eBooksRead.com books search new books
Laurence Oliphant.

The land of Gilead, with excursions in the Lebanon; online

. (page 25 of 35)
Online LibraryLaurence OliphantThe land of Gilead, with excursions in the Lebanon; → online text (page 25 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook
contained in the following chapter in regard to the
particular character of Druse theology.







In the preface to the Baron Silvestre de Sacy's
book on the Druse Religion, which was pubHshed
in 1839, he tells us that it was written forty years
prior to that date, but that he deferred publishing it
in the hope of receiving from the East fresh Druse
MSS. which might throw further light upon their doc-
trines. This hope not having been realised, he finally
decided to publish the only elaborate account which
exists of their religion, and which is, consequently,
more than eighty years old. He derived his infor-
mation principally from the four volumes of Hamza's
treatise on the Unity of God in the National Library
in Paris ; besides which, he refers to some MSS.
which are in the Vatican, and in the Bodleian Li-
brary at Oxford.

During the wars waged by Ibrahim Pasha and


the Maronites against the Druses in the years 1837-
1842, and more especially during the massacres of
i860, some more of their sacred books have come
to light, which have been carefully studied and ana-
lysed by Dr Wortabet, whose thorough knowledge
of Arabic admirably fitted him for the task, and a
rdsum^ of their contents was published by him in a
work now out of print.^ It is supposed that with this
addition to the exhaustive and elaborate treatise of
De Sacy, which fills two volumes, we are in posses-
sion of the whole body of that Druse theology which
has been so carefully guarded for so many years
from profane investigation. Mr Chirol, however,
from a study of the influences under which their
religion was evolved, and from hints which he suc-
ceeded in obtaining from conversation with initiated
Druses, is of opinion that their theology contains
arcana which are only dimly shadowed forth in the
outward expression of them contained in the sacred
books ; and that the latter possess an internal mean-
ing, similar to that with which Swedenborg has in-
vested the Bible, known only to the Uwhahid, who
themselves belong to a grade of initiated superior to
the Ukkul. And this is the more probable, because
one of the fundamental dogmas of the founders of
the heretical sects was the allegorisation of the
Koran, which is called Taweel, or the interpretation,
in contradistinction to Tanzeel, or descent, which is

^ Researches into the Religions of Syria.


used for the literal meaning of the words of the
Koran. Religion, according to this teaching, did
not consist in external observances (viz., '* Zakir," or
" the outward "), but in the internal feeling (" il Batin,"
or " the inward ") ; hence the numerous sects which
pretended to the knowledge of the inner meaning of
the Koran were called " Batineel." The Metawalies
of the present day take their name from their belief
in the " Taweel." It is said that this inner meaning
pertains to the Bible, and to all sacred books ; and
therefore, as no doubt their own sacred books are-
included, no one who is not a Uwhahid, even though
he be in possession of the whole body of Druse
theology, can know its hidden mysteries.

The history of the origin of the Druse religion
seems to be pretty well ascertained. When Ebn
Saba, whom Makrizi and other writers suppose to
have been of the Jewish race, and who lived in the
first century of the Hegira, promulgated the doctrine
that Mohammed had left the Imaumat to his son-in-
law Ali, the husband of Fatima, he found in Persia
a population whose previous theological tendencies
were essentially of an esoteric character. Accord-
ingly, out of the great Shiite sect which then arose,
and which has since divided Islam with the Sunnis,
numerous mystical sects sprang into existence, all
turning more or less upon the question of Imaumat
succession. For it was held, very much upon the
principle which characterises the Christian dogma of


apostolic succession, that the divine attributes at-
taching to the Imaumat could only descend through
a direct succession of Imaums. This doctrine natu-
rally suggested, later on, interminable and compli-
cated questions of pedigree, upon which the succes-
sion depended, of which the most prominent were :
the occult infusion of divinity into Imaums ; their
disappearance from objective vision ; the existence
of latent or silent Imaums ; the transmigration of
souls ; the allegorical interpretation of the Koran
and other sacred books ; and the reappearance upon
earth of the Imaum, in whom the Deity would finally
descend, without, however, being thereby incarnated ;
for these sects held the Sabian doctrine, as explained
by Shehrestani, " that there is a descent of the divine
essence, or a descent of the Deity, and a partial
descent, or a descent of a portion of His essence,
according to the degree of preparedness of the per-
son." The second and third centuries after the
Hegira were consequently prolific with Batineel sects,
of which the most prominent were the Motazales,
the Carmathians, and the Djamis, which were all
more or less pervaded with these mystical dogmas,
of which the Ismailians, the Ansariyeh, and the
Druses are the best known modern representatives.
The actual founder of the Druse sect, who is now
adored by them as the last and most perfect of the
ten manifestations of the Deity in human form, was
one of the Fatimite Khalifs of Egypt, so called on ac-

