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The Origin of the Druze



To this day, the ethnic origin of the Druze has not been elucidated. It seems that scientists put forward every possible hypothesis in order to question the Arabic roots of the Druze or to invoke an aura of mystery around this community. Unquestionable facts in the history of the Druze appear in the eleventh century with the announcement of their doctrine in Cairo. When asked about where they come from, the Druze themselves usually claim that from Lebanon. The more educated mention their older brothers who lived in the vicinity of Aleppo. I have also heard that the Druze came to Syria and then to Lebanon from Iraq and Persia.

The question of origin does not seem to be of much importance for the average Druze. None of my interviewees ever mentioned the topic themselves. It could be an argument towards their non-Arabic roots for someone who knows how important the origin is for an Arab. However, the issue of the Druze ethnicity is not ignored by Druze authors of books about this community. In an unusually determined way, they accentuate their undeniable Arabic roots pointing to the common language, bravery and religion. Although it is undeniable that these features are common to the two groups, they point to similarities in terms of nationality rather than common ethnic origin. The strong pro Arab stand of Druze authors is dictated by the political status quo, which, especially in Syria, stimulates every aspect of social life. The message of Hamza is worth noting here; it said, "Follow nations stronger than yours, but keep me in your hearts," which explains the behaviour of the Druze in many situations – what I mean in particular is when they call themselves Muslims. The message can also be applied to justify their desire to be perceived as Arabs.


Nonetheless, I would like to enumerate all the hypotheses which I was able to find out about the Druze in literature research.

1 The Druze come from the Persians who lived in the mountains of Kurdistan.

2 The Druze ancestors were the Hittites who spoke an Indo-European language and who occupied Syria in the fifteenth to the twelfth century BC.

3 The Galatians from Asia Minor who sought refuge in the mountains near Aleppo and in the mountains of Lebanon could be the ancestors of the Druze.

4 There is also a hypothesis that the Druze are derived from a man named Dreux, a French Count fighting alongside the crusaders in Syria. His troops fighting the Saracens roamed the lands of Syria having relationships with indigenous women. After the fighting ended, they settled in the mountains near Mount Hermon, and there the affinity of Christian blood with the blood of Muslim women gave a good basis for the new faith of the Druze. Its first followers also fled to the mountains to escape the persecution of Muhammad’s followers.

5 The Druze are a mix of Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish, Persian, Circassian and French blood.

6 The Druze originate from the Arab tribes which came to Syria and Lebanon from the Arabian Peninsula, such as Rabia Banu, Banu Tim, the Banu Hilal, Tanuch, al-Manazira, Tajj, Quraysh, Kinda, Banu Tamim.

7 Rebellious tribes, the remnants of the long broken Qarmatians lived in Iraq in the tenth century and their main activity was pillage and robbery. As they were effectively fought back by the Abbasids, they moved to the mountainous regions of Aleppo and Lebanon.

8 There is also a hypothesis that the Druze come from English kings involved in the Crusades.

9 Salih Zahr ad-Din refers to some honourable Druze as well as some Arab historians who claim that the Druze derive from Arab tribes participating in the Islamic conquests.

10 Often authors try to prove that the Druze have Arab roots by pointing to their impeccable pronunciation and their command of the Arabic language.

11 In 1976, the Israeli Ministry of Education issued detailed history books for the Druze living in Israel, in which fictional facts were mentioned connecting the Israelis to the Druze. The aim was to elevate the Druze from the Arab community.


The first missionaries of the Druze doctrine.


In 1017, al-Hakim secretly sent ad-Darazi to Syria. He gave him money for his mission and told him about people who lived in the mountains and who were willing to take in the news. Ad-Darazi arrived in Wadi al-Taym where he proclaimed the divinity of al-Hakim. He handed out money, explained the dogma and permitted Muslims to consume wine. The Lebanese mountains, as well as the area around Aleppo and Jabal al-Arab gave refuge from orthodox Islam to secret organizations which developed during the rule of the Umayyad and later the Abbasid. There, the Druze message spread very quickly among the Ismailis. The first missionary coming from Syria was Hasan ibn Chajdar. Under the influence of his sermons, another great Lebanese missionary, Sikkin, later travels to Egypt in the year 1027 to initiate into the religious mysteries. Upon his return, he became the biggest propagator of the new faith in Wadi al-Taym. From there, The Druze doctrine spread to northern Syria, Arabia and further to India. In his fervent mission, however, Sikkin deviated the doctrine, so that al-Muqtana, who had nominated him, was forced to dismiss him. The successors of Sikkin were unfortunately not recorded in the historiography available to me, but the speed with which The Druze community was growing leads me to believe that they were equally zealous preachers of the divinity of al-Hakim.


The Druze on the map of the modern world.


The Druze history stretches over almost 1000 years. Since Hamza and Darazi announced the divinity of al-Hakim in 1016, the Druze doctrine reached wider circles of followers. Missionaries set off from Egypt in the direction of Syria, Lebanon, and the mountainous areas on the border between Syria and Turkey. These areas were already occupied by other Muslim and Christian minorities, for whom the mountains were a perfect place to keep their sovereignty. The obvious addressees of the Druze missions were the Ismailis, as the elder brothers in the Shiite doctrine, but also Qarmatians and other rebel groups that always provide a fertile soil for new ideas promising increased political or economic influence. In 1032, historians recorded the first major social unrest stimulated by the Druze leader al-Muqtana. The emir of Antioch with the emir of Aleppo were forced to quell the uprising of the peasants who had gathered near Aleppo to fight for their land rights. Under the guidance of Hamdan, new Druze converts plundered the locals in Jabal al-Ala destroying mosques and introducing the new social rule. In the Lebanese mountains, the Druze grew from strength to strength under the leadership of the Buhtur family, which, at the end of the 12th century, was strong enough to confront the armies of the Crusaders. From Lebanon, the Buhturs moved towards Jabal al-Arab, where a small Druze community had existed since the times of the early missionaries. The golden age of the Lebanese Druze and the Druze from Hawran came at the time of Fahr ad-Din in the 17th century. The expansion was carried out by peaceful means via keeping good relationships with the Christians living in the area. At the beginning of the 18th century, after the battle of Ain ​​Dara, between the Qaysi and the Yemeni tribes, hundreds of people from the latter group found refuge in Jabal al-Arab, warmly accepted by the Hamdan family. The successful development of the Druze community which had settled in this region rapidly stirred another Druze migration from northern Syria. The famous families of al-Halabi and al-Atrash arrived. The last Druze from Aleppo, ousted by the Alawites, set off in 1811 under the leadership of the Emir of Bahira in the direction of Lebanon and as-Suwayda. The Druze also settled in Palestine and the area of today’s Israel. 


The Druze on the map of Syria.


The most accessible and the clearest way to illustrate the distribution of the current Druze community in Syria, was the creation of appropriate maps. At this stage, I relied on the plans of the following orientalists: Kais M. Firro, Andrea G., Masaki Uno, Mari Dupont, Geoffrey Aronson, Xavier de Planhol, Brigit Schaebler, as well as on the maps drawn up by the Ministry of Tourism in Syria. On the basis of these plans and my own field research, I created maps including distinctive features such as the name of the places inhabited by the Druze, the areas of influence of individual families, borders between countries and the height of areas above sea level.