Druses the name of certain tribes of Syria (Asiatic Turkey), inhabiting a tract of land on the southern side of Mount Lebanon and the western side of Anti- Lebanon, between Beirut and Sur, and extending from the shores of the Mediterranean to Damascus. They exclusively inhabit 37 villages in the Lebanon and 69 in the Anti-Lebanon. The Maronites are mingled with them in about 210 villages. They are said to be about 100,000 in number. The name Druse is derived from that of Mohammed Ben Israel Darasi (see below), although the Druses do not acknowledge him as the founder of their religion, and many of their writers even call him by opprobrious names, e.g. Satan, the Impostor, etc.
I. History. — Their origin dates back to the tenth century, where they are found under the government of their founder, Hakim (996-1021). "After the second captivity of Israel, Esarhaddon (7th century BC) re-peopled the wasted strongholds of Samaria with certain fierce tribes, some of whom, called in the Scriptures Cuthites, and known in subsequent times to the Greeks as Carduchi, and familiar to us as Kurds, settled in Lebanon. From them the present Druses are supposed to have originally sprung. More than thousand years later a fresh colonization took place. The Mardi, a warlike tribe who dwelt to the north of the Caspian, originally of Persian extraction, were transplanted thither by Constantine IV, in AD 686, to the number of 12,000, to act as a bulwark against Mohammedan invasion. The Arabs also, in sweeping through the mountain fastnesses, left a permanent impression there. Thus Cuthites, Mardi, and Arabs, or rather Mohammedans of various races, have combined to form that strange being, the modern Druse. It has also been supposed by some that there runs in his veins not a little of the blood of the Crusaders, but this is doubtful. No immigrations, however, of any importance into the country of the Druses took place after the close of the 10th century; and this period seems naturally to conclude the first great section of Druse history. The nationality of these mountaineers having now been consolidated, their peculiar and mysterious religion began gradually to be developed" (Chambers' Encyclopedia, s.v.). Hakim Biamrillah succeeded as caliph of Egypt in 996, and distinguished his reign by cruel persecutions of the Christians; it is said that 30,000 churches and monasteries were destroyed by his command. Some years before his death (about AD 1026), "Mohammed Ben Israel Darasi, a teacher belonging to the Batinites who had come from Persia, entered his service, and became an especial favorite at the palace. In return for the favors received from the caliph, he publicly ascribed to his master divine honor and majesty; but when he attempted to teach this doctrine in the mosque, from a book he had written, he was violently assaulted, and escaped with difficulty from the hands of the enraged worshippers. By the advice of Hakim he fled to Syria, and began to propagate his doctrines among the races dwelling on Lebanon, near the sources of the Jordan. In less than ten years, nearly all the Arab tribes that had become located here professed the religion of the Druse. Living at a distance from the place of Mohammed's power, and their fathers never having joined in the forays of the Prophet, or reaped the pillage of his battles, they were less attached to his faith than its other adherents. It is supposed that Darasi perished in a battle with the orthodox Moslem from the plain, as they resolutely opposed him, and he had to defend himself constantly from their attacks. There was a turban-maker, called Hamsa, and surnamed Hadi, the Leader, from whom Darasi received the instructions that induced him to deify the caliph. It is not improbable, however, that Hakim himself was the real author of this impious assumption, and that the others became his agents of proselytism by the promise of a royal reward. The sect grew in influence until the cadi, when in the mosque, was summoned to embrace the new faith; but the attempt was fatal to the neophyte who made it, as he and his attendants were slain. The presumption of the caliph was equal to the credulity of his disciples. When the divine name was ascribed to him, he willingly received it, and openly proclaimed himself to be the creator and ruler of the beneficent Nile, from which the land received all its luxuriance, and the people all their prosperity" (London Review, January 1860, page 159). He was slain at last; but Hamsa, the apostle, survived, and wrote books which are still regarded as the oracles of the Druses.