HAKIM. 383

count of their pretended descent from Fatima, the wife
of AH and daughter of Mohammed. The Fatimite
Khahfs were IsmaiHans, or followers of Ismail, the son
of Jaafer the Just, the sixth Imaum, who died a.d. 765,
leaving Moussa, his second son, as his heir and suc-
cessor, Ismail, the eldest son, having predeceased
him ; but many of the sheikhs refused to recognise
Moussa, declaring that the Imaumat could only pass
to the eldest son. Moussa was finally assassinated
in A.D. 799 by the Khalif Haroun al Raschid. The
Druses, the Ismailians (or Assassins during the time
of the Crusades), and the Ansariyeh, are all follow-
ers of Ismail ; but it was not till two hundred years
after his death that the Druses became a distinct
sect. At that time, or at the close of the tenth cen-
tury, there reigned in Egypt a certain Khalif called
Hakim the Strong, who declared himself to be a man-
ifestation of the invisible Imaum, and to be as God
upon the earth ; basing his pretensions on the fact
that he was a descendant of Abdullah Ibn Maimun,
who had successfully assumed the part of the de-
ceased Ismail, on the theory that the Imaumat was
never extinguished, but at times latent in the persons
of various providential representatives. His preten-
sions were supported by a Persian emigrant then in
Cairo, named Mohammed Ben Ismail el Durzi ; in-
deed they were inspired by him, and were afterwards
adopted by a man of remarkable ability, a certain
Hamza-ibn-Ali, surnamed Al-Hadi, or the director,


who was the chief author of their sacred books.
Hamza, in fact, claimed all the credit of the discovery
of the divine character of Hakim, and soon acquired
a complete ascendancy over the mind of that prince,
who was in reality a monster of depravity, and his
pretensions were naturally considered blasphemous
by his Moslem subjects. To meet the opposition
which they excited, he did his utmost, at the instiga-
tion of Hamza, to curry favour both with Christians
and Jews ; and, in order to win them to a recognition
of his claims to being the Messiah whom they ex-
pected, granted them complete religious liberty, and
many other privileges.

Durzi meantime was first discredited, then reported
to have been murdered, and finally, with the conniv-
ance of Hakim, who probably felt that he owed him
a debt of gratitude, succeeded in escaping to Syria,
where he established himself on the western slopes
of Hermon near Hasbeya, and began to preach the
new faith. Within a mile and a half of the town is
the Khalwet el Biyad, considered to this day the
central shrine of the sect, from which, in 1838, the
sacred books once preserved there were carried off
by the Egyptians. His doctrines were at once ac-
cepted by the inhabitants, who carried them to their
comrades in the Lebanon, who were thenceforward
known as Druses, or followers of Durzi. He was
afterwards excommunicated, and enjoys no credit
among the Druses, though his name still remains ;


but Soloman, another Persian who followed him to
Syria, and became a teacher among them, is still
held in much honour.

The nation or tribe, whichever it may have been,
that accepted the doctrines of Hakim, had not long
previously arrived from the north of Syria, chiefly
from the Jebel-el-Ala, near Aleppo, where some still
remained, and a quarter of the city is actually called
to this day the Hana Jumbelat, after the family with
whom I was now staying. They had, no doubt, be-
come strongly tainted with the Ismailian doctrines
prevalent in these parts, and were therefore predis-
posed to receive the teaching of El Durzi. Hakim,
whose cruelty and ferocity amounted to insanity, was
finally murdered by his subjects, whom his crimes had
driven to desperation. According to the Druses,
however, who deny his notoriously bad character,
he did not die, but was translated, and his soul went
to China, whither it has since been followed by the
souls of all pious Druses, who are supposed to be
occupying in large numbers certain cities in the west
of China, and preparing for the great event which
the Druses believe to be now impending.

