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Origins of the Druze People and Religion, by Philip K. Hitti, [1924], at

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The Druze belief in metempsychosis is very popular and strong and, in contrast to their other beliefs, is professed openly by the believers. The writer's impression of stories told him by schoolmates in the Lebanon regarding newly-born children who made utterances involving memories of former incarnations is still vivid and clear in his mind. A story that found great circulation in the local press of Syria in the last few months relates how a Druze leader in one of the recent raids against the French stood on a bridge at Wādi-al-Taym and declared to his men that some fifty years ago he was killed on that same spot where he was this time leading his men. 1

Method of Operation:—According to the learned Druze doctrine, the principle of transmigration of souls operates only from one human body to another. All souls were created at once from the "light of Ḥamzah" and their actual number is "neither increased by births nor decreased by deaths." 2 The ignorant among them, however, hold popular beliefs involving reincarnation in animal forms, and that probably explains the erroneous statements made by many writers, including the statement in the Encyclopaedia of Islam3 to the effect that they believe that the wicked return in bodies of dogs.

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In his epistle refuting the arguments of the Nuṣayri, 1 Ḥamzah utterly rejects the doctrine of transmigration, stating that "if anyone believes in it as the Nuṣayriyyah do, he loses both this and the next world." The Druze catechism, formulated long after the days of Bahā’-al-Dīn and Ḥamzah, teaches that the infidels and apostates are metamorphosed into dogs and swine 2 as well as menial servants.

Earlier Moslem Sects Believing in Transmigration:—That the Druzes had within the fold of Islam various precursors in the doctrine of metempsychosis is demonstrated by the fact that al-Baghdādi 3 and ibn-al-Jawzi 4 each devote a whole chapter to Aṣḥāb al-Tanāsukh, i.e., the believers in transmigration. Ibn-Ḥazm, 5 al-Shahrastāni, 6 and al-Maqrīzi 7 have many references to such sects, chief among which stood al-Kaysāniyyah, and al-Ḥā’iṭiyyah. Stories intended to show the amusing possibilities of return in form of animals are recorded in various books of Arabic literature.

One of the most popular of these stories is that related of al-Sayyid al-Ḥimyari who believed in transmigration. A certain man came and asked him for a loan of money promising to repay it on his (debtor's) return to life. "Well," said al-Sayyid, "but even more than that, you should offer a guarantee that you will return in the form of a man." "How else can I return?" asked the would-be debtor. "I am afraid," retorted the shrewd Sayyid, "that you will return as a dog or pig, and my money will then be lost!" 8

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The Manichaean doctrine of the soul, and of its lot hereafter, recognized a division of mankind into three classes: Elect, Hearers and Sinners; the Elect alone being exempt from retribution through rebirth in some lower form. 1

When carried to its logical conclusion, as in the case of the Druze philosophy, the doctrine of transmigration dispenses altogether with the necessity for paradise and hell and takes the place of a final judgment. The time of the triumphal "return" of al-Ḥākim and the complete victory of his Unitarian religion, resulting in awarding high worldly offices to the faithful and punishing the renegades and unbelievers by assigning them to hard and menial labor, corresponds to the resurrection day.

Relation to China:—Whether this Moslem belief is of Western Pythagorean or of Eastern Indian origin is hard to ascertain, with the balance of evidence in favor of the East. Ibn-al-Jawzi 2 states that it appeared first "in the days of the Pharaoh of Moses," which is correct if taken to mean that it was of ultimate Egyptian origin. Al-Shahrastāni 3 declares that the Moslem heterodoxies received this teaching from the Mazdakian Magians, Brahman Indians, the philosophers, and Mandaeans. 4

In the case of the Druzes, to whom China seems to be a sort of a heaven, the eastern source has evidently impressed itself strongly upon the popular imagination. When a good Druze is dead in the Lebanon, he is supposed to be reborn in China. The writer remembers hearing more than once at Druze funerals the chorus of a song which ran as this: "Happy are the people of China at the hour of your arrival!" (Niyyāl ahl al-Ṣīn sa‘at waṣltak). The Druzes have always been conscious of the fact

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that people in the Far East hold the same views regarding the transmigration of souls. 1

It is interesting to note in this connection that Benjamin of Tudela 2 calls the inhabitants of Khandy (Ceylon) by the same name as the people around Sidon—Druzes. He was probably impressed by the similarity of belief in transmigration among the two peoples and concluded that they must have been the same.


