Druze religion

Founded in Cairo at the beginning of the 10th century by a young Fatimid Caliph of Egypt, al-Hâkim, the Druze faith spread in the Middle East through a preacher called al-Darazi who gave it his name. The Druze also call themselves « Al-Mouahhidoun », the « Unifiers », because their syncretist doctrine combines elements of Islam, Christianity and Greek and Hindu philosophy.

After the death of its founder the sect was persecuted, disappeared in Egypt but continued its proselytism in Syria. In 1043, the « door of adhesion » was closed and no further conversions were allowed. This was in order not to provoke the wrath of neighbours by accepting someone of another religion. From then on the Druze formed a closed community, in the mountainous regions of Mount Hermon, the Lebanese mountains, the Anti-Lebanon, the Golan Heights, the Galilee and the Djebel Druze.

The Druze emerged as a major political force in the mountains under the Emirs who presided over their fortunes from the 12th century onwards.

The Emir Fakhreddin II (1590-1635), whose palace was in the heart of the Chouf at Deir-el-Qamar, a village which now has a Christian majority, is nowadays considered the first Lebanese statesman. Fakhreddin II extended his authority over what is today Lebanon and the Galilee and succeeded in preserving the emirate’s autonomy until the Ottoman regime abruptly ended his reign. Well-known for his tolerance, he also encouraged Maronite Christians to come to live in the Metn and the Chouf.

Things began to go wrong with the Emir Bechir II (1788-1840), a Maronite, who to assure his own power stirred up rivalry between the major Druze families and backed his own community. This started confessional troubles which got worse and worse till the civil war of 1860. Many Druze then went into exile to settle in southern Syria, in the Djebel al- Arab, better known today as the Djebel Druze, where a small number of their co-religionists had settled over the centuries. In this region, they were in rebellion against the French occupying power from 1922, when the French mandate of the League of Nations over Syria began, to 1926 when French troops took Suweida, the capital of the Djebel.

There must now be more than 350,000 Druzes in Syria, around 300,000 in Lebanon, some 60,000 in Israel and between 3 and 5,000 in Jordan.