From the tenth century onward the Druses maintained their separate religion and a quasi nationality. They lived under the orders of separate chieftains, or sheiks, without any supreme authority, and committed depredations on the neighboring Turkish countries. Frequent complaints were presented against them to the Porte for depredations committed, and Murad III finally an expedition against them in 1588, under the orders of Ibrahim Pacha. The Turks were successful, established one of their own emirs as king over the Druses, and exacted tribute from them. The emirs then united against the common enemy, and became dangerous to the Porte, particularly the emir Fakir Eddin, who, in the 17th century, became so strong that the Porte determined on taking the most active measures against him. Fakir Eddin fled to Italy, leaving his son Ali as regent in his place. The latter drove the Turks away, and restored peace; but Fakir Eddin having returned, after imbibing the love of splendor which distinguished the court of the Medici, laid such heavy taxes on the people that a revoluation broke out. The Porte sent another expedition against him in 1632. His son Ali fell in battle, a second son was made prisoner, and Fakir Eddin himself was obliged to flee to the mountains. He was betrayed by his own followers in October, 1633, and was strangled at Constantinople in 1635. His descendants held their position as emirs in subjection to the Porte. After the extinction of this family, that of the Schebabs, originally from Mecca, became emirs. The powerful Melhem (1740-1759) restored to the Druses some of the power they had lost after the downfall of Fakir Eddin. Emir Beschir, born in 1763, is one of the most noted of the recent emirs. In 1819 he took part in the insurrection of Abdallah, and was deposed in consequence, but was pardoned by the Porte in 1823, through the influence of Mehemet Ali. An insurrection of the Druses against the viceroy took place in 1834, but was subdued by Ibrahim Pacha in 1835, and the Druses of Lebanon were disarmed. Emir Beschir then sided with the Egyptians until 1840, when he was deposed. After Ibrahim Pacha had retired from Syria, the land of the Druses passed again under the direct dominion of the Turks. At the same time bloody conflicts broke out between the Druses and the Christian Maronites. To put an end to these troubles, the emirs of both parties were called to Constantinople in 1842, deposed, and Omar Pasha was appointed Turkish administrator in their place. He was sent to Lebanon to consult with the principal chiefs of the Druses and the Maronites, who were to form a permanent council of administration. But the two parties soon united against Omar Pasha, and open conflict speedily followed. The battle of Ehden, October 13, 1842, proved a success for the malcontents. An edict of December 7, 1842, granted to the Druses and Maronites the right of self-government, and the Mohammedan Kaimakam to reside at the south, the Christian at the north. Yet, as the population are not thus geographically divided, but, on the contrary, rather mixed up, the edict did not satisfy either party. New troubles breaking out, the Porte sent Halil Pacha and 1000 soldiers into the land. An assembly of the mountain chieftains having been called by Halil Pacha, an arrangement was made; but hardly had Halil Pacha left the country when troubles broke out among the Maronites themselves, arising from religious differences. A mob of peasants drove the patriarch from his residence. At the same time, the old hatred of the Druses against the Maronites was revived. The Porte at last sent 12,000 men to Lebanon, where some forty chiefs of the Druses and Maronites were taken prisoners. One of the principal Maronites, Zable, was suddenly disarmed October 16, 1845, and the others followed without any successful resistance being made. In the spring of 1846 the Porte granted the country a new Constitution, whereby a permanent council was added to each of the two Kaimakams. These councils are to be composed of members of the different sects inhabiting Lebanon (2 Maronites, 2 Druses, 2 United Greeks, 2 Non-united Greeks, 2 Turks, and 1 Mutuali). The strife between the Druses and the Maronites continued, however, and another appeal was made to the European powers in 1847, yet without any result, on account of the contending claims of the Roman Catholic clergy as possessors of many conventual domains, of the other religious parties, of the rich landowners, and of the Turkish officials. A terrible outbreak again occurred in May, 1860. Throughout the Lebanon the Druses attacked the Maronites, plundered and burned their villages, and massacred a large number of persons without distinction of age or sex. The Turkish authorities made no efforts to stop these outrages, and in some instances Turkish troops even took part in the massacres and pillages. The war continued throughout the month of June; the Maronites suffered terribly, and in Damascus some 6000 Christians were reported to have perished. Upon the news of this massacre France sent a corps of 12,000 men to Syria while England increased its fleet on the coast, in order to assist, if necessary, the French in re-establishing order. The commander of the French troops prevailed upon Fuad Pasha, who had been sent by the Turkish government to Syria as extraordinary commissioner, to order the execution of 168 of the chief accomplices of the massacre. Soon after even Achmet Pasha, the governor of Damascus, and a number of prominent Turkish officers, were executed. Several chiefs of the Druses were also sentenced to death, but this sentence was for most of them commuted into lifelong imprisonment. On the 5th of October an international commission of plenipotentiaries of European powers met at Beirut to investigate the causes of the late disturbances, and to secure the punishment of the guilty and indemnification of the sufferers. In the way of punishment and indemnification little was obtained; but the representatives of the great powers prevailed upon the Turkish government to agree, on June 9, 1861, to a special treaty concerning the administration of the Lebanon. According to this agreement, the administration of the whole mountain was placed for a term of three years under one Christian governor, who was to reside at Deir el Kamar, and to be directly dependent upon the Turkish government. The government appointed for this position Daud-Effendi, a Roman Catholic Armenian, who, after the expiration of his first term of office, was re-appointed for five years. No disturbance took place under his administration, as far as the Druses were concerned.
