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by Pam Rohland


The Druze, also known as the "Sons of Grace," are a secretive, tightly-knit religious sect whose origins can be traced to Egypt a thousand years ago. They believe that God was incarnated on earth in the form of their leader, al-Hakim bi-Amrih Alla. The Druze do not have their own homeland. Thus, many of them migrated to the isolated mountains of Lebanon, Syria, and Israel, while others settled throughout the Middle East.

The Druze are of mixed race. They are largely of Arab descent but they also have Iranian, Kurdish, and European heritage. Little scholarly study has been done on the Druze, and much of what is available has not been translated into English. The Druze themselves are reluctant to share information about their faith or their culture with outsiders, primarily because of the fear of persecution. They have seemed radical for their belief in equality for men and women, the abolition of slavery, and separation of church and state.

The Druze have survived and thrived within their own communities by remaining isolated and secretive. Estimates of their numbers vary from 700,000 to 2 million worldwide. This wide range is because the Druze have not been part of any formal census since the 1930s. However, rough estimates place the number of Druze at 390,000 in Lebanon, 420,000 in Syria, 75,000 in Israel, 15,000 in Jordan, and about 80,000 scattered around the rest of the world, mostly in North America, Australia, and West Africa. The American Druze Society estimates the number of Druze in the United States at between 15,000 and 20,000.

Although they live in various parts of the world, the Druze have a flag, which strengthens their sense of unity. The flag includes five colors, which represent five prophets. It combines a green triangle on the hoist side and four horizontal stripes of red, yellow, blue, and white. Red symbolizes the heart and love of humanity, green the farmer and life, white the air and purity, yellow the sun and wheat, and blue the sky and faith.


In 1009, al-Hakim bi-Amrih Alla announced that he was the earthly incarnation of God. He began attracting followers, and the Druze sect was born near Cairo, Egypt. Early years were marked by fighting with members of the Shi'a, a sect of Islam, who were incensed that the supremacy of the prophet Muhammad, leader of the Muslims, was disputed. The last years of al-Hakim's life were marked by unusual, irrational actions, which led outsiders to stereotype the Druze as madmen. The Druze themselves found al-Hakim's actions to be further evidence of his divinity. Druze historians believe al-Hakim's reputation for instability was exaggerated, but they do describe him variously as capricious, whimsical, enigmatic, and prone to violence. In The Druze, Robert Benton Betts wrote, "The general picture that emerges is of a brilliant megalomaniac who dreams of uniting the Islamic world under his own aegis at whatever cost - a goal toward which all his political moves, internal reforms, even the creation of a new religious movement with himself as the divine center, were aimed." Al-Hakim disappeared around 1020. The widely accepted theory is that he was murdered by conspirators with the help of his sister. Others believe he simply vanished while despairing that his goals would ever be reached.

Al-Hakim's apostle Hamzah ibn Ali ibn Ahmad subsequently gave the religion form and content, and formed the various dogmas into a creed. But fear was rife among the Druze, and for six years following their leader's disappearance, they hid. They slowly re-entered public life, but most began emigrating to remote mountainous regions in Lebanon, Syria, and what became Israel, where they hoped they could practice their faith without persecution. Because of their fear of outsiders, no new members have been admitted to the sect since 1043.

Despite trying to avoid conflict with large religious groups, Druze living among Muslims in the Middle East faced retribution. Tribal skirmishes have been sporadic but ongoing for nearly a thousand years. Over the years, Druze who did not want to contend with the hostility publicly adopted the doctrine of the Muslims, while privately practicing their own religion.

During the mid-1800s, Protestant American missionaries traveled to Syria to convert the Druze, but failed. A missionary named A. L. Tibawi wrote, "The Druze are a deceitful and truculent race who, under changed conditions, professed themselves to be Muslims with the same readiness that they declared themselves Protestants." During the same era, the Druze in Lebanon worked their way into a position of power, some becoming feudal lords. But an insurrection by the Christians turned many of the Druze into serfs.

The Druze in Syria fared somewhat better, remaining autonomous, mainly because of their self-imposed isolation. This detachment also led to poverty, as Syrian Druze attempted to make a living from farming. They were considered more militant than their Lebanese counterparts and were involved in various tribal wars with other sects.


The Druze developed a fierce loyalty to each other because of their isolation. It also made them an easier target for French, British, and, later, Israeli occupying forces that wanted to undermine Arab nationalism after World War I. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, the Druze lived under Christian rulers. Although the Druze were not really part of the Arab Nationalist movement, they were at odds with Christian leaders, especially the French. They feared that the French maintained contacts with Muslim sects that still tried to suppress them.

In 1926, Syrian Druze rose up against the French in what is called the Druze Rebellion. This insurrection failed and French authority was restored. Tensions continued to simmer until 1936, when France recognized both Lebanon and Syria as independent states and sovereign members of the League of Nations. The French remained a presence in both countries until the end of World War II.

The Druze had no geographical base from which to lobby for an autonomous regional authority. They were also too small in number to take any kind of powerful role in national affairs, which were dominated by two large sects, the Maronite Christians and Sunni Muslims. They had one privilege granted by the French that they had not enjoyed under the Ottomans: the right to officially administer their own civil affairs according to the laws and customs of their community. Despite this, a long and complicated number of coups and upheavals continued in Syria and Lebanon.

Later, in Israel, the growing Druze population was permitted to exercise separate jurisdiction in matters of marriage and divorce, although the Druze had to participate in the same compulsory military service required of all residents. During the period of civil and political unrest in the 1960s and 1970s, some Druze protested Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights, and a minority of Druze was involved in violent acts. It was at this point that the rest of the world began hearing about the Druze from media reports, and modern misconceptions of the Druze as radical and violent emerged. Since the late 1980s, the American Druze Society has been involved in an educational campaign to inform the public that they are neither Muslim nor leftists nor anti-American.


An information packet distributed by the American Druze Women's Committee described the first wave of immigrants arriving in the United States in the early 1900s. Most settled in small towns across the country, with a significant group in Seattle, Washington. They maintained a very low religious profile. Many became at least nominally Christian, usually Protestant.

