Origins of the Druze People and Religion, by Philip K. Hitti, , at sacred-texts.com
Number and Distribution:With the present numerical strength of the Druzes, their geographical distribution in southern Lebanon, Wādi-al-Taym, al Jabal al-Ala (between Aleppo and Antioch), Ṣafad and Mt. Carmel in Palestine, and with their later migrations which determined their present habitat, we are more or less familiar. According to the last census there are about 110,000 Druzes in Lebanon and Syria, and 7,000 in Palestine. The present Druze population of Ḥawrān (44,344) are, according to well authenticated documents and local oral tradition, 1 the descendants of emigrants from south Lebanon who, in 1711, as a result of the defeat of their Yemenite party by its Qaysite enemy, left their home, Kafra, 2 and sought a new abode. The number was later augmented by fresh recruits 3 as a result of the 1860 civil war in the Lebanon. Earlier the Jabal al-Ala Druzes emigrated thither from the south. 4 Those of Palestine are of undoubted Lebanese origin, though some of them may have come directly from the Aleppo region. 5 Lebanon therefore was the distributing center of the Druze people and Wādi-al-Taym was the birthplace of their religion.
It is also easy to trace the ancestry of the modern Druze emigrants in Europe and America back to Syria and the Lebanon. In the United States there are about a thousand Druzes, mostly of Lebanese origin, among whom eighty are women.
The few Druze manuscripts which have thus far fallen into our hands represent the Fāṭimite Ḥakīm cult as having spread into many lands outside the confines of Syria, and as having found proselytes throughout northern Africa, Egypt, Arabia, Irāq, Persia and other parts of the Near East, into which Ḥamzah had sent missionaries of different grades. That this was not an altogether idle boast is illustrated by a reference in al-Dhahabi 1 ( 1345 A.D.) to the execution of all those in far-away Khurāsān who believed in the divinity of al-Ḥakīm. Following the example, legendary or historical, of the Prophet Muḥammad, al-Muqtana Bahā-al-Dīn, the right hand of Ḥamzah in the propagation of the cult, addressed epistles eastward as far as India and westward as far as Constantinople, including one to Constantine VIII 2 and one to Emperor Michael the Paphlagonian. 3 But the fact remains that of those Ḥakīm followers, none has survived except the Druzes of the Lebanon. 4 In Egypt they were exterminated soon after the appearance of the cult. No matter where the modern Druze, therefore, may be today, he can rightly trace his origin back to that mountain land of Lebanon.
Religious and Racial Boundaries Coterminous:This is especially true in view of the fact that with the death of Bahā-al-Dīn in 1031 A.D. "the door of the Unitarian religion was closed"
and no one could be admitted into the Druze fold or permitted exit from it. The Druze religion then ceased to be simply a religion and its followers became a distinct nation. Bahā-al-Din resorted to this policy as a measure of safety. New pretended converts might betray the cause into the hands of its persecutors. He considered "the day of grace," offered to an unworthy world by the divine al-Ḥākim and the transcendent Ḥamzah, as having passed forever. To a religious body thus reduced to the defensive and desperately striving to conceal its identity, if not its very existence, further proselytism became clearly impossible. The Druze religion thus became wholly hereditary, a sacred privilege, a priceless treasure to be jealously and zealously guarded against the profane. This self-centralization which makes its votaries shun all attempts at increasing their number, coupled with the inviolable secrecy with which they practice their religion, and the readiness with which they ever hold themselves to profess any dominant religion that happens to throw its shadow across their way, has enabled the Druze community to maintain a stable and homogeneous existence for upward of nine centuries. In this it may have had no parallel in the religious history of the world.
Silence of Historians:The first historian to mention the rise and spread of the Druze religion was Yaḥya ibn-Saīd al-Anṭāki, 1 a Christian contemporary of Darazi, 2 the founder of the religion. In his account he was followed by another Christian historian, Jurjus al-Makīn 3 ( 1273 A.D.). But both historians are silent on
the question of racial origins. Other Arabic sources, written by Moslems, such as ibn-al-Athīr 1 ( 1234), abu-al-Fida 2 ( 1331), ibn-Taghri-Birdi 3 ( 1469) and later Syrian and Egyptian chroniclers like ibn-Khaldūn ( 1406), al-Suyūṭi ( 1505), al-Isḥāqi ( cir. 1650) are equally silent. To these annalists, questions of religious, and not racial, grouping were the ones of paramount and all-absorbing interest.
