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Druze

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Author Topic: Druze  (Read 1461 times)
Megan
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« on: May 05, 2007, 03:07:59 am »

History

Druze history goes back to the middle ages when the Druze religion began to develop. A noted traveler Benjamin of Tudela wrote about the Druze in his diary in 1167. He describes the Druze as "Mountain dwellers, monotheists, [who] believe in soul transfigurations and are good friends with the Jews".

In the 11th century AD, Druze religious thought further developed through the Ismaili sect, a sub group of Shia Islam. The religion did not attempt to change mainstream Islam but to create a whole new religious body influenced by Greek philosophy and Gnosticism, including a form of reincarnation, where Druze reincarnate as future descendents.[citation needed] They keep their theology secretive, although it is known that they believe in one God and seven prophets - Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and Muhammad bin Ismail Nashtakin ad-Darazi. They revere Jethro and make an annual pilgrimage to his tomb at the Horns of Hittin.

Druzes believe the Fātimid caliph al-Hakim, who ruled over Egypt (9851021), to be an actual incarnation of God. The first to hold that view was a man called Hasan ibn Haidara al-Ahram, an Ismaili Da'i and courtier of al-Hakim. After his assassination, his cause was taken up by the Persian immigrant Hamza ibn ˤAlī ibn Aḥmad, who in a 1017 letter demanded that all officers and courtiers should acknowledge divinity of al-Hakim and the previous Fatimid Caliphs and Ismaili Imams. Hamza became the actual architect of the group.

It remains unclear whether al-Hakim shared these views, but he at least tolerated Hamza's activities. However, Hakim disappeared one night in 1021 under still unclear circumstances. According to historical research, he was most probably assassinated on orders of his older sister. The Druze however believe that Hakim went into occultation and will return in the end of days as the Qā'im "Ariser" or Mahdi "Guider".

After Hakim's disappearance, the Druze were forced to take to taqiyya, the practice of concealing their true beliefs common among Ismailis. They outwardly accepted the religious beliefs of those amongst whom they lived even as they secretly retained their true convictions.

Hamza was succeeded as leader by a young Turk called Nashtakin ad-Darazi, after whom the Druzes take their name.

The Druze have played major roles in the history of the Levant. They were mostly scattered in the Chouf Mountains, which are part of Mount Lebanon (known for some time as the Mount of the Druzes), and later the eponymous Jabal al-Durūz (Mount of the Druzes) in Syria. In 1860, Druzes committed massacres of Maronite Christians.

The Druze also played a major role in the Lebanese Civil War (19751990). They organized a militia under the leadership of Walid Jumblatt (son of Kamal Jumblatt), in opposition to the Maronite Christian Phalangist militia of Bachir Gemayel in the Mount Lebanon area (especially the Chouf) where the Druze militia were successful in winning the war. A peace treaty was then signed between the Druze and Maronite leaders which has enabled them to live peacefully together and later become allies.
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