The second period of immigration lasted from 1947 to 1970, and the third phase occurred from 1971 until the late 1980s. Many Druze still send money to relatives in their homeland and visit as often as they can. Some arrange marriages with women from their home village. Their cultural ties, more than their religious bonds, are what bind the Druze together in their adopted countries.

Acculturation and Assimilation


By tradition, the Druze are farmers who depend on olive groves and fruit orchards, carefully nurtured on the hillsides in the Middle East, for food. They grow cherry and apple trees, as well as wheat. Most families grow their own vegetables and fruit, bake their own bread and live, for the most part, on a vegetarian diet, with meat, primarily lamb, served only on special occasions.

A typical meal may include olives, pita or "mountain bread," eggplant, cauliflower, cheese, and chickpeas flavored with onions, garlic, and sesame oil, rice, burghul (dried cracked wheat) or potatoes, a salad made of cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley and other herbs flavored with lemon and olive oil, yogurt, baklava, and seasonal fruit. Strong coffee is often served with meals.

In places where there are no butcher shops, animals are slaughtered infrequently, and the meat is eaten the same day. Animals are butchered by slitting their throats, in the Muslim fashion. The basic cooking ingredients are olive oil, clarified butter, and, sometimes, animal fat. The Druze favor lamb but also eat chicken and beef. They frown upon eating pork, although not as severely as Muslims. Most Westernized Druze do not object to eating it.


Druze living in America typically wear Western dress. But in most of the Middle East women still wear the traditional long black or blue dress with a white head covering. Men, who often grow mustaches, have abandoned the shirwal (traditional baggy pants, tight around the ankles) for Western-style trousers, but shirwal still can be purchased in Middle Eastern shops. Men working in the fields usually wear the traditional red and white checkered kufiya on their heads.


The Druze are often given a name that could be Christian or Muslim. In the past, men were given Muslim names such as Mahmud, Ali or Muhammad; now, a Druze boy is more likely to be called Samir, Samih, Amin or Fawzi, names of no particular religious significance. The same is true for Druze girls. Muslim names such as A'isha and Fatima have all but disappeared in favor of neutral or even Christian names. Few family names are predictably Druze, aside from Arslan, Junbalat and al-Atrash.


In keeping with their belief in austerity, traditional Druze homes are sparsely furnished with low wooden tables and thin cushions lining the walls.


The Druze language is derived from Arabic. In everyday speech, the Druze are easily recognizable by the use of the qaf, a strong guttural "k" sound that is found in Arabic and translated as "q" in English. Outside the Middle East, the Druze may consciously drop the qaf and other distinct speech characteristics to avoid identification or appear more sophisticated.


Among the many Druze sayings are "Reason is above all" and "The pen is in thy hands, write and fear not." A traditional Druze war song proclaims, "We are the Children of Maruf! Among our rocks is sanctuary. When our spears grow rusty, we make them bright with the blood of our enemies."

Family and Community Dynamics

The life of the average Druze revolves closely around his or her family and his or her relationship with other Druze. Apart from Thursday night religious meetings, the Druze enjoy spending time together through visits to each other's homes. Hospitality is an important feature of the culture. The Druze are known for their generosity and are guided by a sense of chivalry and honor. This concept compels the Druze to look after each other, including widows, orphans, and the destitute. If the extended family cannot take care of a member, the larger community will find a means of support.


The birth of a baby, especially a son, is cause for celebration, with a typical gathering including family members and friends and gift giving. Sons are considered an asset, socially and economically. If a Druze couple has only daughters, they keep having children until sons are born. This leads to large families. The average Druze family has five or six children. More recent generations of Druze see the logic of having fewer children and providing for them, so the size of modern Druze families is shrinking. Male circumcision, which is universal among Muslims, is not ritually practiced by the Druze. There is no ceremony for the circumcision of newborns, although it is a practiced among those living in urban areas or outside the Middle East, mainly for hygienic reasons.


Weddings and funerals provide another opportunity to bond, and these usually involve the whole community. Marriage celebrations can be quite extensive, depending on the means of the families involved. Guests expect large quantities of food and drink. The dishes served are copious and extravagant and, unless there are too many disapproving attendees, wine and other spirits may be served. Although frowned upon, the Druze drink alcohol, the men more frequently than the women.

Marriage festivities also provide one of the few social occasions in which young men and women are allowed to mix socially and eye each other as potential marriage partners. Both the bride and the groom are expected to be virgins at the time of marriage, although men find opportunities to engage in premarital sex. The subject of sexual relations is taboo in a traditional Druze household. Nothing of a physical or sexual nature is ever brought up in conversation, especially with elders. The telling of a slightly off-color anecdote is considered a breach of manners.

Polygamy, while permitted to Muslims, is forbidden among the Druze. The Druze may marry within their family, including first cousins. Marriage outside of the Druze faith is forbidden. "If you marry out, you convert out," said Haeyl Azaam, a 30-year-old Israeli Druze who was quoted in The Jewish Bulletin of Northern California. "You're excommunicated. There's just no place for you in the community any more."

To keep marriage ties strong, a Druze will marry a spouse from another country rather than wed a local non-Druze. In an event arranged by the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1993, seven Druze brides in elaborate white gowns crossed the Israel-Syrian border to marry bridegrooms in the Golan Heights, according to a report in the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California. From both sides of the cease-fire lines, hundreds of Druze danced and cheered as the couples married in the United Nations zone. The couples met each other through videotapes.


Divorce is not easy for Druze. Although a Druze woman can initiate divorce proceedings, this is a rarity. The most frequent grounds for divorce by men are the failure of a wife to bear children, especially sons, disobedience, immodest behavior, or some chronic mental or physical illness that makes intercourse impossible. The wife may ask for divorce based on impotence, non-support, and desertion or lengthy absence. If a woman is divorced through her own failings, the husband is permitted to reclaim the dowry and the marriage expenses. In most cases, the Druze follow the custom of compensating the divorced wife for her "exertions." This benefit is especially important for the older woman who has few prospects of remarriage and cannot return to her father's house or expect other support in her old age.


Funerals are major events in the Druze community, even more so than marriage. Funeral arrangements are made immediately after death, and ceremonies are held that day, or the next day, at the latest. The body is washed and dressed in the finest clothes. At the funeral, women lament loudly and at length, and acquaintances tell stories of the departed's virtues. Bodies are interred above ground, marked by monuments ranging from the very simple to the highly elaborate.


