The Druzes are a schismatic Muslim sect, derived from ultra–Shī’ism (see shĪ’ites) and quartered largely in southern Lebanon and Hawrān (Hauran). The name (Ar., Durūz, sing. Durzi ) stems from al-Darazī (from the Turkish word for tailor), a missionary (dā’i ) of the Egyptian Fātimid caliph, al-Hākim (996–1021), who, while following the Isma’ili doctrine (see ismailis) of the imĀm as the supreme authority and guardian of islam, proclaimed himself the incarnation of the Deity. Al-Darazi (d. 1019) introduced the Hākim cult into Wādi al-Taym, at the foot of Mt. Hermon; but it was another missionary, the Persian Hamzah al-Labbād (the Furrier), who gave Druzism its system of theology. This was an esoteric system (Bātini ), giving the Sacred Writings an inner meaning, beyond the apparent, literal one. Hamzah died shortly after al-Hākim and was succeeded by al-Muqtana Bahā'-al-Dīn, whose letters to the Byzantine Emperor and the Christians suggest Syrian-Christian origin. Bahā'-al-Dīn introduced the doctrine that, during the "absence" (ghaybah ) of al–Hākim, no part of the religion should be divulged or promulgated. Dictated by the urge for safety amid a hostile environment, the doctrine made of Druzism a closed corporate body. Only to the initiated few, ’uqqāl (intelligent, sage), was given the knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures, kept hidden and in handwriting. The bulk of the community remained juhhāl (ignorant, uninitiated).
In accordance with the Shī’ite doctrine of dissimulation (taqīyah ), Druzes profess Islam but do not observe prescribed Muslim prayers, fast during ramadan, undertake the holy pilgrimage to Mecca, or pray in a mosque. Their religious meeting places are inconspicuous, secluded buildings (khalwahs ) on hills outside their villages. Meetings are held Thursday evenings, for prayer, meditation, religious instruction, and discussion of current problems.
Bibliography: p. k. hitti, Lebanon in History (2d ed. New York 1962); The Origins of the Druze People and Religion (New York 1928). n. bouron, Les Druzes: Histoire du Liban et de la montagne haouranaise (Paris 1930). a. i. silvestre de sacy, Exposé de la religion des Druzes, 2 v. (Paris 1838).
[p. k. hitti]