This connection of their theology with China is
probably due to the affinity which seems to exist
between the esoteric side of Buddhism^ and that
of the Druse religion, the fundamental principle of

1 In Benjamin of Tudela's book of travels, there is a curious notice
of Druses having been met with in Ceylon.

2 B


which would appear to be an enhghtened and spir-
itual pantheism all things created being emana-
tions from the Deity, tending through the influence
of sin towards imperfection, but which, by the moral
necessity for the final triumph of goodwill, gradu-
ally reascend by a process of regeneration, until all
things will become absorbed in and identified with
the divine nature. The similarity of this doctrine
with the teaching of Sakya Muni will at once be
recognised ; indeed there can be little doubt that the
Magians and Sabians of Persia were impregnated
with Buddhist mysticism as well as with the teach-
ing of the Zend-Avesta, for we have records of a
Chinaman resident in Balkh in the sixth century
who translated some of the sacred books of Buddha
into Arabic. Taylor says that the Shiite notion of
an Imaum (which the Druses share) " is precisely
the same as that which the Thibetians form of their
Grand Lama, and the Burmese of their Bodhisa-
watas." ^ It was probably some doctrinal connection
of this sort which induced the Mystics, who came
from Persia to Egypt, and who founded the Druse
sect, to propagate the belief, firmly rooted in the
minds of the Druses, that in a latent or veiled way
all Chmamen, unconsciously to themselves, are in-
ternally Druses.

The oneness and pervasiveness of the Deity is
the prominent feature of the Druse religion. Be-
lieving that God is everything, and that nothing

^ Taylor's History of Mohammedanism, p. 192.


exists which is not Him, their idea of the highest
degree of perfection in reHgion is a mystical absorp-
tion of the thinking and feeling powers of man in
the unity of God. Hence they call their religion
Unitarianism, and its followers Muwahadeen or
Unitarians. It grapples boldly with the problem of
creation and the origin of evil ; the theory being that
the Deity created from His own essence of Light
an intelligent principle or being, who is called the
Universal Mind. The complacency with which the
Universal Mind, being a free moral agent, regarded
himself, constituted a sin, and hence there emanated
from him the opposite principle to Light, and the
Darkness thus evolved became also a free moral
agent, known as " the Antagonist." This was evi-
dently derived from the Carmathian theory, in which
Yezdan, the principle of Light, thinks within him-
self, " If I had an antagonist, how would it be ?
This thought was evil, and unsuitable to the nature
of light, and darkness was the result of this thought,
which was called Ahriman." ^ Both the Carmathian
and Druse theories have evidently had their origin
in the old Persian religion, in which the beings or
principles of Ormuzd and Ahriman represent Light
and Beneficence and Darkness and Malignity respec-
tively. In order to assist the Universal Mind in the
struggle which now took place between the principles
of Light and Darkness, God evolved from them the
Universal Soul, which sided with the Universal Mind,

^ EI Shehristani on Religions and Sects.


and seems to have represented the feminine prin-
ciple ; for the Soul, being acted upon by the Mind
and the Antagonist, brought forth " the Founda-
tion," who afterwards became the companion of the
Antagonist, and took the part of Evil against Good.
The Soul now conceived ag^ain and brought forth
" the Eternal Word." From the Word emanated
" the Preceder," in whose component parts the light
prevailed over the darkness ; and from the Preceder
came " the Succeeder." These five the Universal
Mind, the Universal Soul, the Word, the Preceder,
and the Succeeder became the Ministers of Truth,
and the Antagonist and the Foundation the Minis-
ters of Error. Human souls having, like the Word,
been conceived through the impregnation of the
Universal Soul by the Mind and the Antagonist,
are composed of the conflicting elements of light and
darkness, or good and evil. They are immortal,
and never suffer any change in their essence, nor are
they capable of such change. They are exactly the
same as to their personal identity and number as
they were at the first period of their creation, but
keep in a perpetual state of transmigration from one
body to another. Indeed the final creations in the
department of matter were human bodies to serve as
tenements for souls, which were created in the various
stages and forms of development and organisation
that they appear in at the present time. " Thus all
at once the world was populated with infants and