Druze women have always had the right to own and dispose of property freely. Historically, a significant number of Druze women were literate and educated. At the end of the twentieth century, literacy was almost universal for people under the age of 25. But a Druze woman holding a full-time job was still the exception.

Marriage is expected of all Druze women at a relatively early age, usually between 17 and 21 years, although a few marry as early as 15 years of age. The marriage, which often is arranged by the families, is usually preceded by a two-year engagement. Marriage partners are chosen from eligible young people within the same community.

Although Druze women traditionally enjoy a privileged status of near equality with men, there is no compromise in the matter of female chastity. A young woman is expected to be faithful to her husband throughout her whole life. A woman's honor is the single most important factor in Druze family life, and its defilement is cause for great humiliation. If a woman's dishonor becomes public knowledge, it is the responsibility of her father or brother to take what is considered appropriate action in their culture. It is not unknown, even today, for a Druze woman living in the Middle East to be murdered by her nearest male relative for shaming the family.

In Israel, Druze judges have forced the government to waive the requirement for a Druze woman's photograph to appear on official documents, such as identity cards. They also object to male doctors attending or autopsying women. Many conservative Druze consider these acts as a shaming of a woman's honor, in addition to things such as going to a cinema. It is becoming more common, however, for women to leave the house with other women in pursuit of innocent pleasures such as shopping or going to lectures.


The origins of the Druze faith can be traced to Egypt in the early eleventh century. Their faith subsequently spread to many regions in the Middle East and North Africa. The basis of the religion is the belief that at various times God has been divinely incarnated in a living person. His last, and final, incarnation was al-Hakim bi-Amrih Alla, who announced himself as the earthly incarnation of God in about 1009. A year later, his followers helped shaped a creed that is still followed today.

The Druze religion is an outgrowth of Islam, although Muslims disavow it. The religion also incorporates elements of Judaism and Christianity. When the religion was established, its founders were influenced by Greek philosophy and Asiatic thought. Their progressive ideasincluding the abolition of slavery and the separation of church and statewere considered unorthodox and placed its followers at risk. This cloak of secrecy continues today.

The tenets of the Druze religion are secret and mysterious, even to many Druze themselves, since the faith allows only a limited number of elite men and sometimes women, called uqqal ("the enlightened"), to study and learn all of its aspects. The uqqals oversee the religious life of their particular community, acting almost as intermediaries with God. Other Druze, known as the juhhal ("the unenlightened"), are not permitted to access the religion's six holy books but are given a simplified outline of their faith in the form of a strict code of moral and ethical behavior.

The seven duties that all Druze are required to observe are recognition of al-Hakim and strict adherence to monotheism; negation of all non-Druze tenets; rejection of Satan and unbelief; acceptance of God's acts; submission to God for good or ill; truthfulness; and mutual solidarity and help between fellow Druze. While they are respectful of other religions, the Druze are convinced that a severe judgment awaits all non-Druze.

Religious meetings are held on Thursday nights in inconspicuous buildings without embellishments or furniture, except a small lectern to lay books on during meditation. Men and women may sit together, but with a divider between them. During the first part of the service, community affairs are discussed, and everyone may attend. However, the juhhal must leave when prayer, study, and meditation begin. The secrecy surrounding the Druze faith is meant to protect its followers from persecution.

In order to protect their religion and not divulge its teachings, the Druze worship as Muslims when among Muslims, and as Christians when among Christians. They allow no outside converts to their religion: one must be born into the Druze faith. What is known is that the Druze are Muwahhidun, or Unitarians, who believe in one God whose qualities cannot be understood or defined and who renders justice impartially.

Reincarnation is a key belief of the faith. The Druze believe that the number of days of one's life is fixed, not to be exceeded or diminished by a single day. Since a Druze considers his body a mere robe for the soul, he does not fear death because it is only a tearing of the robe. The Druze believe that as soon as one dies, his soul immediately is reborn into another body. If that person was bad in a previous life, however, his soul may return in the body of a dog. Reincarnation continues until one's soul achieves purification and merges with the Holy One. Hell is the failure to achieve this state.

Employment and Economic Traditions

Although still a largely rural people with a long tradition of farming, younger Druze are seeking more professional occupations as they arrive in the United States and other countries, where they study and establish businesses. Today, the Druze work in banking, trade, small business, and transportation services. Druze students in American universities are likely to major in business administration, economics, or engineering. In Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, Druze men are prominent members of the local business community, particularly in American and European firms. They are known to be especially hardworking and trustworthy. In recent years, a number of Druze have joined the ranks of academia and can be found on the faculties of high schools and universities, particularly in the Middle East.

Politics and Government


The Druze believe in the co-existence of all religions, national and ethnic groups living under one flag. The sect's beliefs include loyalty to the country in which they reside, although all maintain close ties with their homeland. Syrian Druze serve in the Syrian military; Lebanese Druze serve in the Lebanese Army; and Israeli Druze service in the Israeli Defense Forces. Many young Druze play a part in the daily defense of Israel's borders, serving the required three years.

When called upon, Druze living in America have serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. However, Druze are reluctant to battle other Druze, and some defected from the Lebanese and Syrian armies when those countries were at war. Having been subjected to onslaughts from other sects, Druze also form their own militias to defend their territory when necessary.

Individual and Group Contributions


Salwa Shuqayr, the elder daughter of Druze immigrants from Lebanon, was appointed the State Department's chief of protocol by President Ronald Reagan in 1982.


There is no established Druze media in the United States, but Druze around the world stay connected through the Internet. Most Druze get news of what is going on in their native country and within their community in the United States through websites posted by the American Druze Society, the American Druze Foundation, and the American Druze Youth. Actadruze is a quarterly publication of the Druze Research and Publications Institute. It includes articles of special interest to the Druze community and general information about Druze around the world. The first issue appeared during the third quarter of 1999. To receive one free copy, go to (

Organizations and Associations

The Druze quickly recognized that modern technology could enable them to maintain contact with other Druze around the world. Websites are posted, but most of the associations do not list a contact name or mailing address.

American Druze Foundation.

Provides cultural and heritage information on Druze.

Address: P.O. Box 7718, Flint, Michigan 48507.

Telephone: (810) 235-3200.