II. Usages, Religion, etc. — The Druses are of Caucasian extraction. They are violent, cunning, treacherous, covetous, warlike, love independence, and have successfully defended their liberty. If they have the faults of Eastern nations, they also possess their highest virtues: they are hospitable, obliging to a certain extent, careful, clean, and industrious, but with hardly any intellectual culture. Reading and writing are almost unknown among them; they look upon revenge for bloodshed as a sacred duty. They raise grain, wine, tobacco, and silk. Their language is a dialect of the Arabic; their religion, a mixture of idolatry, Judaism, Mohammedanism, and Christianity. They make no secret of their doctrines, and yet they are but little known. They look upon the caliph Hakim, of Egypt, as holy; teach metepsychosis and the second advent of the prophet (incarnation of God); they permit polygamy, but it is only practiced by the richer classes. There is no regular order of priesthood, the office being filled by consecrated or learned persons called Akkals, comprising, especially the emirs and sheiks, who form a secret organization divided into several degrees, keep the sacred books, and hold secret religious assemblies. The great mass of the people are almost ignorant of any principles of religion. They recognize neither ceremonies, festivals, nor fasts.
The following summary of their doctrines is given in the London Review, October 1860, page 161: "We are told that there is one God, unknown and unknowable; the Creator, Preserver, and Judge of the universe. We cannot speak of him by comparison or by negation. 'He is,' is all we can say of him; and if we go further than this, we bring in the human element, and therefore fail to set forth the truth. There can be no representation of God beside the form of man, who reflects the image of God, as the mirror reflects the object before which it is placed; and man is chosen to be the veil of God, as being the noblest work of his creatures. There have been nine avatars of the one God, who has appeared in the form of men, but without man's impurity or corruption. They were not properly incarnations. God did not become flesh, but assumed the veil of flesh, as the man who puts on a robe is still distinct from the robe. The Druses admit the doctrine of free will in opposition to Islam, and think that predestination is irreconcilable with eternal justice. There are five invisible intelligences of a superior order, all of whom have been impersonated in as many Druse teachers, of whom Habmsa was the chief. These intelligences are regarded as mediators in behalf of those who in earnest seek wisdom. The souls of men migrate into other human bodies, and rise to higher grades of intelligence by an attention to outer duties and submission to the divine will. In the religions that appeared in the ages preceding Hakim there was a mixture of truth; but these were only as starlight revelations, all of which were to be overpowered by the radiance of the full-orbed sun, which rose in its perfect majesty when the system of the Druses was proclaimed to the world. They have seven great precepts:
1. To speak the truth. 2. To render to each other mutual assistance. 3. To renounce all error. 4. To separate entirely from the wicked and the ignorant. 5. To assert on all occasions the everlasting unity of God. 6. To be submissive under trial. 7. To rest contented in whatever situation they may be placed, whether of joy or sorrow.
The first is the principal precept. But these obligations are not to be regarded as in force when intercourse is held with the unbeliever. Of their outward forms and ceremonies we have little or no information of a character upon which we can rely. In their temples there are no ornaments, and their sacred edifices are found among the shadows of high trees, or on the summit of the mountain. They have no prescribed rites, and do not offer prayer. When outwardly conforming to the practices of other sects, they refrain from the prayer of the heart. There are instances in which a spirit more in accordance with man's weakness is manifest; but even then there is inconsistency between the profession and the practice. An akkal, on visiting Damascus, as we learn from colonel Churchill, having alighted at the house of a sheik of Islam, the two friends entered into conversation, when the sheik asked the Druse if there were any true Mussulmans in his country. He replied that there were, and that they read the Koran. He was requested to show how they prayed. 'Who is without prayer?' was the reply. But the sheik then wished to know in what manner prayer ought to be presented to God. The okkal proceeded to say: 'When I enter the house of God, I endeavor to do so with pure thoughts and a clean heart, and call out, "There is no God but God, and Mohammed is the prophet of God." I listen to the words of the book with an earnest and teachable spirit. I look down in contrition and penitence, and, bowing down my head, kiss the earth, praying that I may be enabled to walk in humility and the fear of God, and to resign myself in all things to his will and decrees; to think that heaven is on my right hand and hell on my left; and to bear in mind that, wherever I go, I am always in the presence of God, and that he is ever before me. That is enough.' His host of the city, turning to those present, said, 'All your prayers, compared to that, are useless.' The akkals are the more devoted professors of the Druse religion, and they may be of either sex. They are not priests, and neither teach nor exercise discipline. They must remain a year on trial before they can be admitted