The Crusading historians of the West and the reports of the pilgrims likewise throw no light on the subject. To them all non-Christian peoples of Syria were included under the generic name "Sarraceni." The pilgrims ordinarily took the coastal route and were therefore not likely to come much in contact with the Druzes. But the Druzes undoubtedly took part in the struggle against the Crusaders and possibly influenced the Templars by their organization and teaching. 4
Travelers and Scholars Accounts:Travelers and modern writers have almost exhausted all the list of possible theories in their attempt to explain the racial beginnings of the Druze people. Some have even resorted to fantastic and naïve, if not ludicrous, hypotheses.
Benjamin of Tudela, the Jewish traveler who passed through the Lebanon in or about 1165 was one of the first European writers to refer to the Druzes by name. The word Druzes, in an early Hebrew edition of his travels, occurs as "Dogziyin," 5 but it is clear that this is a scribal error. According to the Encyclopaedia
of Islam, 1 Benjamin also states that the Druzes were descended from the Ituraeans (an Aramean or Arabian tribe which Pompey found in Lebanon in 64 B.C.), but I have not been able to find this statement in any version of Benjamin's Itinerary.
Criticism of the Arabian Theory:Modern travelers like Niebuhr, 2 and scholars like von Oppenheim, 3 undoubtedly echoing the popular Druze belief regarding their own origin, have classified them as Arabs. The prevailing idea among the Druzes themselves today is that they are of Arab stock. This hypothesis conforms to the general local tradition, but is in contradiction to the results obtained in this study. In his Huxley Memorial Lecture, "The Early Inhabitants of Western Asia," Professor Felix von Luschan, the famous anthropologist of the University of Berlin, states that he measured the skulls of fifty-nine adult male Druzes and "not one single man fell, as regards his cephalic index, within the range of the real Arab." 4 Evidently the Druze claim of Arab descent is the result of their application of the principle of dissimulation (taqiyyah) to their racial problem, they being a small minority amidst an Arab majority which has always been in the ascendancy. According to this principle, one is not only ethically justified but is under obligation, when the exigencies of the case require, to conceal the reality of his religion, or race, and feign other religious or racial relationships.
The writer remembers hearing Druzes in Lebanon discussing Japanese victories during the Russo-Japanese War of 1906 and claiming common origin with the yellow Far Easterners. Miss Bell who was then traveling in Ḥawrān (Jabal al-Durūz) observed that the "Druzes believe the Japanese to belong to their own race." 5
Diverse Hypotheses:Lamartine 1 discovered in the modern Druzes the remnants of the Samaritans; the Earl of Carnarvon, 2 those of the Cuthites 3 whom Esarhaddon transplanted into Palestine; George Washington Chasseaud, 4 those of the Hivites; and Mrs. Worsley, 5 those of the Hittites. Drawing his conclusions from anthropometric measurements, Professor Luschan makes the Druzes, Maronites, and Nuṣayriyyah of Syriatogether with the Armenians, Ṭahtājis, Bektāshis, Ali-Ilāhis and Yezīdis of Asia Minor and Persia"with their enormous high and short heads and narrow and high noses"the modern representatives of the ancient Hittites. 6 Captain Light describes them on the authority of Pococke "as the remnant of Israel who fled the wrath of Moses after the destruction of the molten calf." 7 Canon Parfit, who lived several years among the Druzes, states in a recent book that they are "the descendants of Arabs, Persians, Hindoos, Jews and Christians." 8
Supposed Relationship with the French and British and with Freemasonry:Deceived by superficial and purely accidental phonetic resemblances, certain French scholars once accepted the curious hypothesis, which in the seventeenth century found vogue in Europe, to the effect that the modern Druzes of the Lebanon are the descendants of a Latin colony which owed its origin to a comte de Dreux who, subsequent to the fall of Acre, led his Crusading regiment to the out-of-the-way hills of Lebanon. The
same myth makes the Druze chief Fakhr-al-Dīn a scion of the house of Lorraine through Godfrey of Bouillon.