American Druze SocietyMichigan Chapter.

Provides information about Druze activities and events around the United States. Holds an annual convention.



Young Druze/Tawheed Professionals.

Provides information and networking opportunities.



Museums and Research Centers

The Druze Research and Publications Institute.

Formally organized as a non-profit institute in 1998. Researches all aspects of Druze culture and publishes works based on that research. Implements projects intended to preserve Druze culture.

Address: PO Box 1433, New York, NY 10018.

Toll Free: (877) 500-3774.

Fax: (718) 426-1940.



Institute of Druze Studies (IDS).

Dedicated to research and discourse on the Druze.

Address: P.O. Box 641025, Los Angeles, CA 90064.

Fax: 310-474-5900.


Sources for Additional Study

Alamuddin, Nura S. Crucial Bonds: Marriage Among the Lebanese Druze. Caravan Books. 1980.

Betts, Brenton Robert. The Druze. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988.

"The Druze." Encyclopaedia of the Orient.

"Druze rights activist from Philadelphia ordered released." Jewish Bulletin of Northern California. Aug. 30, 1996.

Lapousterle, J.P.H. Shaykh al-Aql and the Druze of Mount Lebanon. Frank Cass, London. (No publication date available.)

Layish, A. Marriage, Divorce and Succession in the Druze Family. 1982.

Naff, A. Becoming American: The Early Arab Immigrant Experience. 1985.

Oppenheimer, Jonathan. Culture and Politics in Druze Ethnicity. Gordon and Berach Science Publishers. (No publication date available.)

"Our History." American Druze Foundation.

Sami, Makarm. Druze Faith. Scholars Facsimiles and Reprints. 1960.

"Secret, closed faith of Druze merges modernity, antiquity." Jewish Bulletin of Northern California. July 26, 1996.

"Who Are the Druze?" Institute of Druze Studies.

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A small religious community that emerged in eleventh-century Cairo and spread to what is today Lebanon, Syria, and Israel.

The name Druze (in Arabic Duruz, meaning Druzes) was given to the community by outsiders based on the name of al-Darazi, an early convert who came to Cairo in the year 1015, joined the missionary ranks, and was eventually killed or executed in 1019. The Druze manuscripts consider him an apostate and refer to members of the community as Unitarians (Muwwahhidun) or People of Unitarianism (Ahl al-Tawhid). The Druzes are also known as Sons of Mercy or Sons of Beneficence (Banu Maʿruf). In addition, the word Maʿruf is derived from the Arabic words arafa (to know); thus, Druzes are often mentioned in their manuscripts as Aʿraf (those who possess knowledge).

Druze Communities

There are approximately one million Druzes in the world today with 85 to 90 percent of them living in the Middle East. Smaller communities can be found in Australia, Canada, Europe, the Philippines, South America, West Africa, and the United States. Within Druze villages and small towns in the Middle East, the predominant occupation has always been farming, and two classes of landowners and peasants have dominated the Druze economic landscape for centuries. Although most Druzes remain predominantly rural, rapid urbanization and modernization have not only transformed Druze village economics but also facilitated increases in educational levels and professional training.

Despite these recent transformations, social and religious authority among the Druzes remains persistent and comes from a religious elite that has an extraordinary influence on Druze communities. Thus, it may be said that Druzism both unites Druzes into socially cohesive communities and divides them into two main classes: the initiated or wise (uqqal) and the uninitiated or, literally, "ignorant" (juhhal). Only those believers who demonstrate piety and devotion and who have withstood the lengthy process of candidacy are initiated into the esoteric teachings and oral traditions of the faith. Women initiates undergo a less rigorous training because the Druze doctrine considers women to be more spiritually prepared and therefore not in need of the arduous initiation process that men are required to undertake.

The initiated persons are further subdivided based on their spiritual level of advancement. Only a small group of the most devout of the initiated members are called ajawid, meaning the selected, or, literally, "the good." In the eyes of the rest of the community, the ajawid serve as models for righteous behavior, truthfulness, and wisdom; they reinforce the cultural attributes of the entire community. Uninitiated persons comprise the majority of Druze society. They may seek initiation at any age, but their acceptance is based on their character, which is assessed by the initiated ones. Although the uninitiated are indeed "ignorant" of the Druze doctrine, their behavior is expected to conform to certain prescriptions both spiritual (e.g., fealty to God, His prophets, and His luminaries) and moral (e.g., respect for elders, honor for women, and care for children).

Emergence of Druzism (9961043)

Druzism is traced to Fatimid-Ismaʿili-Shiʿite Egypt, and more specifically to the sixth Fatimid caliph alHakim bi-Amr Allah (r. 9961021). Druze history may be divided into three main phases: the emergence of Druzism (9961043), the era of emirates (1040s1840s), and recent times (since the 1840s). Although almost all sources date the beginning of Druzism to 1017, the year 996 was not only the beginning of al-Hakim's rule but also, and more importantly, there is evidence of covert preparatory activity between 996 and 1017. The nearly fifty-year period of the emergence of Druzism revolves around three main leaders, al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, Hamza ibn Ali al-Zawzani, and Baha al-Din al-Samuqi. In the eyes of many historians, al-Hakim was the most controversial among Fatimi caliphs due to a claim for divinity, which apparently he never made but others attributed to him, and because of his early rigid or unacceptable resolutions against the social and religious practices of Sunnis, Christians, and Jews. Although al-Hakim's attitude toward the Druze faith is not fully discernible from the available sources, it can be concluded that al-Hakim did not prevent Druze missionaries from propagating their doctrine; on the contrary, he appears to have allowed their proselytizing activities, approved their writings, and protected their followers.

Hamza ibn Ali is the central authority behind Druze teachings and as such is considered by some writers to be the actual founder of Druzism. He came to Cairo in December 1016, met the Druze missionaries in the Ridan Mosque, and then proclaimed the new movement in 1017. Four years later, in 1021, al-Hakim left on one of his routine trips to the hills of al-Muqattam east of Cairo but never returned. In the same year, Hamza and his close associates went into retreat, announcing that a period of persecution by al-Hakim's successor, the seventh Fatimid caliph al-Zahir, had begun, and that the affairs of the community were delegated to Baha al-Din. After the hardship years of 1021 to 1026, Baha al-Din resumed missionary activity and wrote epistles until the closing of Druzism in 1043, when he departed to an undisclosed location. Since then, no one has been permitted to join the Druze movement.

