The Druse are a fiercely independent group concentrated in Lebanon around the base of Mount Hermon, and in the mountains behind Beirut and Sidon. A few villages are also located on the Golan Heights, in Syria and just inside the Northern border of Israel.
Very little information is known about the Druse religion. It started in the 9th Century CE as a break-away group from Islam. Darazi (a preacher) and Hamza ibn Ali ibn Ahmad (a Persian mystic) were instrumental in popularizing the religion. Darazi announced that God had manifested himself in human form as al-Hakim Bi-amr Allah, (985 or 996-1021 CE), a Muslim caliph from Cairo Egypt. The Druze now believe that Darazi distorted the message; he was, in essence, excommunicated and later executed. His writings are now considered blasphemous.
The Druse refer to themselves as Mowahhidoon (plural) or Mowahhid (singular) which means " monotheistic ". Unfortunately, the rest of the world tends to refer to them as "Druze" or "Druse", a name derived from their fallen preacher Darazi.
After the death of their leader Baha al-Din in 1031 AD, their religion became exclusive:
- they do not accept converts
- they do not marry outside their faith
- they do not leave the faith
They currently total about 200 to 300 thousand members. The Druze keep their religion secret, and often pose as members of the locally dominant religion.
- 1017: The religion is established in Cairo. The religious orientation gets its name from one of the earliest followers of Caliph al-Hakim, Muhammadu d-Darazi. It is believed that it spread to many regions in the Middle East and North Africa, but that it is only the Druze that kept it up.
- 1516: The Druze comes under Turkish pressure as the Levant is conquered by the Ottomans. The Druze offers strong opposition, and keep a higher level of independence than their neighbours.
- 1918: Druze participates in the army of Faisal, thereby breaking a principle of non-participation outside their own community.
- 1921: The Druze are granted autonomy in the region of Jabalu d-Duruz, from the League of Nations (March 4).
- 1925: The Druze revolt, where Druze leaders protests against the liberalization of the society as promoted by French governor of Jabalu d-Duruz. The revolt ends with the arrest of the Druze leaders, and their being exiled to Palmyra.