This genealogy was apparently fabricated in connection with the visit of that prince Fakhr-al-Dīn to Italy, after he had made an alliance in 1608 with Ferdinand I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, with a view to arousing a crusade against Fakhr-al-Dīn's enemy suzerains, the Turks. In 1763 Puget de Saint-Pierre wrote a book entitled Histoire des Druses, Peuple du Liban, formé par une colonie de François (Paris). Articles appeared in learned magazines 1 supporting the idea. More discriminating writers like Volney, 2 Lamartine, 3 Dussaud, 4 were quick to detect the historic impossibility of the hypothesis. English travelers like Maundrell 5 and Pococke 6 seem to have accepted the theory of Druze descent from the remains of some Christian army of Crusading origin.
It was evidently in an analogous sphere of ideas that such lodges as those of "Druzes Réunis" and "Commandeurs du Liban" were founded in France. 7
By the same processes of reasoning the Druze name was connected with those of the Druids, and many Freemason lodges have claimed relationship with the Druzes whose "ancestors were none other than the original subjects of King Hiram of Tyre, the builders of Solomon's temple." 8
The writer remembers more than one occasion on which prominent contemporaneous Druzes claimed common descent for their people with the British. That this claim goes back to the
early part of the eighteenth century is shown by a reference in Pococke's Description. 1 English agents in Syria, anxious for a "zone of influence" among the Druzes to counteract the French zone among the Maronites, may have acquiesced in the Druze claim to blood relationship with the British.
Other Theories:Some English scholars 2 of the eighteenth century tried to relate the Druzes to the Derusaiaioi mentioned by Herodotus 3 as one of the Median tribes transplanted by Cyrus. In this as in the preceding cases, there seems to be no justification for the theory beyond the apparent similarity in names.
More worthy of consideration is the statement of Hogarth and Gertrude Bell in the Encyclopaedia Britannica 4 that the Druzes are a mixture of stocks in which the Arab largely predominates "grafted on to an original mountain population of Aramaic blood." A study, however, of the Arabic colloquial used by the modern Druzes of Lebanon reveals no such marked Aramaisms as is revealed by a study of the colloquial of their northern neighbors, the Maronites, who are of mixed Aramaic stock; and there is nothing in the sources at our command to justify the inclusion of the Aramaic blood to such an extent in the Druze veins.
10:1 Sulaymān abu-Izz-al-Dīn, "Tawaṭṭun al-Durūz," al-Kulliyyah (Beirūt), May, 1926.
10:2 The ruins of this little village can still be seen near Aynāb overlooking Beirūt.
10:3 Richard F. Burton and Charles F. T. Drake, Unexplored Syria (London, 1872), vol. I, 178.
10:4 Cf. Henri Guys, La Nation Druze, son histoire, sa religion, ses murs, et son état politique (Paris, 1863), p. 25; Gertrude L. Bell, Syria, the Desert and the Sown (New York, 1907), p. 306.
10:5 Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement (London, 1889), p. 123.
11:1 Duwal al-Islām (Ḥayderābād, 1337 Ali.), vol. I, 189.
11:2 "LÉpītre à Constantin, traité religieux Druze," publié et annoté par les PP. J. Khalīl and L. Ronzevalle, Mélanges de la Faculté Orientale (Beirūt, 1909). See infra, Appendix D.
11:3 The epistles addressed to "the Arabs," "al-Yemen," "India," &c., are all found in "Part I" (al-Juz al-Awwal, MS.) of the seven parts which constitute the collection of tracts and epistles by Bahā-al-Dīn.
11:4 Amīn Bey Kisbāny, a graduate of the American University of Beirūt and former Secretary of King Feisal, tells me that he found in the year 1905 in the mountains east of Miknās, Morocco, a Berber tribe, the banu-Īsa, which claim religious affiliation with the Druzes of Syria.