Era of Emirates (1040s1840s)

The second phase of Druze history is represented in three emiratesthe Buhturis, Maʿnis, and Shihabisthat played important roles in providing leadership to the Druze masses. The Buhturis (1040s1507) are a branch of the Tanukhis, who had origins in Arabia but migrated to northern Syria and then settled in Mount Lebanon beginning in the middle of the eighth century. In the first half of the eleventh century some of the Tanukhi princes joined the Druze faith. The relationship of the Buhturi amirs with the Islamic central governments was at times affected by the Islamic power struggles. For example, the Mamluks and Ayyubids fought not only each other, but also the Mongols. Nevertheless, the Buhturis remained in power until the takeover of the Arab lands in 1516 by the Ottoman Sultan Selim I (r. 15121520), who is said to have been encouraged by the Druze Maʿni Prince Fakhr al-Din I.

With the help of the Buhturis, the forefather of the Maʿnis, Prince Maʿn, moved with his supporters to the Shuf in 1120. This Maʿni clan remained relatively insignificant until the emergence of their prince Fakhr al-Din I (r. 15071544). Although he was asked to support the Mamluks, Fakhr al-Din instead joined the Ottoman forces of Sultan Selim, whose army defeated the Mamluks in 1516 in the decisive battle of Marj Dabiq. Subsequently, the Ottomans allowed the Maʿnis to have independent political control within the region, as long as taxes reached Istanbul promptly. With the continued support of the Ottomans, another Druze prince, Fakhr al-Din II (r. 1585/15901635), extended the Maʿni principality north to the Syrian city of Palmyra and south to the Sinai Peninsula. Although he initially re-established good relations with the Ottoman Empire, he also signed treaties with the Grand Duke of Tuscany (16061608). As a result, the Ottomans became gradually suspicious of Fakhr al-Din II's overt ambition; they mobilized against him and defeated his army at Hasbayya in 1635. He was then executed with his two sons in Istanbul, but the Maʿni amirs were allowed to rule until 1697, when the emi-rate was transferred to the Shihabi house.

With the transfer of power from the Maʿnis to the Shihabis, the Druzes as a whole continued to enjoy a relatively high degree of autonomy. But within a decade, Druzes became divided and eventually turned against each other. At the battle of Ain Dara in 1711 two Druze factions foughtthe Qaysis of northern Arabian origin and the Yamanis of southern origin. The decisive victory of the Qaysis caused many of the Yamanis to flee to the Hawran region, reducing Druze influence in Mount Lebanon. The Shihabi principality slowly fell under the political and military control of external rulers. Sectarianism began to take root and religious consciousness was on the rise. Moreover, in the late eighteenth century the Shihabis converted to Christianity, which further reduced the Druze influence in Mount Lebanon.

Modern History (1840s to the Present)

The reign of the last of the Shihabi amirs, Bashir II (17881840), reinforced a strong central authority exercised over Mount Lebanon and the areas adjacent to it. However, Bashir II was constrained by the Egyptian rulers and a decade of Egyptian occupation; this led to his fall and, subsequently, to the end of the Shihabi emirate and the beginning of internal civil strife in the early 1840s. In 1843 European foreign powers convinced the Ottoman sultan to pacify the area, and to relinquish affairs in the north to the French-supported Maronites and in the south to the British-backed Druzes. The uneasiness in Mount Lebanon grew and finally exploded into open confrontation, beginning with the Maronite peasants rising against their Maronite landlords in 1858 and then against their Druze landlords in 1860. The bloody events of that year ended in the special autonomous administration of Mount Lebanon within the Ottoman Empire. This arrangement quickly failed and was replaced by a political regime known as Mutasarrifiyya, headed by a mutasarrif (governor) that imposed a ruler from outside Lebanon who was a subject of the Ottoman sultan. The French mandate replaced the Mutasarrifiyya in 1918, and the Druzes in Syria and Lebanon came under the French rule; the Druzes in Palestine and Jordan came under the British mandate. The 1920s and 1930s marked a period of revolts and unrest in the entire region, leading to the independence of Lebanon (1943), Syria (1944), and Israel (1948), and the separation of Druze communities by new national boundaries.

The Syrian Druzes have participated in politics largely through the Atrash family and its recent prominent figure Sultan Pasha al-Atrash. An Arab nationalist symbol of the 1925 to 1927 Jabal Druze revolt against the French forces, Sultan al-Atrash continued to influence local and national politics amongst Druzes until his death in 1982. In the 1967 war between Israel and the Arab states, Israel conquered vast lands, including the Syrian Golan Heights, where four Druze villages have resisted Israeli attempts for annexation; they continue to reassert their Syrian identity, and wish to reunite one day with their relatives in Syria.

The Druzes in Palestine in the 1930s and 1940s were a part of the Arab Legion forces despite their feuds with the surrounding Muslim populations. But in 1947 to 1948 a split took place in the Druze community, and some Druzes voluntarily enlisted in the Israeli army, while others resisted any form of cooperation with the Israeli forces. Subsequently, the first faction prevailed, and in 1956 Israel passed a law requiring three years of military service for all Druze males. Since the 1970s the social and political standings of Druzes in Israel have been gradually improving.

The Druzes in Lebanon have participated in the politics of the country through the two major factions of Jumblattis and Arslanis. In 1958 Kamal Jumblatt and his Progressive Socialist Party, which he founded in 1949, demanded political and social reforms for all Lebanese sects. This crisis led to the deployment of U.S. Marines in Lebanon for seven months to help the national government to restore the peace. Two decades later, however, Lebanon faced a military confrontation that erupted into a full-scale civil war in the spring of 1975. At the beginning of the war the Druzes were a part of a loose coalition of Sunnis, Shiʿa, and Greek Orthodox that fought the Maronite Christian militias, but while the war was still raging, Kamal Jumblatt was assassinated in 1977 and his son Walid took his place. Walid Jumblatt's forces regained previously lost towns, established control over the Shuf Mountain, and emerged victorious in the eyes of the community. In the war many Christians were displaced and it was only in the 1990s that arrangements were made for their return.

