The Druze are a religious group residing mainly in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. It began as an offshoot of Islam but is unique in its incorporation of Gnosticism, Christianity, Neoplatonism and other philosophies, and is most similar to the Ismaili Shi'a sect of Islam.
Druze consider themselves "an Islamic Unist, reformatory sect". They refer to themselves Ahl al-Tawhid "People of Unitarianism or Monotheism" or al-Muwaḥḥidūn "Unitarians, Monotheist." The religion began in Egypt in the 10th century A.D.
They speak Arabic and socially exhibit similar characteristics to other Middle Eastern cultures. There are thought to be as many as 1 million Druze worldwide, most residing in the Middle East. The diaspora Druze live in Australia, Canada, Europe, Latin America, the United States and West Africa.
The Druze are NOT considered an ethnic group, but mainly a religious community. One of their social values to to conceal or hide their teachings and beliefs, and keep them secret from outsiders. They do not marry outside of their faith, do not allow conversions, thus they do NOT concern themselves with evangelizing others to their view. They are forbidden to eat pork, smoke, or drink alcohol.
The secrecy of their faith originates from their belief in reincarnation and the beginning of the Druze faith. They believe that everyone alive at the time of the beginning of the Druze faith had that one generational opportunity to hear and accept the truth. Since all persons alive now are reincarnated from people living then, they are not allowed another opportunity to hear and follow.
Druze are not like Muslims in that they claim and teach the same thing in all areas. Some Druze live closer to Islamic principles, but others will reject association with Islam. There are some fairly big differences between the Druze and Islam, theologically and practically as already noted.
Beliefs of the Druze
There is no real main traditional building for worship, no religious traditions, ceremonies, obligations. They live out the pillars of their faith at all times, and consequently have no need for continual forgiveness. The pillars of faith they adhere to are:
Speaking the truth (vs. prayer)
Supporting your brethren (vs. charity)
Abandoning the old creeds (vs. fasting)
Purification from heresy (vs. pilgrimage)
Accepting the unity of God
Submitting to the will of God (instead of holy war)
The Druze are divided into two groups: the uqqal are the "knowers", the ones who are fully initiated into Druze faith and can access the sacred texts. They are bound by more precepts than the juhal. They also dress a little differently: men wear a white turban, a mustache and a beard; the women wear a white scarf, a naqab. The second group is the juhal, or "ignorant ones," accept the faith based on the tradition handed down and cannot access the sacred texts.
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, the Druze consider their faith to be a new interpretation of the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For them, the traditional story of the Creation is a parable, which describes Adam not as the first human being, but as the first person to believe in one god.
Since then, the idea of monotheism has been disseminated by "emissaries" or prophets, guided by "mentors" who embody the spirit of monotheism. The mentors and prophets come from all three religions, and include Jethro and Moses, John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth, and Salman the Persian and Mohammed - all reincarnations of the same monotheistic idea.
Sacred Texts of the Druze
Here is one of the few online sources to access part of the sacred texts of the mysterious Druze.
Jewish Virtual Library [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Society_&_Culture/druze.html], accessed 6/15/10.
Religions of the World [http://www.religioustolerance.org/druse.htm], accessed 6/15/10.
Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Druze], accessed 6/15/10.