Chosen by Chaden Hani, a Lebanese Druze researcher and PhD student in peace studies at the International Baptist Theological Study Centre (IBTS) and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. A believer in Jesus, she wrote her master’s thesis on the best practices of Arab evangelical churches in their missiological outreach to followers of this heterodox branch of Shiite Islam, and continues to live among her community in the mountains of Lebanon.
The Druzes: A New Study of Their History, Faith, and Society, by Nejla M. Abu-Izzeddin
Published in 1984, this foundational work—written by a Druze herself—traces the early pre-Islamic tribal movements of the community in the Middle East through their establishment as a separate religion primarily located in Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. Presenting the main tenets of their faith, it describes in detail how the sect emerged from mainstream Islam, named derogatorily after an early preacher deemed a heretic by Muslims and Druze alike.
Though the appellation stuck, Druze prefer to call themselves “Unitarians.”
A secretive sect that does not accept conversions, despite numbering less than one million people in the Levant, the Druze have played an outsized role in the politics and economics of the region. Abu-Izzeddin accessed several less accessible internal manuscripts to prepare her study, describing how their tightknit solidarity has enabled the Druze to maintain an independent existence for over a thousand years.
Being a Druze, Fuad I. Khuri
Khuri describes the strong in-group feeling among the Druze. Evident even among immigrant populations, their deep attachment to ethnicity and unbending solidarity ensures that, as a minority community, they stand firmly by their leadership in times of crisis. The text also discusses the concept of taqiya, which permits the adoption of outward forms of Islamic ritual to protect the inward faith in times of persecution by mainstream Muslim sects.
But within the community, the five pillars of Islam are spiritualized, and Druze will not regularly pray or fast but commit themselves instead to a moral code emphasizing loyalty, honesty, and courage. Spiritual practice is largely confined to a religious class called shaykhs, members of which dress in black robes with white caps and strive to achieve a connection with the divine, gathering once per week to read their holy books. With no formal higher educational seminaries, religious knowledge is passed on internally and lived out in self-discipline and austerity.
The Druze: Realities and Perceptions, Kamal Salibi
An international team of scholars share their insights within this profound contribution toward understanding the Druze community. Spanning their faith, identity, society, and historical significance in the Middle East, the 15 published papers include three that concentrate on religious issues.
The first presents the broad outline of Druze doctrines and their philosophical underpinnings. Another significant entry describes the Druze canon of scripture—the “six books of wisdom”—as well as their Cairene setting of authorship four centuries after the advent of Islam.
The third chapter studies the life and writings of the most venerated Druze saint, Jamal al-Din Abdullah al-Tanukhi (A.D. 1417–79), a theologian, reformer, and ethical philosopher whose ascetic adherence to monotheism made him a preeminent religious figure. Furthermore, Tanukhi’s commentaries on marriage, divorce, and the original six texts have led many to consider him the founder of the normative Druze faith.
A History of the Druzes, Kais M. Firro
This book explores how the Druze emerged as an offshoot of the Isma’ili Shiite doctrine and how dedicated missionaries propagated their combination of messianic ideas, Neoplatonic philosophy, and esoteric mysticism in the Levant. The content includes information on the basic tenets of the Druze faith, the impact of persecution on the community, and the role of its central historical figures.
It also discusses the five cosmic principles of the Druze, each represented by a color and arranged in a five-pointed star, a symbol of temperance and moderation. Green stands for “wisdom,” red for “soul,” yellow for “word,” blue for “the past,” and white for “the future.” Each has been embodied in “spiritual dignitaries” throughout history, who the Druze esteem as prophets—consistent with but differing from the traditional figures of Christianity and Islam.
“Converting the Druzes: The American Missionaries’ Road Map to Nowhere,” by Samer Traboulsi, in One Hundred and Fifty, edited by Nadia Maria El-Cheikh, Lina Choueiri and Bilal Orfali
In this anthology about the first 150 years of Protestant missions in the Middle East, Traboulsi describes the challenges faced in evangelizing the Druze people. Confident their planted seeds would eventually bear abundant fruit, the missionaries struggled to bring a new faith to a land of ancient religions, which constituted an essential part of community identity.
The chapter includes a copy of the report written by William M. Thomson, sent to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1870. It proposed shifting the focus of missionary activity away from indigenous Christians—where Protestant faith was failing to take hold—toward the Druze community, in hope that these converts would then spearhead the evangelizing mission among the Bedouin Arabs in Transjordan.
Adopted by the mission, it led to the appointment of Cornelius Van Dyck—translator of the modern Arabic Bible—to prepare literature addressing the Druze people and their religion, the basis of which is still used in outreach today.