquidation.
The new philosophical concepts used to attract people were not so explicitor easy to grasp by the lay man. The metaphysical complexity of its thesisdemanded special qualifications which overpasses the ordinary, while thetraditional Islam was still more tolerant in dealing with what may be calledhuman conduct. So the people regarded the call as Anti-Islamic; and thislook made the spreading very difficult. The new believers were trying desperatelyto show the Islamic milieu, where they were dwelling that this new movementwas not against Islam but was only a wider scope to its teachings.
This attempt to convince other Muslims that the Fatimid movement was quitean Islamic movement and not a conspiracy against it, was in vain. The maincause for such a failure was the close connection between different Islamicparties with the political motivations that lay behind. The other partiesknew very well that such a movement might threaten their existence andlead to the sovereignty of the Fatimid dynasty over all controversial dynasties.So all the logical proofs and the philosophical approaches of this newcall met deaf ears. The greed for power was the dominant factor, and everyparty had its dogma to serve a special regime. It was impossible to separatepolitics from the religious legislations. This has been and is still oneof the main characteristics of Islam.
Eventually, the call was put to an end after 27 years of hard struggleand since that time the Druze prohibit preaching because they believe thatevery thing possible has been done, and there is no need for further preaching;hence, a believer must not speak about his faith, and the holy teachingof the sect should be kept in total secrecy. This conduct has been respectedfor almost one thousand years, and the studies about this special sectdid not see light before the second half of the 18 century. Sylvester DeSacy, a French orientalist, was the first pioneer who tried to give a completeinformation about this sect in his book Expose de Religion Des Druzes andwith the increasing interest in the Druze people many books were writtenafterwards.
The acceptance of the Druze as an Islamic sect is still under questionin most of the Arabic countries; controversial casuistries has been presentedabout that case.
However, the majority of Druze communities maintain the claim which ascertainthat the Druze is an Islamic sect. The main arguments this claim can beclassified as follows:
*The chain of Imams who oriented and gave the legal decision for thecall were the descendants of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
*The Epistles of Wisdom, which contain the whole dogma of the Druzefaith, made it clear that the confessed religion in front of God is Islamand nothing else
*All the prayers and rituals practised during birth, marriages, funerals,obituaries....etc. are totally Islamic word and spirit.
*The Druze religious status in the Islamic Hanafi legislation with someslight modification.
*The Sufi conduct of the Druze priests (Okkal) is quite Islamic in nature.With Sufism , the Druze conformity with Islam reaches its Climax.
*The history of the Druze reveals beyond any doubt that the Druze werein Alliance with the other Islamic sects in their struggle to protect theIslamic Empire from the crusades and other enemies of Islam.
The Koran is the source of legislation for the Druze and it is consideredas the Holy Book of God. Moreover, the Koran as well is the Book of theDruze, while the Epistles of Wisdom are their culture and tradition.
Most of the rules which regulate the Druze ethics and social conduct areinspired from the tradition of the prophet Mohammed (pbuh).
In spite of these arguments we cannot deny that the Druze faith has itsown particular characteristics and it contains for certain some revolutionaryideas. So the claim affirming the Islamic identity of the Druze does noteliminate their special character. The Druze rest as an independent Islamicsect and we can compare the Druze sect with respect to other Islamic sectsas similar to that of the Protestants with respect to the Roman Catholics.
In the past, the Druze possessed about 20 Mosques in Lebanon where prayerswere practised. The majority of these mosques were destroyed due to thebloody conflicts that took place between the Druze and other sects. Nowadays, the Islamic identity of the Druze community is accepted politically inmots of the Arabic countries. The Druze in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan areconsidered as an Islamic sect and this recognition is a kind of reliefwith respect to them. The link between the Druze and Islam is very tight.All the Druze insist on being Muslims. Many attempts were done to provethe contrary but the Druze refutation to it was total.
They maintain strongly the attitude of loyalty to the Islamic legislationand faith. This has been always a general conduct and a final end. Onepoint remains most critical about the relation between Druze and Islamand it is the very strict relation of Sufism. The Druze as a Sufi communityis closely attached to Islam, whereas the intellectual dogma is very closeto Neoplatonic philosophy.