Finally, the Lebanese civil war of 1975 to 1990 forced Druzes in Lebanon and elsewhere to put aside their factional politics and to focus on their community's welfare. Furthermore, the civil war also promoted interactions between the Lebanese, Syrian, Israeli, and Jordanian Druze communities. Druzes are likely to continue being loyal to the countries in which they live while doing what is necessary to protect their local and regional communities.

See also Atrash, Sultan Pasha al-; Golan Heights; Israel: Overview; Jabal Druze; Jordan; Jumblatt Family; Jumblatt, Kamal; Jumblatt, Walid; Lebanese Civil War (19751990); Lebanon; Lebanon, Mount; Maronites; Progressive Socialist Party; Shuf; Syria.


Abu Izzeddin, Nejla M. The Druzes. Leiden, Neth.: Brill, 1984; 1993.

Ben-Dor, Gabriel. The Druzes in Israel: A Political Study. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1981.

Betts, Robert Benton. The Druze. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988.

Firro, Kais. The Druzes in the Jewish State. Leiden, Neth.: Brill, 2001.

Firro, Kais. A History of the Druzes. Leiden, Neth.: Brill, 1992.

Hitti, Philip K. The Origins of the Druze People and Religion. New York: AMS Press, 1928.

Makarem, Sami Nasib. The Druze Faith. New York: Delmar, 1974.

Swayd, Samy. The Druzes: An Annotated Bibliography. Kirkland, WA, and Los Angeles, CA: ISES Publications, 1998.

Swayd, Samy. A Historical Dictionary of the Druzes. Lanham, MD, and London: Scarecrow Press, 2004.

robert betts updated by samy s. swayd

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LOCATION: Lebanon; Syria; Israel; Jordan

POPULATION: Under 1 million


RELIGION: Secret Druze faith (Muhwahhidun)


The Druze are both a religious and an ethnic group. The group originated in Cairo, Egypt, in ad 100910. They then spread to the mountains of southern Lebanon and beyond. The Druze faith grew out of the Ismaili sect of Shi'ah Islam. However, disillusioned with the Ismailis, the Druze turned to Caliph al-Hakim of Egypt as their deliverer.

Persecution of the Druze began early in their history. Their earliest leaders were forced into hiding, and many Druze were murdered. The survivors in southern Lebanon and Syria became secretive in order to survive. For the most part, no new converts have been accepted by the Druze since ad 1043. One must be born a Druze; no one can become one by choice.

Today, the Syrian Druze community is growing, as many have fled the former Druze center in war-torn Lebanon.


The total Druze population throughout the world is probably under 1 million. Approximately 900,000 live in Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and Jordan. The largest communities outside the Middle East are in North and South America. There are smaller groups in Australia, West Africa, and Western Europe.

Most Druze are still hardy, independent farmers living in mountain villages of less than 10,000 people. All Druze villages are located on hills or mountains, primarily for purposes of defense. In Lebanon, most Druze have olive groves and fruit orchards. In southern Syria, they are more likely to be wheat farmers.


The Druze speak Arabic, with some distinguishing features. For example, they have kept the qaf, the strong guttural k sound of classical Arabic. (It has been dropped or changed to a j or hard g sound in other Arabic dialects.) They have also retained the dad, a soft d sound that has been lost in other Arabic dialects.

Today most Druze children are given names that are common to Christians and Muslims, such as Samir, Salim, Fu'ad, or Fawzi for boys.


The Druze believe that the number of souls of believers and nonbelievers was fixed at Creation. Thus, every time a Druze dies, another Druze is born. The soul of the deceased immediately enters the body of the newborn.


Because the Druze faith is surrounded by secrecy, few of their beliefs are known to the world. However, it is known that they believe in one God.

In every community, only a few Druze of each generation learn all the details of their faith. The rest are called the juhhal, or "noninitiated." They are given a simplified outline of the faith to follow.

The initiated, called ùqqal, or "enlightened," are put through rigorous tests. Once initiated, they wear a heavy white turban. They never wear bright colors, swear or use obscene language, drink alcohol, or smoke. At religious services, the juhhal attend only the first part of the service, where community affairs are discussed. Then they leave so the ùqqal can engage in prayer, study, and meditation.

The Druze believe that prayer and ritual are unnecessary when true knowledge of God's unity is gained. They consider prayer to be a constant state of being, rather than something one does at certain times of day.

Women have been included in the ùqqal since the beginning of the Druze movement.

The Druze have shrines that they visit frequently, called mazar or maqam, located on the tops or sides of hills and mountains. At the tomb of the holy man or woman to whom the shrine is dedicated, the Druze pray quietly, leave small gifts of food and money, and take away small pieces of colored cloth as tokens of divine blessing to be kept in their homes or in the family car. Some families come for extended stays to sacrifice animals in the fulfillment of a vow. Others just have picnics or spend a quiet weekend there.


Religious observance of holy days is not important to the Druze. However, annual religious festivals do attract thousands of Druze to the shrines of certain holy men and women, such as al-Nabi Shuayb. There is also an annual pilgrimage to the alleged burial place of Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, near the Horns of Hittim in Galilee.


Unlike Muslims and Jews, the Druze do not practice circumcision of males.

Weddings are small gatherings. However, they can be extravagant, depending on the wealth of the family.

Funerals are huge community events; people from all over attend. Funeral arrangements are made immediately after death. The ceremony is held the next day at the latest. The body is washed and dressed in the finest clothes available. It is buried above ground level just outside the village. Every Druze village has a mawqaf, or "stopping place." This is a small cement or stone amphitheater with rows of seats. Hundreds, even thousands, can gather there to honor and remember a deceased person and give condolences to the family.


Among themselves (and others they feel they can trust), the Druze are extremely hospitable and generous. Almost all Druze villages have one or more mudafat, guest houses where visitors can stay.

The Druze look after the less fortunate in their community. There is no such thing as a Druze beggar. If an extended family cannot support one of its members, the rest of the community will help out.


Most Druze still live in small villages. Some villages have electricity and telephone service; others do not. Almost all villages now have regular bus and taxi service to major nearby cities.


