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Ismaili History 560 - The origin of the Druzes

In 407/1016, an Iranian dai, named Muhammad bin Ismail Nashtakin ad-Darazi came in Egypt, who professed the transmigration of souls. He also preached the divinity of al-Hakim. He came from Bukhara to Cairo in 408/1017.

Finding no response he moved to Wadi al-Taymun, at the foot of Mount Hermon in Lebanon and Jabal as-Summaq in Syria. He was first in the public eyes being the founder of the Druze sect. In 410/1019, the Turks soldiers of the Fatimids gathered and moved towards the houses of ad-Darazi and his followers and surrounded them. Ad-Darazi and those with him, fortified themselves in a house, fighting the besiegers from the roof and the wall. The besiegers ravaged the house and killed about forty people with az-Darazi. About the same time, another Iranian from Farghana, named Hasan al-Akhram also appeared as using his influence to propagate the deity of al-Hakim, and found a Druze sect about in 409/1018. He was also killed in his house just eight days following his declaration.

The most famous however among them was Hamza bin Ali bin Ahmad, born in 375/985 in Zawzan in Iran, whom the Druzes regard as their real founder. He made public declaration of his doctrines in 408/1017, which is also considered the Era of Hamza. He established himself in a mosque outside the Nasr Gate of Cairo, inviting the people to confess his teachings and sent out his missionaries to various parts of Egypt and Syria. The extreme to which the followers of Hamza were prepared to go also increased.

Ibn Zafir (d. 613/1216) writes in 'al-Duwal al-Munqati'a' (Cairo, 1972, pp. 52-3) that on 12th Safar, 410/June 19, 1019, a group of Hamza's followers entered the congregational mosque of Amr in Fustat on horseback and approached the Qadi Ibn Abi al-Awwam, who belonged to Hanbali school of law. They handed him a letter from Hamza which began with these formula:- 'In the name of al-Hakim, Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.' The provocation at the most important religious centre of Fustat cost Hamza's followers their lives; they were killed by the people at the mosque.

In sum, both Hamza and ad-Darazi preached the divinity of al-Hakim according to their own interpretations, but Hamza seems to have cautious, intending to build a disciplined organisation. But, ad-Darazi created such a stir that his name was affixed to the movement at large. He has been given a title of 'guide of the faithful' (hadi al-mustajibin) in the Druze epistles.

The Druze historical accounts were written primarily to explain theological and religious issues rather than to record history. The Druze accounts were however written at a much later date, i.e., in the 16th and 17th centuries, such as 'Majra az-Zaman' by Taqi ad-Din Zayn al-Abidin Abdul Gaffar in 16th century, and 'Umdat al-Arifin' by Abdul Malik al-Ashrafani in 17th century.

Following Hamza in rank and authority was Ismail bin Muhammad al-Tamimi, the successor of Hamza. Then followed Muhammad bin Wahab al- Qoraishi, Salma bin Abdul Wahab al-Samuri and finally came Ali bin Ahmad al-Sammuqi. The five leaders embodied the five cosmic principles, and their teachings were considered irrevocable and final. According to Philip K. Hitti, the Druzes were a mixture of Iranians, Iraqi's and Persianised Arabs, vide 'The Origin of the Druze People and Religion' (New York, 1928, p. 23). Martin Sprengling, after analyzing each argument of this theory, criticised Hitti's speculative assumption, and concludes that the Druzes were mixture of stocks in which the Arabs component largely predominated, onto which was grafted an original mountain population of Aramaic blood, vide 'The Berlin Druze Lexicon' (American Journal of Semitic Language, 56, 1939, pp. 391-8).

The Druze movement became a main tool of the aggressive historians to discredit al-Hakim and contrived baseless stories arount it. He had however tried to control the Druzes in Egypt and Syria with drastic measures, but most of them had migrated in the mountains of Lebanon.

Ibn al-Qalanisi (d. 555/1160), who usually follows the reports of Ibn al-Sabi (d. 448/1056), does not mention any relation between al- Hakim and the Druze leaders, nor al-Hakim's so called desire for divinity. Makrizi also does not suggest that the Druze leaders were at any time emboldened by al-Hakim. Makrizi however condemns Ibn Abi Tayy (d. 630/1232), who seems to have been influenced by the account of Ibn al-Sabi by saying, 'This is extreme hostility which not one of the Egyptian historians has mentioned.' ('Itti'az', p. 411) Ibn Khaldun writes in his 'Tarikh' (4th vol, p. 60) that, 'These are allegations which no man of intellect would contemplate.' From Ibn al- Sabi comes the statement that al-Hakim desired to claim divinity and employed a man, named al-Akhram to declare it. A contradiction of this sharply appears in his own work when he says that al-Hakim prohibited his subjects from prostrating before him or from kissing the ground or his hand when they saw him. Kais M. Firro writes in 'History of the Druzes' (London, 1992, p. 15) that, 'In fact, however, neither the historical personalities of Hakim and the unitarian dais nor the history of the Fatimid Caliphate as such have any importance for the Druzes.' Kais Firro further writes, 'Others, comparing the several versions given in the different chronicles, conclude that Hakim had no wish to be considered divine and did not support or encourage the unitarian dais.' (Ibid)

Al-Hakim was anxious to promulgate Ismailism throughout the Muslim world and to convince the Muslims that he was the rightful Imam- Caliph. If this was a difficult, it would be even more so to convince them that he was an incarnation of the Divinity to boost his alleged claim. Al-Hakim's belief is seen in a personal letter which he wrote to one of his officials: 'I fear no one; beg from no one except my God to whom I submit and from whom I receive all bounties. My Prophet is my grandfather; my Imam is my father and my religion is sincerity and justice.' ('Itti'az', p. 403) Makrizi writes in his 'Khitat,' p. 286) that in 403/1012, al-Hakim had engraved on his seal these words: 'By the help of God, the Almighty and Protector, the Imam Abu Ali is the victorious.'

