Druze

Jethro shrine and temple of Druze in Hittin, northern Israel
Jethro shrine and temple of Druze in Hittin, northern Israel. Source: מרכז הדרכה דרוזי [CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

The faithful of the Druze religion refer to themselves as ‘muwahhidun’, meaning monotheistic and highlight the significance of monotheism in their belief system. The Druze religion grew as a separation from Shia Islam about a thousand years ago and incorporates elements of Sufism, Greek philosophy, Christianity, Judaism and Gnosticism.

As a result of their incorporation of other religious elements, they were disowned by many Muslims and over the centuries have disguised their faith to avoid persecution. Their custom of ‘Taqiyya’ allows them to conceal their beliefs when necessary and even to deny their faith in order to avoid persecution. Today, the Druze are predominantly found in Syria, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon, where they have been an influential political force over some decades and have secured constitutional protections.

They are often described as an esoteric and secretive religion, for good reason. They do not allow conversion into their faith, nor do they allow inter-marriage with non Druze. Over the centuries, their beliefs have been shielded in deep secrecy and even most Druze do not have full knowledge of their religion’s theology. Their faithful are in two distinct groups: the enlightened (uqqal), who are an elite group of religiously trained believers; and the unenlightened (juhhal), who are provided with guidance from the ‘uqqal’.

Estimates of Druze across the world vary greatly from 700,000 to one million.  In Australia, the Druze community has grown in the past few decades and they are sharing their religious practices and beliefs with the broader community, such as:

  • Reincarnation: They believe that each soul is reborn into another life and through successive reincarnations, that soul finally unites with the “Cosmic Mind” which is considered as “God’s will”
  • Heaven and hell: Unlike other Middle Eastern religions, they believe that heaven and hell are spiritual in nature, with heaven being the ultimate happiness encountered by the soul when it unites with its creator; hell being the bitterness that comes with the endless deprivation of the soul from the presence of the Mighty
  • Major Prophets: They recognise the Major Prophets Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad; prophets are not worshipped, although their names may be called out for help in times of trouble
  • Sacred Texts: Although they consider the Qur’an as a sacred text, their faith is based on several religious texts known collectively as “Kitab Al Hikma”.
  • Prayers: They do not recite prayers five times a day, nor recite the creed
  • Fasting and pilgrimage: They do not fast during the month of Ramadan and do not make the pilgrimage to Mecca

Religious Observances

Druze woman preparing a traditional dish.  Photo taken by Itamar Grinberg for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism
Druze woman preparing a traditional dish. Photo taken by Itamar Grinberg for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. Source: Israel_photo_gallery [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Key celebrations for the Druze are primarily related to family events, such as births (especially of sons), engagements and weddings.

Funerals are also a major event in Druze communities, with arrangements made immediately after death, and ceremonies held as soon as possible. The deceased is washed and dressed in the finest clothes and wailing is a part of the funeral customs.

Traditionally, the Druze only celebrate one religious festival which is “Eid al-Adha”, the Festival of Sacrifice.

History in Australia

There are thousands of Druze living in Australia and the Druze community in South Australia has been well established since the 1950s. In Victoria, the Druze are now an established community with an active youth group. They are developing a community centre in Keysborough which you locate can in our Directory.

Further Reading & Materials