In the theory of predestination, the Druzes follow in the footsteps of the Jabriyyah school of Islamic thought as opposed to the Qadariyyah. 3 The problem of reconciling the Almightiness of Allah with the free-will of man was the very first rock over which dogmatic Islam split, these two sects constituting the earliest dogmatic schism in Islam.

The Koran abounds in passages the interpretation of which favors a predestination philosophy of life. Sūrah 3, verses 26-27 reads: "Say, O God, master of the universe, thou bestowest the rule upon whom thou wilt, and thou takest away the rule from whom thou wilt; thou exaltest whomsoever thou wilt, and thou humblest whomsoever thou wilt. In thy hand is all good, for thou art all-powerful. Thou causest the night to succeed the day, and thou causest the day to succeed the night. Thou bringest forth the living out of the dead, and thou bringest forth the dead out of the living. And thou providest sustenance to whom thou wilt, without measure."

Shī‘ite Contribution:—The ethical principle of dissimulation (taqiyyah), practiced to the present day by the Druzes, was a fundamental tenet of Shī‘ah, to which the partisans of ‘Ali had resort as a result of the handicaps and persecutions to which they were subjected by orthodox (Sunni) Islam during both the

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[paragraph continues] Umayyad and ‘Abbāsid periods. The theory is an old one in Islam, based upon the Koran, 3: 28-29: "Let not the believers choose the infidels for protectors in preference to other believers. He who doth this bath no claim upon Allah, unless he doth it in dissimulation (taqiyyah) and for protection. . . Whether ye conceal what is in your breasts, or whether ye proclaim it, Allah knoweth it, for he knoweth whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on earth." The Khārijites, antedating the Shī‘ah, recognized its legitimacy. The Shī‘ite contribution to it consisted of the point that when a believer is in a place where his adversaries are in the ascendancy, not only may he profess outwardly the form of the prevailing religion but he must do so in order to protect himself and his coreligionists. 1

The historical illustration of this principle, as it worked out in the case of the Druzes, took place in the thirties of the last century when the Egyptian Ibrāhīm Pasha insisted on enforcing his conscription laws and many Druzes, in order to evade the draft, began to patronize the Christian churches of their Maronite neighbors. A few years ago when the great Druze leader, al-Amīr Muṣṭafa Arislān, who had held many high governmental positions under the Turks, died, his funeral services were conducted according to the Sunni Moslem rites.

This principle must have attached itself to more than one of the secret religions in pre-Islamic days. It has its modern applications in the case of the Persian and Syrian Bahā’is, the Domneh Jews of Salonika (of whom the famous Turkish minister Djevīd Bey is supposed to have been one), and the Stavriote 2 Greeks of Asia Minor who after the proclamation of the constitution in 1908 put off the Moslem garb and reasserted their Christianity which they had practiced in hiding.

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The Fact:—Persistent local rumor continues to associate "calf worship" with the Druze religion, but the Druzes themselves have with equal persistence and vehemence denied it. No worse curse could even today be levelled against a Druze in the Lebanon than to call him "calf worshiper." Certain travelers like Pococke 1 gave credence to the report; others including Volney 2 rejected it. That there is jealously guarded and hidden from the uninitiate eye, in one of their leading places of seclusion (khalwah), of which there are about forty in the Lebanon, 3 some gold figure of a calf or bull inside of a silver box has been almost ascertained beyond doubt. A high Druze sheikh has practically admitted in a recent interview the existence of such a box. 4 Paul Casanova reports in the Revue archéologique 5 the discovery of a baked clay figure of a ram or sheep with the name of al-Ḥakīm inscribed on it. Passages in the tracts of Ḥamzah 6 and Bahā’-al-Dīn 7 referring in a derogatory manner to the "calf" and the "worshipers of the calf" are not lacking, but one passage in the epistle entitled al-Asrār (Secrets or Mysteries) has clear and unmistakable reference to "the box in which is the figure of the incarnation of our Lord." 8