Besides the preceding, if al-Hakim had supported the Druze movement, he must have chosen one or both of the Druze leaders as official members of the Ismaili dawa to emphasis their authority. The Druze teaches that al-Hakim had no father or son. Contrary to it, al-Hakim claimed publicly that his father was al-Aziz and himself a direct descent from Prophet Muhammad, vide 'Itti'az' (p. 386) by Makrizi. There is no evidence that al-Hakim had forced the Muslims to pay jaziya being levied upon the non-Muslims. But according to Druze teachings as mentioned in 'Bud al-Tawhid' (pp. 41-42) that all the Muslims would have to pay jaziya if they refused to pay their creeds. The Druzes claimed that al-Hakim had written many sijils (treatises), but it has been to us a source of surprise that each sijil begins with the phrase: 'From the slave of God' and ends with 'By the assistance of God.'

The Druze literatures however affirm that Hamza was supported by al-Hakim and approved his teachings. But as A. Najjar in 'Mazhab al- Druze wa al-Tawhid' (Cairo, 1965, p. 103) pointed out, 'there is no substantial evidence to support such claims.' According to Antaki (d. 458/1065), 'When al-Hakim was informed about Druze's preaching, he was very much angry.' (vide 'Tarikh-i Antaki,' p. 222) In Hamza's own writings there is a passage in which he states that some of the people refused to accept his teaching unless Al-Hakim's own signed mandate commanded them to do so.' (vide 'al-Rida wa al-Taslim', p. 20) The impartial readers should judge conclusively how it is possible that a pious Imam-Caliph al-Hakim had made a claim for divinity after reading the following descriptions of the Sunni historian Makrizi who writes in his 'Khitat' (pp. 286-7) that, 'He gave orders that no one was to kiss the ground in front of him, nor kiss his stirrup nor his hand when greeting him in public processions, because bowing to the ground before a mortal was an invention of the Greeks; that they should say no more than 'Greeting to the Commander of the Faithful, and the mercy and blessings of God be upon him;' that in addressing him, whether in writing or in speech, they should not use the formula 'May God pray for him,' but that in writing to him they confine themselves to these words, 'The peace of God, His favour and the abundance of His blessings upon the Commander of the Faithful;' that only the customary invocation should be used for him, and no more; that the preachers at the time of the Friday prayer should say no more than 'O God, bless Muhammad Your Chosen One, give peace to the Commander of the Faithful Ali Your Well-beloved. O God, give peace to the Commanders of the Faithful the forebear of the Commanders of the Faithful. O God, give Your most precious peace to Your servant and deputy (khalifa).' He forbade them to beat drums or to sound trumpets around the palace, so that they marched around without drums and trumpets. On the Id al-Fitr, al-Hakim rode on horseback to the place of prayer without adornment, sumpter animals, or any pomp, save only ten led horses with saddles and bridles adorned with light white silver, with plain flags and with a white parasol without any golden adornment. He was dressed in white without embroidery or gold braid; there were no jewels on his turban and no carpets on his pulpit. He forbade people to curse the first Muslims and had those who disobeyed flogged and publicly reviled. He prayed on the Feast of Sacrifice, as he prayed on the Id al-Fitr, without any pomp. Abd al- Rahim bin Ilyas bin Ahmad bin al-Mahdi performed the sacrifice for him. Al-Hakim often rode to the desert outside the city. He wore plain sandals on his feet and a cloth on his head.' Thus, if al-Hakim had supported Hamza or ad-Darazi, not doubt, it must have been sounded in his personal life and in his activities as a ruler.

In the interim, al-Hakim wrote an urgent letter in 400/1009 to Hamiduddin Kirmani in Iraq with necessary instructions, so as to suppress the Druze propaganda. His letter is cited in 'Damigh al-Batil' by Ali Muhammad bin al-Walid (d. 612/1215), whose few lines read:- 'Keep up all my prescriptions to you concerning the service of God. Keep alive the tradition of our ancestor the Messenger of God, through the dawat to true tawhid. Urge the believers to remain attached to all the obligations of religious practices, to all the other obligations of their allegiance, and to the loyalty which is incumbent upon them and which is written in the book of their deeds. And know that our protection extends only to those who put into practice the Book of God and the Tradition of the Messenger of God, and who serve God through their devotion to us. Teach this to all of our friends (awliya) as our word.'

Thus, in refuting the Druze propaganda, Hamiduddin Kirmani wrote several tracts. Addressing the Druze leader, Hasan al-Akhram al- Farghani, he said, 'Amir al-mominin al-Hakim bi-Amrillah is no more than a servant of God, obedient and subservient to Him. God has preferred him over the rest of His creatures. And how can he be worshipped while he is of body and a spirit endowed with necessary powers of eating and walking. He denies what you and your followers ascribe to him. Nay, only God is worshipped to whom Amir al-mominin bows in prayer.' (vide 'al-Risala al-Waiza', Cairo, 1951, pp. 21-28). Kirmani also quoted the Koranic verses (41:33, 37 and 3: 178-9) in support of his arguments.

It is also necessary to mention that the official dais of the Ismaili mission in Egypt declared that al-Hakim never supported or authorized Hamza or any other extremist to preach such teaching. Special literature and even official decrees (manshur) were circulated throughout the state to emphasize this. For instance, 'al-Risala al-Waiza', 'al-Mabasim wa al-Bisharat' and 'al-Risala al-Duriya' etc. were written and circulated to condemn the Druze propaganda. Al-Musabbihi and Antaki says that immediately after the death of al-Hakim, his son az-Zahir issued a decree (manshur) denouncing the claims of the extremists.

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