Friday, July 22, 2011

Religion Friday: Druze

Druze is a small faith of just over a million followers primarily in Syria and Lebanon. It holds a mix of beliefs from various monotheistic faiths. I can see how in the Middle East, it’s easy to be surrounded by the many monotheistic faiths and earn to incorporate them all into one. The full name of the faith is Unitarian Druze. Druze started as a movement out of Ismailism in the 11th century. Ismailism was a sect of Shia Islam that focused on the mystical path. Greek philosophy and the Gnostics were also influential.

They believe many of the teachings in holy books are symbols, some only intended for intellectuals. There are three levels of understanding religious teachings: the Zahir which is accessible to anyone who hears it, the Batin which is accessible to those questioning and searching, and the Anagoge which is inaccessible to most. Only a few enlightened people who fully understand the nature of the universe can access the Anagoge and fully participate in all ceremonies.

The Druze tend to live in isolated communities. They discourage converts or marrying outside of the faith. Yet they also practice the custom of taqiya, concealing or disguising beliefs if in danger. During times of persecution, some would try to blend in with the majority Muslim community.

The Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha is also celebrated in the Druze faith. The festival commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son before God provided a ram instead. Families have a meat sacrifice divided into three parts. The family keeps one third, friends or neighbors are given a third, and the poor and needy receive the last third.

The Druze refer to themselves simply as monotheists. They acknowledge the one God but seek for deeper ways to understand Him through many teachings. So while the faith sounds similar to Unitarianism, the rigidness of their communities and hierarchy of who can receive the deepest insights prevents many people from knowing much about the faith.

[The Druze star has five colors: green for the universal mind, red for the universal soul, yellow for the Word, blue for cause/precedent, and white for effect/actuality.]

Next Friday: Mormonism

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