grown-up persons of all ages and sexes and ranks in
life, residing in various countries, speaking different
languages, occupied with arts, sciences, and every
other pursuit which attracts the attention of man." ^
The idea that the human- race originated from a
primal pair the Druses ridicule as an absurdity.
Their theory as to the creation of matter, generally
through the action of the male and female principles
of light and heat, is too elaborate and recondite to
enter upon here. The arguments upon which they
base their belief in the transmigration of souls are so
curious that they are worth quoting. Many, they
say, are born to a life of doomed suffering and
misery, while others enjoy an opposite condition of
health, affluence, and happiness. Now this cannot
be consistent with the goodness and justice of God,
unless on the supposition that their moral actions
during the migration in a previous body had been
such as to necessitate the present dealings of God
with them. In arguing this point with Christians,
they produce two passages from the New Testa-
ment which, in their opinion, conclusively prove it.
The first is where the Saviour said that John the
Baptist was Elijah. The second is the inquiry of
the disciples, with regard to the man who had been
born blind, whether he had sinned or his parents ; for
li/ie had sinned, so as to have been born blind, he must
have been in a previous body. It is affirmed that

^ Wortabet's Researches, &:c.


instances are not wanting in which a person among
them is conscious of the connections and circum-
stances which had been his lot in a former body,
and that these professions in some cases have been
thoroughly tested and found to be true. Dr Wor-
tabet relates the following incident as one among
many others of the kind which are current among
the Druses : A child, five years old, in Djebel el
A'ala, complained of the life of poverty which his
parents led, and alleged that he had been a rich
man in Damascus ; that on his death he was born
in another place, but lived only six months ; that
he was born again among his present friends, and
desired to be carried to that city. He was taken
there by his relatives, and on the way astonished
them by his correct knowledge of the names of the
different places which they passed. On reaching the
city, he led the way through the various streets to a
house which he said had been his own. He knocked,
and called the woman of the house by her name ;
and on being admitted, told her that he had been
her husband, and asked after the welfare of the
several children, relatives, and acquaintances whom
he had left. The Druses of the place soon met to
inquire into the truth of the matter. The child gave
them a full account of his past life among them, of
the names of his acquaintances, the property which
he had possessed, and the debts which he had left.
All was found to be strictly true, except a small sum


which he said a certain weaver owed him. The man
was called, and on the claim being mentioned to him
he acknowledged it, pleading his poverty for not
having paid it to the children of the deceased. The
child then asked the woman who had been his wife
whether she had found a sum of money which he
had hid in the cellar; and on her replying in the
negative, he went directly to the place, dug up the
treasure, and counted it before them. The money
was found to be exactly of the amount and kind
of specie which he had specified. His wife and
children, who had become considerably older than
himself, then gave him some money, and he returned
with his new friends to his mountain home. The
Druses differ from the Ansariyeh in believing that
souls only migrate into human bodies, while the
latter hold with the Manicheans that wicked souls
pass into the forms of brutes.

The most prominent and interesting feature of the
Druse religion, however, is the belief which they
hold in common with kindred sects, in the constant
recurrence of divine and ministerial manifestations.
Before the appearance of Adam, according to their
theory, the world had existed for many thousands of
years ; the Deity and the Antagonist had both mani-
fested themselves upon it, and had disappeared, the
one leaving seven Ministers of Truth, and the other
seven Ministers of Error. The latter having taught
error under the guise of truth, the Ministers of Truth


were obliged to adopt their nomothetical laws out-
wardly, while secretly they understood them only in
an allegorical sense. It became necessary, there-
fore, that God should manifest Himself a second
time, which he did in the human form of Adam.
This manifestation continued a thousand years, and
was followed by many others. The design of these
incarnations was a gracious condescension on the
part of God to meet the frailty of man, who is in-
capable of beholding the transcendent glory of the
essence of the Divinity. Their number is said to have
been ten greater, and sixty-nine minor manifestations.
After each greater manifestation there were seven
religions ; after each religion, there were seven min-
isters ; and the mission of each minister continued
one hundred thousand years. After the second
greater manifestation, in the form of Enoch, the
"Word" appeared, who left, again, seven ministers of
truth, they being succeeded by seven teachers, whose
names were Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Moham-
med, another Mohammed, and Said. These are all
manifestations of the Antagonist. Their religions,
literally understood, are false, but interpreted alle-
gorically are true ; and hence the true believers
have adopted them outwardly during the prevalence
of each. This curious idea is illustrated by the
following extract from the Catechism of the Druses,
quoted by Dr Wortabet, in regard to what they hold
concerning Jesus and His religion :^

