Origins of the Druze People and Religion, by Philip K. Hitti, , at sacred-texts.com
Animism and Saint Worship:With the semi-, or quasi-, religious popular beliefs held by the Druzes of today which do not figure in their books and learned systemif indeed system it bewe are not particularly concerned in this study. Such beliefs represent, in general, animistic, pantheistic and polytheistic remnants of ancient beliefs which those people held before their admission into, and profession of, Islam. Many of them, under some form or other, are shared by their neighbors, Christian and Moslem alike. The belief in magic and in the evil eye is potent and widespread.
A venerable oak-tree in Ālayh, Lebanon, by which I passed many times, was ordinarily so bedecked with colorful rags from the clothes of pious Druze passers-by that its fame spread throughout the land under the name of "The Mother-of-Rags Oak-Tree."
The sight of Druze men and women walking a distance of miles, barefoot, to visit some wali tomb, particularly that of al-Sayyid Abdullāh al-Tanūkhi in Abayh, 1 is familiar to all those who have lived for any length of time in south Lebanon. This cult of the dead, a form of polytheism, is strong among them as it is among other Eastern peoples. 2
Charges of Licentious Practices:Ever since the days of the Nuṣayri, whose charges of immorality against the Druzes solicited a special reply from Ḥamzah, 3 and the days of Benjamin of Tudela
who visited the Lebanon around 1165 A.D. and wrote that the Druzes "live incestuously" and once every year assemble and "hold promiscuous intercourse," 1 similar charges have been brought against them, as they are against most secret cults, without much to substantiate them. There is, however, more to justify charges of nocturnal orgies and phallic worship against the Nuṣayriyyah of Syria and the Ali-Ilāhis of Lūristān. 2
The secrecy with which the Druzes hold their Thursday evening meetings in their secluded khalwahs, which meetings are attended also by the initiated women sitting behind a partition, has undoubtedly contributed to the rise of such suspicions. The khalwahs usually crown the hilltops, and the meetings consist principally of the perusal and explanation of the sacred writings, some of which are chanted. The writings of Ḥamzah and Bahā-al-Dīn, together with the commentaries of al-Sayyid Abdullāh, constitute the favorite readings. The early part of certain sessions is open for the uninitiated Druzes. The latter part of the evening is usually consumed with political and social discussions.
Ḥamzites versus Darazites:Nevertheless, it is admitted by the Druzes themselves that Darazi, the disreputed missionary whose name the Druzes reluctantly bear, in order to swell the ranks of his converts did sanction some licentious and libertine principles. But he was later discredited and deposed by his superior Ḥamzah from the position he aspired to maintain as the head of the Druze religion. 3 The liberties introduced by Darazi were evidently too seducing in their appeal to be entirely abandoned and to this day the line of cleavage between the purer
and more orthodox Ḥamzites and the Darazites is noticeable. In the introduction of his unscrupulous libertinism, Darazi was following the precedent of the Qarāmiṭah, 1 sometimes called the "free-lovers" and the "Bolsheviks of Islam."
Family Organization:In their family life, the Druzes, under Christian influence, strictly adhere to the monogamous form of organization; but divorce is easy. The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2 probably misled by Volney, 3 erroneously states that they allow polygamy. They intermarry among themselves only.
Summary and Conclusion:On the whole it might be said that the immediate origins of the Druze religion should be sought in the multitudinous heterodoxies of the Shīah and schools of thought which split early Islam asunder, and the ultimate origins in Neo-Platonism, Gnosticism and Manichaeism. What makes its study especially interesting and valuable 4 is the fact that while most of those systems from which the eclectic Druze founders drew their material have perished and become extinct, the Druze religion is still virile and strong and its followers are today numerous and aggressive enough to attract international attention.
52:1 See Appendix F.
52:2 For other illustrations of the folklore, see "Druzes" in Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement, 1889, pp. 120-126.
52:3 Al-Radd ala al-Risālah al-Dāmighah li-al-Fāsiq al-Nuṣayri, MS.
53:1 Early Travels in Palestine . . . Travels of Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela (London, 1848), p. 80. This "fēte des bougies" is described by "St. Ed." in Revue de lOrient, 2e sér. (Paris, 1841), IV, 240.
53:2 Sir Henry Layard, Early Adventures in Persia, Susiana, and Babylonia (London, 1887), I, 217 and II, 318; C. R. Conder, Syrian Stone-Lore (London, 1896), P. 423.
53:3 Ḥamzah denounces him bitterly in a tract entitled al-Ghāyah w-al-Naṣīḥah, MS.
54:1 Al-Baghdādi, ed. Mitzi, pp. 175-176, 180. According to the same authority the Khārijite Maymūniyyah (p. 169) sanctioned the marriage of grandchildren to grandparents, and nieces to uncles.
54:2 Article "Druzes."
54:3 op. cit., I, 425.
54:4 Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, op. cit., chap. LVII, n. 68, states with regard to this religion that "The little that is, or deserves to be, known may be seen in the industrious Niebuhr, and the second volume of the recent and instructive Travels of M. de Volney."