Its Interpretation:—The question, in view of the secrecy that surrounds the cult and the ambiguity of some of the references, is one of interpretation. De Sacy 9 explains the calf as the emblem of Iblīs (devil), the enemy and rival of al-Ḥākim. Colonel

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[paragraph continues] Churchill states that Ḥamzah, indignant at the treachery of his emissary, Darazi, denounced him as the "calf whom a deluded people had set up as their idol." 1 Lieut.-Col. Conder considers it "a relic of older paganism" which they keep in their solitary meeting places "only to treat with insult and contempt." 2

If and when the calf cult is proved in the case of the Druze religion, some connection will then be sought with earlier cognate Israelitish and Egyptian cults. Animal worship has greatly figured in Oriental religions, and Christianity bears traces of its survival.


Eight Dogmas:—The chief dogmas of Druze belief, which we have hitherto tried to analyze and trace back to Moslem, Christian, Jewish, Neo-Platonic and Manichaean ancestry can be summed up under eight main formulas.

The first dogma is the confession of the unity of God. The second is the belief in successive manifestations of the deity in human form. The third is the acceptance of al-Ḥākim as the last and greatest of these divine incarnations. The fourth is the recognition of the five superior ministers who partake of the divine essence. The fifth is the consideration of Ḥamzah, the first minister, as the supreme ruler of the age (Wali-al-Zamān). The sixth is the belief in the philosophic concept of predestination. The seventh is the belief in the transmigration of souls. The eighth is the observance of the seven precepts of Ḥamzah who, on behalf of al-Ḥākim, absolved his followers from the obligations of Islam and instituted these new precepts for them.

The obligations of Islam, the so-called "five pillars," are: the testimony that God is one and that Muḥammad is his apostle, fasting, prayer, pilgrimage, and almsgiving. No one who does not practice these five can have any claim on orthodox Islam.

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Ḥamzah's Precepts:—The first precept of Ḥamzah enjoins veracity in speech; the second, protection and mutual aid to the brethren in faith; the third, renunciation of all forms of former worship and false belief; the fourth, repudiation of the devil (Iblīs) and all forces of evil; the fifth, confession of the unity of the Ḥākim-God; the sixth, acquiescence in his acts no matter what they be; and the seventh, absolute submission and resignation to his divine will in both secret and public. 1

Sources and Operation:—The first two precepts enunciated by the founder of Druzism are ethical in their nature and therefore difficult to trace back to their origin. The genealogy of the third and fourth is likewise difficult to ascertain. The fifth is the dogma we treated before, and the rest are corollaries from that dogma. The operation of the first precept is, of course, circumscribed by the already established law of dissimulation.

Of these principles the second has perhaps been the most potent force in the life and history of the Druze people. It has made of the Druze community one compact social body, presenting more the aspects of a religious fraternal order than a sect. This fraternal feature is one of the distinctive characteristics of the Druze people and has, in a large measure, contributed to their survival to the present day. It has enabled them at the time of crisis to act in unison and as one body moved primarily by motives of self-interest and by the instinct of self-preservation.


44:1 Al-Machriq (Beirūt), June, 1926. For another story see I. J. Nakhlah, Ḥall al-Rumūz fi Mu‘taqad al-Durūz (Cairo, 1897), p. 38.

44:2 Bahā’-al-Dīn, Tamyīz al-Muwaḥḥidīn al-Ṭā’i‘īn, MS.

