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Our Druze Ancestry

 

Over the generations, our family has become ethnically diverse, but through DNA testing our origins are clear. The maternal ancestry of Mary Gray-Welburn, our third great-grandmother, is Druze. You're probably asking, "What are Druze?" and "How did the Druze end up in Delaware?". We cannot answer the latter...yet.

The Druze are a unique ethno-religious tribe found primarily along the Eastern Mediterranean coastline, but which has also migrated to Australia, Europe & North America. Their faith is called Tawhid. A millennium of near-exclusive intermarriage among its believers created the distinct ethnic group known as the Druze.

In Arabic, Druze is pronounced "du-ru-zi" (singular) or "du-ruz" (plural).

 

The Evolution of the Tawhid faith

According to the Druze, revelations from God were cyclical. Over time He sent many prophets, each elevating the spirituality of mankind: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, & Muhammad ibn Isma'il. Each of these messengers was aided by their "foundation": Shem, Ishmael, Aaron, Simon Peter, & Ali. In addition, there are respected luminaries who influenced the development of the faith, including Akhenaton, Alexander the Great, Aristotle, Jethro, Plato, Plotinus, Pythagoras, & Salman al-Farisi.

The theological history of the Druze dates back to about 680 with the split of Islam into the Sunni (who interpret the Qur'an interpret literally) and the Shi'a (who interpret allegorically). From the Shi'a heterodoxies of Islam outgrew the Isma'ili sect, which was committed to political & social activism. Deviation from tradition targeted the Isma'ilis for suppression & persecution and as a result, sent the believers underground into secrecy. Despite minority status, the Isma'ilis rose to control the imamate of all Islam in 969, founded the city of Cairo, and began to incorporate mysticism & Greek philosophy into Islamic concepts. Through several father-to-son successions of imams, slavery was abolished & tolerance of other faiths was encouraged.

A great change came in 1017 when Imam al-Hakim entrusted Hamza to develop, organize, and proclaim an innovative modification of Isma'ili doctrine, that is now known as Tawhid. The call to the new faith was without force and continued for several years. Al-Hakim also broke with tradition when he declared Hamza his successor instead of his son al-Zahir. In 1021 al-Hakim disappeared. There were instructions not to search for him and the faith of Tawhid followers was tested. Almost simultaneously, Hamza retired.

Al-Zahir reacted swiftly, calling for the extermination of the Druze from Antioch to Alexandria. He nearly succeeded, wiping out nearly all their strongholds from Cairo to Aleppo.   This persecution continued for nearly 15 years, sending the Druze underground again while distortions infiltrated the Tawhid doctrine. Tens of thousands of infants, women, and children were massacred.  For their personal safety the Druze assimilated into the dominant culture, publicly denying their faith yet practicing in very small groups. The Druze remained out of the spotlight until the 1500's.

The Tenets and Principles of Tawhid

I cannot do this subject justice. If you are truly interested in the beliefs of the Druze please read the PDF file Pillars of the Tawhid faith.

I also recommend reading The Druze & Their Faith in Tawhid by Anis Obeid. It is a thorough account of the Druze history & faith.

(C) 2007 - 2014 Kimberly Chase-Longus

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This webpage was last updated 1/22/2014.

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