The most important factor in Druze family life is a woman's honor (ird). For this reason, women are very restricted socially, even though they have equal rights politically and religiously. Marriages are almost always arranged by the family. Marriage partners usually come from the same village and often from the same extended family (including first cousins). The groom pays the bride's family a dowry. Polygamy (having more than one spouse) is forbidden, as is marriage to a non-Druze.

The Druze prefer sons to daughters, particularly for the firstborn child. They will continue to have children until a son is born. The average family has five or six children, but Druze families can be as large as ten to twelve children.

Divorce is difficult to obtain, but women as well as men can initiate the proceedings. The failure of a woman to bear children (particularly sons) is a frequent cause for divorce.


Druze living in small villages still wear traditional clothing. Women wear a blue or black peasant dress with a gauzy white head covering called a mandil. They wear red slipperlike shoes. The ùqqal (initiated) wear baggy pants that are tight at the ankle. Juhhal (uninitiated) men wear the common Arab head scarf, the keffiyeh. The ùqqal wear heavy white turbans. Most Druze men have large moustaches with waxed tips.


Most Druze families grow their own fruit and vegetables and bake their own bread. They eat a mostly vegetarian diet, with meat only on special occasions. Typical foods include olives; mountain bread (paper-thin, round, unleavened bread); yogurt; chickpeas flavored with onions, garlic, and tahini (sesame paste); and bulghur (cracked wheat). Salad is made of tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, and other herbs, with olive oil and lemon juice. Meats include lamb, kid (young goat's meat), chicken, and beef.


Among the younger generation of Druze (under age twenty-five), literacy is almost universal. Most girls traditionally stopped their formal schooling after six years of basic elementary education. Today more girls attend secondary school, and some even go on to university or professional training (as nurses or teachers, for example).


Druze poetry does not have any love songs. Instead, it focuses on themes such as the love of God and of one's native countryside. Druze writers include poet Samih al-Qasim and Shaqib Arslan, known as "the prince of eloquence" (amir al-bayan). Among classical musicians, pianist Diana Taqi al-Din is a Druze. A well-known performer of traditional Middle Eastern music was singer and composer Farid al-Atrash (191676).


The Druze were traditionally farmers. Now they can now be found in all areas of business. These include banking, trade, retail, and transportation services. Druze women rarely work outside the home.


The Druze enjoy most popular sports, including hunting, fishing, soccer, basketball, tennis, volleyball, water skiing, and water polo.


Druze families often enjoy picnics at religious shrines on mountaintops and hillsides. They may spend an entire weekend at these sites, relaxing in the quiet atmosphere.


The Druze are known for their weaving, carpet-making, and basketry.


Because they are such a close-knit society, the Druze have very few social problems. Living in small mountain villages, the Druze have learned to take care of their own. However, they have suffered almost constant persecution from outsiders.


Betts, Robert Brenton. The Druze. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1988.

Makarem, Sami Nasib. The Druze Faith. Delmar, N.Y.: Caravan Books, 1974.


ArabNet. [Online] Available, 1998.

World Travel Guide. Syria. [Online] Available, 1998.

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The Druze are a closed, tightly knit, Arab minority who live in southern Syria, in the mountains of central Lebanon, and in Israel, including the Golan Heights. There are also small communities in Jordan, the United States, Canada, and Latin America. In the early 1980s they numbered approximately 200,000 in Syria, 10,000 in Lebanon, 43,000 to 72,000 in Israel, and another 10,000 to 15,000 in the Golan Heights (Grimes 1988).

The Druze originated as a religious minority in the eleventh century when a small group of Muslims split off from the Shiite branch of Islam in Egypt. One of the founders, Abu ʿAlī al-Mansūr al-Hākim bi-Amrih Allāh (985-1021), was accorded divine status. One of his disciples, also considered a founder of the faith, was Ḥamzah ibn ʿlī, who established most of the doctrine that defined the new religion. Another founder, who competed with Ḥamzah for followers, was Muhammad ibn Ismā'īl ad-Darazī. Bloody clashes between Darazī and Ḥamzah led to Darazī's death in 1020. Al-Ḥākim and Ḥamzah died the following year, which left all three founders of the faith dead within three years of the founding of their religion.

Darazī's followers began proselytizing members of the sect in Syria. They became known as the community of Darazī, durzī in Arabic, and the plural form, duruz, took hold as their name"Druze." After the withdrawal of Ḥamzah's successor, al-Muqtana, in 1034, Druze proselytizing ceased, and the doctrine was adopted that there could be no further admission into their ranks. The Druze then migrated northward into Lebanon, south into Galilee, and further east into Syria.

The Druze call themselves muwahhidūn, ("declarers of oneness"), and they call their religion dīn al-tawhīd (monotheism). Internally, the spiritual hierarchy of the Druze underwent a gradual change that resulted in the division of the community into two classes, the ùqqāl (knowers, sages; sing. ʿāqil ) and juhhāl (the ignorant). The ʿuqqāl are those who are initiated into the doctrines of the Druze religion and who are knowledgeable about the gnostic-cosmological-moralistic writing produced by the Druze sages in the course of their history. The external signs of their status are their special garb and white turbans. The leaders of the ʿuqqāl, who are called shuyukh (sing, shaykh ), are chosen from those who are considered the most learned and pious among them. Shuyukh are trained for their office at special schools. From among the shuyukh a ra'īs is chosen, usually a member of a leading family, as the supreme religious authority in the district.

All ʿuqqāl are expected to lead a morally impeccable life and always to behave with decorum. They must abstain from using stimulants, and from lying, stealing, and exacting revenge. They are expected to attend Friday evening services at the majlis, which corresponds to the Muslim mosque. They are allowed to read the Druze secret books and to know of, and participate in, the secret ritual.

The juhhāl are the uninitiated majority of the Druze community. They are held to a less strict code of behavior, and, unless they attempt to attain ʿāqil status, must remain in their "ignorant" position until death and possibly a future rebirth. The juhhāl are bound by the same laws and tenets of the religion as the ʿuqqāl.

The laws laid down by Ḥamzah in the eleventh century still apply to the Druze today. Among them are laws that establish equality between husband and wife and allow divorce only in rare circumstances, for very specific reasons. The position of women in Druze society is, therefore, on a more even level with that of men than it is in traditional Muslim societies. There is reason to believe that women, in fact, have a higher level of status than men. Almost all unmarried women work within Druze communities. When they go outside of their village, they are escorted by fathers and brothers. At work, the sexes are strictly segregated, and sometimes walls are built to keep young men and women out of each others' sight.

