Australian Druze Community

Practices

  • Ordinary members, Jahill (singular) and Juhaall (plural), do not normally have access to religious texts. They attend only the first part of their religious meetings. The remainder of the meetings are reserved for the Sheiks. There is no actual prohibition of the reading of religious books. It is just that if a person becomes educated in the truth of God and of life and yet do not follow the duties arising from these truths, then their judgment would be worse that if they had remained uneducated.
  • Druze leaders are a group of ascetics called uqqal (sages)
  • Religious meetings are held on Thursdays.
  • The Druze do not:

    • Practice recitation of the creed
    • Reciting prayers five times a day
    • Wed to multiple wives
    • Fasting during the month of Ramadan and making a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Organisation of the Druze Community

The hikma is only known to an elite group of religiously trained men, the uqqal. Most Druze know only parts of their religion's theology, and they are referred to as juhhal, 'ignorants'. One out of 50 members of the uqqal reaches as high as perfection, and are called 'ajawid, 'noble', and work as the real leaders of the Druze religion. The uqqal take care of the religion for the juhhal, and they alone attend the religious meetings taking place at the night between Thursday and Friday, in ordinary buildings in the outskirts of Druze villages. For the Druze, the centre of religious activities is located to the mountainous region called Jabalu d-Duruz in Syria. The juhhal perform few of the typical Muslim rituals:

  • Prayer is not performed in mosques;
  • Fast is not performed during the Muslim month of Ramadan; and
  • There are no obligations of performing the hajj, Muslim pilgrimage.



Druze Women

Druze women can attain positions of religious significance, and some have indeed achieved high rank. Regarding personal status, their rights are almost identical to those of men; actually, Druze women are preferred over men in joining the uqqal, because they are considered to be better "spiritually prepared". Consequently, there are more women than men among the uqqal. Female uqqal take part in the religious assemblies in the hilwah (prayer house), but sit separately from the men.

Uqqal men and women usually intermarry. If a juhal wishes to marry a member of the uqqal, the former is expected to declare in advance his/her intention to join in the near future. Druze men, both uqqal and juhal, may not have more than one wife, nor may they remarry their divorced wife, or even be under the same roof with her. Also, a male uqqal may not be alone with a woman who is not a close relative (spouse, daughter, sister, mother) nor even respond to her greeting unless a third person is present. Both men and women are encouraged to guard themselves against immodest or impulsive behavior.



Life Style

The Druze follow a life style of isolation where no conversion is allowed, neither out of, or into, the religion. When Druze live among people of other religions, they try to blend in, in order to protect their religion and their own safety. They can pray as Muslims, or as Christians, depending on where they are. This system is apparently changing in modern times, where more security has allowed Druze to be more open about their religious belonging.

Druze abstain from wine and tobacco. There are clear prohibitions against any practice that could involve profanity of the religion. Druze have a strong community feeling, where they identify themselves as related even across borders of countries. There are sources suggesting that the Druze were a people of their own even before conversion to the faith al-Hakim. Unsubstantiated theories point in the direction of the Druze being descendants of Persian colonists, while another theory says they are descendants of Christians from the time of the crusades. The latter is not very likely, due to the fact that the first crusade came about 80 years after al-Hakim's disappearance.

Despite their practice of blending with dominant groups in order to avoid persecution, the Druze have had a history of brave resistance to occupying powers, and they have at times enjoyed more freedom than most other groups living in the Levant.