Sacred Texts  Asia  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

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

p. 18



What then are the racial affinities of that singular people which for the last nine hundred years has grouped itself with marvelous cohesion, solidarity and consciousness of kind, around the divine person of a whimsical Caliph? Or, to reduce our question to its lowest denomination, what were the racial connections of that little community at the foot of Mt. Hermon, in Wādi-al-Taym, which in 407 A.H. 1/1016 A.D. responded to the mission of Darazi and consequently assumed his name?

The Persian Nucleus at Wādi-al-Taym:—It is safe for us to make two postulates at the very outset. First, the people who later became known as the "Druzes" must have formed a more or less socially homogeneous community prior to the advent of Darazi. Second, that homogeneous community must have had in it something which predisposed it for the favorable reception of the seemingly strange and peculiar doctrines proclaimed by Darazi, and, having accepted them, to cherish and perpetuate those doctrines. Something in the social and intellectual make-up of that primitive community at Wādi-al-Taym must have made it respond whole-heartedly to Druzism and proved a fertile soil for the germination of its dogmas.

The trustworthy Egyptian historian, ibn-Taghri-Birdi († 1469 A.D.), who is the first authority to give us any explanation as to why al-Ḥakīm chose, of all places, Wādi-al-Taym as the scene for his Syrian propaganda, gives that explanation, which he, of course, draws from earlier documents, in the following words:

p. 19

[paragraph continues] "And al-Ḥakīm said to Darazi, 'Proceed into Syria and spread the cause in the mountains because their people are quick to follow.'" 1 This reason may sound strange considering the rightly reputed conservative character of mountaineers, but at least it makes it clear that Darazi proceeded to Wādi-al-Taym according to preconceived plans and he made its population his first objective. And since his new doctrine was at the core an incarnational one of the extreme Shī‘ite type which had been previously developed in ‘Irāq and Persia, it is logical to assume that the natives of Wādi-al-Taym must have been subjected to ‘Irāqizing or Persianizing influence before.

The Founders of Druzism All Persian:—It should also be remembered in this connection that Darazi himself was of Turco-Persian origin. 2 His sect was the Ismā‘īliyyah. 3 His theological philosophy was Bāṭiniyyah (Innerite), i.e., the system of giving an esoteric, inner meaning to the scriptures other than the apparent, literal one. Ḥamzah, the teacher of Darazi 4 and the brains of the whole movement, especially after Darazi had fallen into disrepute, was of undoubted Persian origin. 5 Besides, the whole

p. 20

[paragraph continues] Fāṭimite dynasty, whose claim of legitimacy of descent from ‘Ali and Fāṭimah has been either suspected or vehemently denied by many judicious Moslem historians, was probably founded by, and descended from, a Persian adventurous ancestor who exploited a ‘Alid tradition and a ‘Alid fetish for his own personal interest and for the aggrandizement of his progeny.

The Testimony of Religious Vocabulary:—If we, furthermore, investigate the technical terms current in the Druze religious vocabulary, we find many of them, including the word for God, al-Bār (from Barkhoda), 1 of clear Persian origin. 2 It is significant that the Druze password as taught in their catechism, formulated after the time of Ḥamzah and al-Muqtana and patterned after the Christian system of questions and answers, consists in the proper answer to the catch question, "Do they plant the seeds of halālīj [or ihlilīj, from Persian halīlah = myrobalan citrina] in your country?" 3 If the man is a Druze his answer would be, "Yes, they are planted in the hearts of the believers."

Names of Feudal Families:—A study, therefore, of the Druze dogmas, their religious vocabulary and the nationality of the missionaries would suggest ‘Irāqi and Persian beginnings for the Druze people. This conclusion regarding the Persian racial origins of the Druzes which we have reached is in contradiction to almost all other conclusions reached by travelers and historians. 4 It is

p. 21

further corroborated by an investigation of the genealogies of the chief feudal families which we shall now consider.

The leading families among the Druzes have been throughout their history either of full Kurdish and Persian origin or of Persianized and ‘Irāqized Arab origin. That is, they have been either Kurdish and Persian families or tribes from the Arabian peninsula who, before their advent into the Lebanon, sojourned for many generations in Mesopotamia where they became fully indoctrinated with the ‘Alid ideas and subjected to Gnostic and Manichaean influences.