There are seven commandments in the Druze religion that are somewhat similar to the Five Pillars of Islam. The Druze must speak the truth among themselves (but not among outsiders); they must defend and help each other in times of crises or need (carrying arms for this purpose is sanctioned); they must renounce beliefs negating the oneness of God; they must dissociate themselves from unbelievers; they must recognize al-Hākim as an incarnation of God; they must be content with God's actions; and they must submit to God s will and orders.

The Druze believe that al-Ḥākim and Ḥamzah will reappear, conquer the world, and establish justice, and that the Druze living at that time will be the universal rulers. They also believe that the number of living Druze is fixed, and will always remain constant. They share with other Middle Eastern groups, such as the Baha'is, a belief in the concept of taqiyah (dissimulation). For the Druze, "taqiyah" means that in order for them to preserve the secrecy of their faith, they must pretend to accept the faith of the ruling majority, which for most Druze, has been Sunni Islam.

In the ten centuries following their formation as a group, the Druze have tended to settle in high mountain villages. In these protected enclaves, they have maintained their own culture, which is based primarily on their distinctive religious beliefs and perpetuated by strict endogamy. Because of their religious tenets, the Druze have insisted on self-determination and independence, and have considered all outsiders, whether Muslim or Christian, their enemies. This has resulted in numerous violent clashes with their neighbors.

The traditional culture of the Druze is threatened by the encroachment of technology and modern culture that arises from the dominant cultures within which they exist. The Druze live in uneasy compromise between their traditional values and the pressures of life in increasingly Westernized countries. Young Druze men are beginning to question the religious beliefs and practices of their elders, although there are few who have rejected the faith entirely.

If there is any large-scale rejection of the Druze religion, it will more than likely begin with the young men who have sampled the amenities of Western culture and want more from life than what can be obtained in small Druze villages. Women are not likely to lead the call for change because they seem to enjoy the protected status that they receive.

The Druze, a very old culture that began as a religious community, but have, over the centuries, become an ethnic entity. They have survived largely because of their skill at adapting to the requirements of their environment, both physical and cultural. Their traditional policy of taqiyah and accommodation to larger protective cultures has helped keep their traditions intact, but this policy may not be enough to preserve their culture in the future. If they are to maintain their identity, they must somehow accommodate the desires and demands of their more Westernized young people with the strict tenets of their distinctive religion.


Ben-Dor, Gabriel (1979). The Druzes in Israel: A Political Study. Jerusalem: Magnes Press.

Dana, Nissim (1980). The Druse: A Religious Community in Transition. Forest Grove, Oreg.: Turtledove Press; Jerusalem: Israel Economist.

Friendly, Alfred, and Eric Silver (1981). "Israel's Oriental Immigrants and Druzes." Minority Rights Group Report no. 12.

Grimes, Barbara F., ed. (1988). Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.

Minority Rights Group (1994). "Druzes of Israel and the Golan Heights." In World Directory of Minorities, 191-192. London: Minority Rights Group.

Patai, Raphael (1986). "Druze." In The Encyclopedia of Religion, edited by Mircea Eliade, 503-506. New York: Macmillan.

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Druze or Druse (drōōz), religious community of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, with important overseas branches in the Americas and Australia. The religious leadership prefers the name Muwahhidun (Unitarians). While preserving many Islamic symbols, the Druze religion also incorporates Gnostic and neo-Platonic tenets. In the 10th cent. Cairo Hamza ibn Ali, a Persian dai (preacher, propagandist) and Muhammad al-Darazi, a Turkish dai who gave his name to the sect, pronounced the sixth Fatimid caliph and Ismaili imam, al-Hakim, as Divine. After al-Darazi's death (1020), Hamza declared himself to be the true manifestation of the Divine reality of al-Hakim. Hamza was successful in greater Syria, and a series of pastoral letters written at that time form the Druze scripture, the Kitab al-hikma, or Rasail al-Hakim. Since the Druze religion was seen as an abrogation of Islam, the concealment of the substance of the faith is a religious obligation, marriages outside the faith are forbidden, and initiation from lay status (jahil, ignorant) to clerical (aqil, knower) is restricted. The Druze formed principalities that fought the Crusaders and secured considerable independence under nominal Mamluk and Ottoman rule. In the 19th cent. the rise of the Christian Maronites undermined Druze power in the Mount Lebanon region. The ensuing conflict scarred relations between the two communities and provided an opportunity for European intervention. After the dissolution of the Ottoman sultanate and the establishment of the French mandate in Syria (1920), the Druze leadership played a crucial role in launching and sustaining the anti-French revolt (1925–27), after which an autonomous Druze state was created by the French in southern Syria. In 1944 the Druze agreed to surrender their autonomous rights in the Jebel Druz [jebel=mountain], as their section of Syria is called. Since then the Druze have been active in the political life of Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. Druze officers were noticeable in the history of Syria in the 1950s and 1960s. Walid Jumblatt and other Druze leaders took active roles during the Lebanese civil war. In Israel, the Druze were granted a "nationality" status distinct from the Arabic-speaking population, and are expected to serve in the Israeli army.

See R. B. Betts, The Druze (1988).

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Druze a member of a political and religious sect of Islamic origin, living chiefly in Lebanon and Syria. The Druze broke away from the Ismaili Muslims in the 11th century; they are regarded as heretical by the Muslim community at large.

The name comes from French, and derives from Arabic durūz (plural), from the name of one of their founders, Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Daraz¯ (died 1019).

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Druzeabuse, accuse, adieux, amuse, bemuse, billets-doux, blues, booze, bruise, choose, Clews, confuse, contuse, cruise, cruse, Cruz, diffuse, do's, Druze, effuse, enthuse, excuse, fuse (US fuze), Hughes, incuse, interfuse, lose, Mahfouz, mews, misuse, muse, news, ooze, Ouse, perfuse, peruse, rhythm-and-blues, ruse, schmooze, snooze, suffuse, Toulouse, transfuse, trews, use, Vaduz, Veracruz, who's, whose, youse •Andrews •Matthews • circumfuse • Syracuse •purlieux

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