Druze spirituality is one of the main faiths in the Middle East. However, to most of humankind, the Druze are a mystery, being Arabic-speaking followers of an esoteric Abrahamic faith, which asserted itself as an independent spiritual path in the 11th century.
HISTORICAL AND GEOGRAPHIC FRAMEWORK
Druze spirituality developed in the 10th century in the Fatimid Caliphate, a time of special cultural and spiritual richness. The rulers of the Fatimid Caliphate were descendants of Fatima, daughter of the prophet Muhammad and her husband Ali, which explains their designation as Fatimids.
At its height, the Fatimid Caliphate extended across North Africa, from the east of present-day Algilia to Egypt. It also covered the western coast of the Arabian Peninsula and territories corresponding to the present-day countries of Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria.
There were three individuals who played a most important role in promoting Druze spirituality:
- Hamza ibn Ali (985-1021);
- Muhammad Al- Darazi (died 1018);
- Al- Hakim Bi-Amr Allah (985–1021), who in 996 became the sixth caliph of the Fatimid dynasty, which had emerged in Tunisia in 909.
Since its genesis, the Druze faith has had a profound mystical orientation, which allows it to establish a close relationship with Sufism, the mystical and esoteric lineage of Islam. This movement aimed to create a new spiritual body, influenced by philosophical and intellectual tributaries that influenced Islamic civilization in the first millennium of our common era.
The followers of this new movement called themselves Muwahhidun or Ahl Al- Tawhid . They still do, although historically they were known as Druze, a name derived from Al- Darazi.
After the disappearance of Caliph Al- Hakim Bi-Amr Allah, which has never been fully clarified, the Druze were persecuted:
The Druze formed very cohesive and close-knit communities, closed to outsiders. Since 1043, conversions have not been permitted.
A community that has managed to coexist within the multifaceted ethnic and sectarian mosaic of the Middle East, but that has played a relevant role in the spiritual, cultural and even socio-political panorama of that region of the world.
Currently, there are an estimated 1.5 million Druze, mainly in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. The oldest and most densely populated Druze communities exist in Mount Lebanon and in southern Syria around Jabal al- Druze (literally the “Mountain of the Druze”).
Outside the Middle East, hundreds of thousands of Druze are widespread throughout the world, in communities large and small, from North and South America to Oceania.
The Druze faith is based on the unity of God, as well as the unity of the universe in all its aspects within the unity of the Divine Source.
The Druze, as a separate ethno-religious community, emerged in the 11th century. Druze spirituality has a high degree of secrecy, largely due to the various persecutions that have occurred over the centuries.
The Druze are an Arabic-speaking esoteric ethno-religious group who identify themselves as Al- Muwaḥḥidūn (“The People of Monotheism”).
THE DRUSIAN SPIRITUAL WORLDVISION
When the Druze faith began to be publicly proclaimed in the 11th century, it declared itself as the Faith of Unity, with the explicit objective of uniting Christians, Muslims and other followers of monotheism in the name of Divine Unity.
This echoes the prophetic words of the master Jesus: “But the time is coming – and it is now – when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, as they are the worshipers that the Father intends. God is spirit; therefore, those who worship him must worship him in spirit and truth” (John, 4, 23-24); “may they all be one, as You, Father, are in me and I in you; so that they may be in Us and the world may believe that You sent Me” (John, 17, 21).
The Druze faith encompasses elements of Islam, namely its lineages of Ismailism and Sufism, but also Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Greek philosophy, especially Neoplatonism and Pythagoreanism, and other philosophies and beliefs .
The center of Druze spirituality is based on the esoteric understanding of the human being’s relationship with the Divine, which emphasizes the role of rationality and the search for truthfulness.
The Druze faith has a Neoplatonic view of God’s interaction with the manifest universe through emanations, similar to various gnostic and esoteric currents.
The Druze also believe in five cosmic principles, represented by the five colored Druze stars: intelligence/reason (green), soul (red), word (yellow), precedence (blue) and immanence (white).
They believe that these cosmic principles have been revealed to humankind by messengers, who have transmitted teachings about the authentic paths towards God.
The Druze believe in messengers such as Adam, Noah ( Nūħ ), Abraham ( Ibrāhīm), Jacob (Yaˤqub ), Moses (Mūsā ), Jethro (Nabi Shuʿayb ), John the Baptist ( Yahya), Jesus (Isā) and Muhammad. They also believe in the wisdom of classical Greek philosophers such as Pythagoras, Socrates and Plato, and other wise beings such as the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton. Furthermore, they revere a group of wise men who founded the religion in the 11th century.
The Druze believe that, at the end of the cycle of births and rebirths, consisting of a plurality of reincarnations, the human soul unites with the Cosmic Divine Mind.
The Druze influenced the crusaders who encountered them in the Middle East, absorbing their Gnostic ideas, which were later brought to Europe, influencing movements such as Catharism.
Catharism, present mainly in southern France and northern Italy, was a Christian movement with Gnostic inspiration, which emphasized an understanding of the Divine based on gnosis.
It is also not possible to exclude the influence of the Druze on the Templars, who advocated a more mystical vision of Christianity. It is known that the Templars maintained close contacts with communities that had a mystical view of spirituality, such as Kabbalist Jews and Sufi Muslims.
Therefore, the Druze, as bearers of a Gnostic-inspired spirituality, ended up having a relevant influence on the spiritual journey of humankind, which deserves to be the subject of further investigation.
Daniel José Ribeiro de Faria