Wādi-al-Taym, the place where the Druzes first appear in history under that name, 1 is so called after an Arab tribe Taym-Allāh (formerly Taym-Allāt) which, according to the greatest Arab historian, al-Ṭabari, 2 first came from Arabia into the valley of the Euphrates where they were Christianized prior to their migration into the Lebanon. Many of the Druze feudal families whose genealogies have been preserved to us by the two modern Syrian chroniclers: al-Amīr Ḥaydar and al-Shidyāq, seem also to point in the direction of the same origin—Arabian tribes which emigrated via the Persian Gulf and stopped in ‘Irāq on the route that was later to lead them to Syria. The first feudal Druze family, the banu-Tanūkh, which made for itself a name in fighting the Crusaders under authorization from the Sultan Nūr-al-Dīn of Damascus, was according to Ḥaydar, 3 an Arab tribe from al-Ḥīrah (Mesopotamia) where it occupied the position of a ruling family and was apparently christianized. The Tanūkhs must have left Arabia as early as the second or third century A.D. The Ma‘n tribe which superseded the Tanūkhs and produced the greatest Druze hero in history, Fakhr-al-Dīn, had the same traditional origin, 4 although Fakhr-al-Dīn himself is quoted, on the authority

p. 22

of a grandson of his, as saying that the Ma‘ns were Kurds. 1 The banu-Taḷhūq 2 and ‘Abd-al-Malik 3 who supplied the later Druze leadership have the same record as the Tanūkhs. The banu-‘Imād are so-called from al ‘Imādiyyah, 4 near al-Mawṣil, and, like the Junblāṭs, 5 are of Kurdish origin. The Arislāns claim descent from the Ḥīrah Arab kings, but the name (Arslan = lion) suggests Persian influence if not origin. It was in conformity with the principle of racial dissimulation (taqiyyah) that many Druze families of Kurdish and Persian origins claimed Arab descent.

It is interesting to note that most of these Druze Arab tribes trace their origin to southern Arabia, and not to the Ḥijāz tribes which flooded western Asia at the time of the Moslem conquests. This would imply an earlier migration into ‘Irāq than the rise of Islam, and a sojourn of many generations in a sphere of Persian influence.

Persian Tribes Transplanted into Syria:—That the Indo-Iranian elements in the blood of the historic Druzes are varied and multiplied can be safely assumed, not only on the ground of probable beginning and intermarriages in their earlier home, Mesopotamia, but on the ground of possible admixture in Syria itself where many Persians had been domiciled prior to the rise of Druzism. Al-Balādhuri, the most judicious of the early Arab historians, informs us that Mu‘āwiyah (660-680 A.D.), among other Umayyad Caliphs, transplanted on different occasions quite a number of Persian and Mesopotamian tribes into the districts of Ba‘labakk, Ḥimṣ, Ṣūr (Tyre) and elsewhere in order, evidently, to take the place of the Byzantines who had evacuated Syria subsequent to its conquest by the Moslem Arabs. 6 In the shuffle to which these


18:1 Ḥamzah did not proclaim openly the incarnation of the Deity in al-Ḥakīm till the following year, 408 A.H., which marks the beginning of the Druze era and from which their manuscripts are dated.

19:1 Al-Nujūm al-Zāhirah, op. cit., II, 69.

19:2 Al-Makīn, op. cit., calls him Persian; Silvestre de Sacy, Exposé de la religion des Druzes (a vols., Paris, 1838), I, CCLXXXIV, thinks he was a Turk. By many historians he is described min muwalladi al-atrāk, i.e., one of his parents was Turkish, of course, not Ottoman Turkish, but one from Persia or Turkestan. See al-Muḥibbi, Khulāṣat al-Athar (Cairo, 1284 A.H.), p. 268.

19:3 A Shī‘ah sect which believed in seven Imāms of whom the last and greatest was Muḥammad ibn-Ismā‘īl, a descendant of ‘Ali. For a statement in English on this sect see D. B. Macdonald, Muslim Theology, Jurisprudence and Constitutional Theory (New York, 1903), pp. 43 seq. and E. G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia from the Earliest Times until Firdawsi (New York, 1902), pp. 405-415.

