Religion and group of people with around 350,000 members, living in Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and Jordan. The Druze can be seen upon as Muslims, but are not regarded as Muslims by other Muslims, but do see themselves as Muslims. The origin of Druze is to a large extent from a group of Shi'is, the Isma'ilis, but they have diverged much, and the Koran does not seem to be a part of their religion, even if the creed of the Druze is little known to most.
The Druze are called Druze after one of the co-founders, Muhammadu d-Darazi. The religion was established in Cairo in 1017, and it is believed that it spread to many regions in the Middle East and North Africa, but that it is only the Druze that kept it up. There are also evidence pointing in a direction of the Druze being a people of their own even before conversion to the Druze religion. Theories of their ethnographical origin points in direction of being descendants of Persian colonists. Another theory is that they are descendants of Christians from the time of the crusades. Druze chiefs have claimed to be descending from Duke Godefroi, one of the leaders of the first crusade in late 11th century. The Druze call themselves muwahhidûn, 'monotheists'.
Druze religion's main theme is that God incarnated himself in the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim, who died in 1021, but who is believed not to have died by the Druze. Parallel to Shi'i traditions, al-Hakim is waiting to return to the world, and with him a new golden age.
The Druze follow a life style of isolation where no conversion is allowed, neither out of, or into, the religion. The central content of the religion is only known to an elite of religiously trained men, cuqqâl, and most Druze know only parts of their religion's theology, called hikma and is therefore called juhhâl, 'ignorants'. One out of 50 members of the uqqal, reach as high as perfection, and are called 'ajaawîd, 'noble'. The uqqal the takes care of the religion for the juhhal, and they alone attend the religious meetings taking place at the night between Thursday and Friday, in ordinary buildings in the outskirts of Druze villages. The religious centre of the Druze are the Hawran mountains south in Syria, which are also called Jabalu d-Duruz.
In the beliefs of the juhhal, one finds reincarnation, where good souls are reborn as children, while bad people are reborn as dogs. The soul is advancing towards the final purification. Polygamy is allowed among the Druze. When Druze live among people of other religions, they try to blend in, in order to protect their religion. They can pray as Muslims, or as Christians, depending on where they are.
Out of the fragmental information one has about the hikma, a calf is central, but one knows not if this is worshiped or execrated. Al-Hakim is worshiped, and called "Our Lord", and his cruelties and eccentricities are all interpreted symbolically. But while God incarnated himself in al-Hakim in his unity, other aspects of God can be incarnated in other human beings. This is represented in five superior ministers. Under the ministers one finds three other groups: functionaries; preachers; and heads of communities. The knowledge of this hierarcal system is the highest knowledge in the Druze religion. The moral system consists of seven principles:
individual Druze's willingness to blend with dominant groups, the Druze
have a history of brave resistance to occupying powers, and enjoyed more
freedom under the Ottomans than most other groups of the Levant. The Druze
were one of the dominate groups in Lebanon in the 17th and 18th century,
despite their low number, when the Shihab family was the local rulers under
the Ottoman empire. The Druze had autonomy in the Hawran region, from 1921
until 1925, but when the French broke the agreements assuring the autonomy,
a revolt started among the Druze. This revolt became the beginning of the
battle of independence for Lebanon and Syria.