44:3 Article "Druzes" by Baron Carra de Vaux. The same mistake is made by William Ewing, Arab and Druze at Home (London, 1907), p. 88. Cf. F. J. Bliss, The Religions of Modern Syria and Palestine (New York, 1912), p. 308; and J. T. Parfit, Druzes and the Secret Sects of Syria (Westminster, 1917), p. 26, Among the Druzes of Lebanon and Bashan (London, 1917), pp. 235-236; Ḥanna abi-Rāshid, Jabal al-Durūz (Cairo, 1925), p. 44.

45:1 Al-Radd ‘Ala al-Risālah al-Dāmighah li-al-Fāsiq, MS.

45:2 See the translation of "A Catechism of the Druze Religion" in Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement (London, 1886), pp. 39-40.

45:3 Ed. Hitti, pp. 164-165. See also al-Baghdādi, al-Farq bayn al-Firaq ed. Badr, pp. 253-259.

45:4 Op. cit., pp. 85-86.

45:5 Op. cit., IV, 182.

45:6 Op. cit., II, 12.

45:7 Al-Khiṭaṭ (Cairo, 1853), II, 347 352, 354.

45:8 Al-Aghāni, VII, 8; al-Kutubi, Fawāt al-Wafayāt (Cairo, 1866), I, 25. See also al-Jāḥiẓ, Kitāb al-Ḥayawān, VI, 24; ibn-al-Jawzi, p. 86; Alf Laylah wa-Laylah (Catholic Press, Beirūt), I, 41; al-Mā‘arri, "Risālatū’l-Ghufrān,' Journal Royal Asiatic Society (1902), XXXIV, 354-355 and 840.

46:1 A. V. Williams Jackson, "The Doctrine of Metempsychosis in Manichaeism," Journal American Oriental Society, Sept., 1925, pp. 247 and 268; Burkitt, op. cit., pp. 63-65.

46:2 Op. cit., p. 85.

46:3 Op. cit., 11, 12.

46:4 Al-Ṣābi’ah in Arabic mentioned in the Koran three times (2: 59, 5: 73, 22: 17) where with the Jews and Christians they were assured religious tolerance. "The philosophers" referred to are undoubtedly the Hellenistic philosophers.

47:1 Mr. Kisbāny suggests the possibility that the use of "Ṣīn" in this connection is an esoteric one of the ancient Babylonian word sin for moon.

47:2 Travels (London, 1848), p. 115.

47:3 D. B. Macdonald, Muslim Theology, op. cit., pp. 127-137.

48:1 Goldziher, Le dogme et la loi, trans. Félix Arin (Paris, 1920), pp. 169-170. See also ZDMG, op. cit., LX, 213 seq.

48:2 These crypto-Christian Greeks are called in the Levant "Mezzo-Mezzos." Leon Dominian, Frontiers of Language and Nationality in Europe (New York, 1917), p. 277.

49:1 A Description of the East, op. cit., p. 94.

49:2 Volney, Voyage en Égypte et en Syrie (Paris, 1825) (Œuvres, t. II), p. 409.

49:3 Article "Durūz," Dā’irat al-Ma‘ārif, ed. B. Bustāny (Beirūt, 1876-1900).

49:4 W. B. Seabrook, "The Golden Calf of the Druzes," Asia (New York), March, 1926. See also Revue de l’Orient, X, 238.

49:5 Year 1891, "Figurine en terre cuite avec inscription arabe." See also Blochet, Le Messianisme, op. cit., p. 98, n. 1.

49:6 Al-Ghāyah w-al-Naṣīḥah, MS. In al-Sīrah al-Mustaqīmah, MS., the statement is made that in Plato's (Iflāṭūn) legislation there was no "calf worship."

49:7 Risālat al-Wādi, MS.

49:8 This epistle is printed in part in Adler, op. cit., p. 136.

49:9 Exposé, op. cit., II, 235.

50:1 Charles H. Churchill, The Druzes and Maronites under the Turkish Rule (London, 1862), p. 12.

50:2 The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, op. cit., p. 234.

51:1 These precepts occur in most of their leading religious tracts.

Next: Chapter VII. Folklore