to the secrets of the fraternity; after that they may wear a white turban as an emblem of the purity they are to cultivate. They dress in plain garments, wearing no ornament, and are required to be simple in their manners, and careful in their mode of speech. At their funerals they receive marks of great respect; and their tombs are afterwards visited by the superstitious, who worship the departed spirit, and deposit candles or ornaments in the vault of the deceased. Hymns are sung in the Druse temples, and the people listen to the reading of the sacred books; they eat figs and raisins together at the expense of the community; and all matters of public interest are brought before a select council. They thus combine in one service the religious, social, and political elements. They have a golden calf covered with secret characters, which is kept in a sacred chest, but whether it symbolizes some object of veneration, or, as some say, is intended to remind them of the dangers attendant on the errors of Darasi, whom they call in derision 'the Calf,' is not ascertained with certainty. The Druses are extremely sensitive when inquiries are made of them respecting their religious practices, and usually parry the question by some evasive reply. A Druse, met with by Dr. Wilson at Hasbeiya, told him that there is little difference between their creed and observances and those of the orthodox Mussulmans, while others tell us that they respect Christ and abhor Mohammed. No one has been more favorably situated than colonel Churchill for learning their real sentiments and customs, but even he was not permitted to penetrate into the mysteries of their faith. 'Two objects,' he says, 'engrossed my attention the religion of the Druses, and the past history of the races which now occupy the mountain range of the Lebanon. In vain I tried to make the terms of extreme friendship and intimacy which existed between myself and the Druses available for the purpose of informing myself on the first of these points. Sheiks, akkals, and peasants alike baffled my inquiries, either by jocose evasions or by direct negation."
At a meeting of the Royal Asiatic Society, London, March 20, 1865, the Reverend A. Tien read a paper entitled "Druse Religion Unveiled," which throws light upon the present doctrines and usages of the Druses.
"Outwardly the Druses conform to the observances of Mohammedanism, though they entertain really the utmost aversion to that religion. They believe they are the descendants of Jacob, and in many respects they adhere to Jewish rites. Their Sabbath commences after sunset on Friday, when they assemble in places of worship that are guarded from intrusion. They chant an invocation to the deity, a translation of which was read by Mr. Tien, resembling a lamentation of the Israelites in captivity, imploring for the restoration of power in Jerusalem, to which they add a prayer for the destruction of Mecca. Their sacred books are contained in a silver casket carefully preserved, which is considered like the ark. They are inveterate to the Mohammedans and to Christians, though professing the religion of the former and attending the mosques. The doctrine of metepsychosis is strongly believed in, with some curious modifications. The deity whom they worship, under the title of El Hakim, is supposed to have appeared on the earth at two different periods, with different names and attributes, and his principal agent, also, is believed to have assumed different forms. At the creation of the world, it is assumed that a certain number of souls was created which has not since been added to nor diminished; every soul, whether in human or in animal form, having been on death transferred to some other body, either more elevated or more debased, according to the conduct of the individual or animal during life. In one of the seven books there is a catechism, from which Mr. Tien read several questions and answers, containing an exposition of the principal articles of faith of the Druses. The books are written in Arabic of very ancient character. The Druses are divided into three classes or castes, according to religious distinctions. To enable one Druse to recognize another, a system of passwords is adopted as by Freemasons, without an interchange of which no communication is made that may give an idea of their religious tenets."
III. Literature. Wolff (Philip), Die Drusen und ihre Vorlaifer; Gibbon, Decline and Fall (Boston, 1850, 12mo), 5:531 (and especially Milman's note); De Sacy, Expose de la Religion des Druses (Paris, 1838, 2 volumes); G.W. Chasseaud, The Druses of the Lebanon; their Manners, Customs, and History (London, 1855, 8vo); Churchill, Matthew Lebanon; a Ten Years Residence, from 1842-1852, with supplementary volume on The Druses and the Maronites under Turkish Rule (London 1855-1862, 4 volumes, 8vo); Foreign Quarterly Review, 29, page 205; Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, s.v.; Robinson, Biblical Researches (London 1840); Bibliotheca Sacra, 1843, page 205; Journal of Sacred Literature, 19:489;
New Englander, January, 1861, art. 2; Kelly, Syria and the Holy Land (compiled from Burckhardt and others, London, 8vo, n.d.), chapter 12; Thomson, Land and Book, 1:246, 249); Caernarvon, Recollections of the Druses of the Lebanon, and Notes on their Religion (London 1860); H. Guys, La Nation Druse (Paris, 1863); H. Guys, Theogonie des Druses ou abrege de leur systeme religieux, traduit de l'arabe, avec notes explicatives et observations critiques (Paris, 1863); G. de Alaux, Le iban et Daud Pasha, in the Revue des Deux Mondes, 1865, July 1, and 1866, May 1; Allgem. Real Encyklopadie, s.v.