12:1 "Tarīkh" in Corpus Scriptorum Christ. Orient. Scriptores Arabicii Textus, T. VII (Beirūt, 1909), pp. 180-234.
12:2 He is the man who gave his name to the sect. Arabic Durūz is the plural of Durzi.
12:3 Tarīkh al-Muslimīn with Latin translation, ed. Erpenius (Leyden, 1625), p. 264. Because of the omission of one dot from the Arabic name of "Darazi" in this edition, its pronunciation became "Daran" and that is probably why the name occurs in that form in the monumental Modern Part of the Universal History from the Earliest Account of Time (65 vols., London, 1747-1768), XIV, 253 and 255 and in the later edition (1779-1884), III, 468, XI, 320. The Druzes are referred to throughout this work as "Dararians."
13:1 Al-Kāmil, ed. C. J. Tornberg (Leyden, 1863), pp. 81 seq., 147 seq.
13:2 Tarīkh (Constantinople, 1286 A.H.), II, 138, 158.
13:3 Al-Nujūm al-Zāhirah, ed. Popper (Berkeley, the University Press, 1909-1912), II, 69.
13:4 C. R. Conder, The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem 1099-1291 (London, 1897), pp. 236 and 233.
13:5 The Itinerary of Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela, translated and edited by A. Asher (London, 1840), I, 29 of Hebrew Text, quoted by J. G. C. Adler, Monumentum Cuficum Drusorum in Museum Cuficum Borgianum (Rome, 1782), p. 507. Cf. The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela, Critical Text, Translation and Commentary, by M. N. Adler (London, 1907), paragraph 29.
14:1 Article "Druzes" by Baron Carra de Vaux.
14:2 Travels through Arabia and other Countries in the East, Trans. by R. Heron (Edinburgh, 1792), II, 179.
14:3 Max F. von Oppenheim, Vom Mittelmeer zum Persischen Golf (Berlin, 1899), I, 111 seq.
14:4 Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (London, 1911), p. 232.
14:5 Syria, the Desert and the Sown, op. cit., p. 103.
15:1 Voyage, op. cit., II, 109.
15:2 Recollections of the Druses of Lebanon (London, 1860), pp. 42-43.
15:3 II Kings 17:24.
15:4 The Druzes of Lebanon, their Manners, Customs and Religion with a Translation of their Religious Code (London, 1855), p. 97.
15:5 This lady dragged her husband some fifty years ago from a comfortable home in London and established herself in a Druze village, Ayn-Unūb, a few miles from Beirūt in order to prove her theory. See J. T. Parfit, Among the Druzes of Lebanon and Bashan (London, 1917), p. 33.
15:6 Journal Royal Anthropological Institute (London, 1911), op. cit., p. 241.
15:7 Henry Light, Travels in Egypt, Nubia, Holy Land, Mount Libanon and Cyprus in the Year 1814 (London, 1815), p. 225.
15:8 Parfit, Among the Druzes, op. cit., p. 33.
16:1 "Religion des Druses," Revue de lOrient (Paris, 1846), X, 240.
16:2 Voyage en Égypte et en Syrie pendant les années 1783, 1784 et 1785 (uvres de C. F. Volney, deuxième éd., tome II, Paris, 1825), I, 397.
16:3 Lamartine, Voyage en Orient 1832-1833, uvres Complètes, tome 7, II, 204.
16:4 R. Dussaud, Histoire et Religion des Nosairis (Paris, 1904), p. 8, n. z.
16:5 Henry Maundrell, A Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem on Easter A.D. 1697 (London, 1810), pp. 51-52.
16:6 Richard Pococke, A Description of the East and Some Other Countries (London, 1745), p. 94.
16:7 Vital Cuinet, Syrie, Liban et Palestine (Paris, 1890), p. 313.
16:8 B. H. Springett, Secret Sects of Syria (London, 1922). Chap. XXV, "The Relation of the Druzes to Freemasonry."
17:1 Op. cit., p. 94.
17:2 Adler, op. cit., p. 106.
17:3 Historiae, lib. I, cap. CXXV.
17:4 (Eleventh edition), article "Druses."