19:4 In his Literary History of Persia from the Earliest Times until Firdawsi, op. cit., p. 400, and Literary History of Persia from Firdawsi to Sa‘di (New York, 1906), p. 199, the eminent English scholar, E. G. Browne, confuses Darazi with Ḥamzah making them both one man "Ḥamzah-al-Duruzi."

19:5 Many historians refer to him as "al-Zūzani," i.e., coming from Zūzan in Persia. The Governors and Judges of Egypt or Kitāb al-Wulāh wa-Kitāb al-Quḍāh of el-Kindi, together with an appendix derived mostly from Raf‘ El-Iṣr by Ibn-Ḥajar, ed. R. Guest (Beirūt, 1908), p. 652.

20:1 E. Blochet, Le Messianisme dans l’hétérodoxie musulmane (Paris, 1903), p. 94, n. 1; S. de Sacy, Chrestomathie Arabe (Paris, 1826), II, 246, n. 72.

20:2 This etymology is recognized by Ḥamzah himself in al-Sīrah al-Mustaqīmah, MS.

20:3 One version of the Druze catechism was translated by Adler, op. cit., see p. 127; another by Guys, La Nation Druse, see p. 199. Cf. Baron de Bock, Essai sur l’histoire du Sabéisme auquel on a joint un catéchisme, qui contient les principaux dogmes de la religion des Druzes (Metz, 1788), pp. 143 seq.; "A Catechism of the Druze Religion" in Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement (London, 1886), p. 41.

20:4 Lieut.-Col. Conder in his Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, op. cit., p. 235, makes the categorical statement "Nor were the Druzes of Arab race. They were in great measure of Persian stock; and their women wore the silver horn beneath the veil, projecting forward from the forehead, a costume which was used among tribes of the Oxus and Caspian."

21:1 For Tayāminah (coming from, or belonging to, Wādi-al-Taym) as a synonym of "Druzes," see al-Muḥibbi, Khulāṣat al-Athar (Cairo, 1284 A.H.), III, 268. Cf. Guys, La Nation Druze, p. 118.

21:2 Ta’rīkh al-Rusul, ed. de Goeje (Leyden, 1889), I, 2489-2490, 2031.

21:3 Ta’rīkh (Cairo, 1900), p. 350.

21:4 Ḥaydar, p. 316. See also T. Shidyāq, Akhbār al-A‘yān (Beirūt, 1859), p.562.

22:1 Al-Muḥibbi, op. cit., p. 266.

22:2 Shidyāq, p. 255.

22:3 Shidyāq, p. 160.

22:4 Shidyāq, p. 260.

22:5 Baron Carra de Vaux, Les Penseurs de l’Islam (Paris, 1926), V, 69, erroneously makes the Junblāṭs Moslem. They and the Arislāns form the two leading Druze families at the present time.

22:6 Philip K. Hitti, Origins of the Islamic State (New York, 1916), pp. 180, 260. Ya’qūbi, Kitāb al-Buldān, ed. Juynboll (Leyden, 2886), pp. 114-115.

p. 23

[paragraph continues] Persian tribes were later subjected in Syria, 1 it is possible that some tribes landed in Wādi-al-Taym, which, according to a passage in ibn-al-Athīr, 2 recorded under the events of 523 A.H./1128 A.D., was included in the district of Ba‘labakk. According to the same passage, Wādi-al-Taym was then swarming with diverse heterodoxies, such as the "Nuṣayriyyah, Durziyyah and Majūs" (Magians = Manichaeans or some Zoroastrian sect). The modern Shī‘ah of Syria, popularly known as "Matāwilah" may go back to one or more of these transplanted Persian tribes. 3

Racially, therefore, the Druze people were a mixture of Persians, ‘Irāqis, and Persianized Arabs, and were thereby admirably fitted for the reception of the Druze dogmas and tenets of belief, which we shall next take up.

23:1 Hitti, Origins, p. 228.

23:2 Al-Kāmil, ed. Tornberg (Leyden, 1863), X, 461-462.

23:3 Père Lammens, Tasrīḥ al-Abṣār (Beirūt, 1914), II, 48-49. Cf. Lammens, La Syrie (Beirūt, 1921), I, 282.

Next: Chapter V. Druze Theology and Its Sources