1 The following is the appreciation of De Sacy, with respect to


" Q. What do we say concerning the Gospel
which Christians hold ?

''A. That it is true, for it is the sayings of the
Lord Christ, who was Salman el Pharisy during the
life of Mohammed, and who is Hamza the son of
Ali not the false Christ, who was born of Mary,
for he was the son of Joseph.

** Q. Where was the true Christ when the false
Christ was with the disciples ?

''A. He was among the disciples. He uttered
the truths of the Gospel, and taught Christ the son
of Joseph the institutes of the Christian religion ;
but when Jesus disobeyed the true Christ, He put

divine manifestations, and especially to the person of Hakim.
There results, it seems to me from these statements, that the divine
humanity of the Deity was one and always the same in His different
manifestations, although He appeared under different forms; that the
Deity and the human form which serves Him as a veil, are so united,
that the actions and words of the form are truly the actions and words
of the Deity ; that the merit of faith consists in believing that the
Deity, in rendering Himself accessible to sense by the form which
serves Him as a veil, does not cease to be infinite, incomprehensible,
inaccessible to the senses. First, that notwithstanding the diversity
and the successions of His manifestations there is in respect of Him,
neither succession of time, nor any numbers ; that the divine human-
ity of the Deity is antecedent to all created things, and is the proto-
type of the human form ; that the manner in which men see Him in
the figure with which He clothes Himself, is proportioned to the
degree of purity in each ; that it was necessary that Divinity should
thus manifest itself under a human form that men might be able to
acquire a full conviction of His existence, and that the divine justice
might recompense those who should have believed, and punish those
who should have been incredulous ; and lastly, that the last manifes-
tation, under the name of Hakim, is the most perfect that of which
all preceding manifestations were in some sort but the daybreak and
the sketch."


hatred into the hearts of the Jews, so that they
crucified him.

" Q. What became of him after the crucifixion ?

"A. They put him into a grave, and the true
Christ came and stole him, and gave out among
men the report that Christ had risen out of the

" Q. Why did He act in this manner ?

"A. That He might estabHsh the Christian reh-
gion, and confirm its followers in what He had taught

" Q. Why did He act in such a manner as to
establish error ?

"A. So that the Unitarians (Druzes) should be
concealed in the religion of Jesus, and none of them
might be known.

" Q. Who was it that came from the grave and
entered among the disciples when the doors were

" A. The living Christ who is immortal, even
Hamza the servant and slave of our Lord.

" Q. Who brought the Gospel to light and
preached it ?

" A. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

" Q. Why did not the Christians acknowledge
the unity of God ?

" A. Because God had not so decreed.

" Q. Why does God permit the introduction of
evil and infidelity ?


^'A. Because He chooses to mislead some from,
and guide others to, the truth.

" Q. If infidehty and error proceed from Him,
why does He punish those who follow them ?

^'A. Because when He deceived them, they did
not obey Him.

" Q. How can a deluded man obey, when he is
ignorant of the true state of the case ?

*' A. We are not bound to answer this question,
for God is not accountable to His creatures for His
dealings with them." ^

During the life of Christ the Druses believe that
the real Christ was concealed under the form of
Lazarus (the ''Mind"), and that the four apostles,

Online LibraryLaurence OliphantThe land of Gilead, with excursions in the Lebanon; → online text (page 25 of 35)
Using the text of ebook The land of Gilead, with excursions in the Lebanon; by Laurence Oliphant active link like:
read the ebook The land of Gilead, with excursions in the Lebanon; is obligatory.

Leave us your feedback | Links exchange | RSS feed 

Online library ebooksread.com © 2007-2014