Druze Society

Dualistic Structure

Although the structure of the Druze society helps unite them into a socially cohesive community, it also divides them into two main classes: "the initiated" known in Arabic as 'uqqal, literally "wise," who are familiar with the religious teachings; and "the uninitiated" known as juhhal, or literally "ignorant" who are not initiated in the Druze doctrine. Only those members of the community who demonstrate piety and devotion and who have withstood a lengthy process of candidacy are initiated into the teachings of the Druze faith. Women may also be initiated in the Druze doctrine. The Druze tradition considers women to be more spiritually prepared than men to enter such circles because they are considered less likely to be exposed to deviant or immoral practices such as murder and adultery.

The initiated male and female members of the Druze community are easily identified by their dark clothes and white head covers. They meet in the Druze house of worship called khalwa or place of solitude for recitation of the religious doctrine and other social and general community discussions. The initiated are further subdivided into a number of categories based on their level of advancement in religious knowledge. One group receives its status as the result of being considered the most knowledgeable and devout of their community. Known as ajaweed, or "the good," these individuals occupy the most honored position in Druze society. Whenever issues concerning the conduct of adherents of the sect arise, the opinions of this religious elite are highly regarded. Other members of the community listen when the ajaweed speak, act according to their directives, and stand respectfully when they walk away. The ajaweed not only provide exclusive authority on Druze religious doctrine, they also prescribe the accepted cultural norms of the community, shaping its character and reinforcing the members' interactions within their families, villages, and with the rest of the world.

Uninitiated Druzes comprise the majority of the society. Though they are not familiar with the specifics of the Druze religious doctrine, their behavior is expected to conform with certain prescriptions, both spiritual (e.g. fealty to God and His prophets) and moral (e.g. respect for elders and honor for women). Those who are uninitiated may seek initiation at any stage of their lives, but their acceptance in the ranks of the initiated is based on their moral character and their conduct in the Druze community.

The interaction between the initiated and uninitiated provides a dualistic communal structure and facilitates the cohesiveness and unity of the Druze community in times of peace as well as war by shaping the social and political behavior of members of the Druze society. In this dualistic setting, religious leadership is generally provided by the initiated and political and military leadership is often exercised by the uninitiated. The initiated prescribe and model the accepted standards for the community while the uninitiated draw strength from, as well as provide protection for, the initiated and the way of life, beliefs, and values they represent.

Druzes also exhibit what may be called "familial dualism" or dualism rooted in family relations. Druze families often form two competing factions behind two of the largest families or even behind two brothers or cousins within the same family. Each faction negotiates its own interests on behalf of the community, which generally benefits both sides.

In Druze society, as in Middle Eastern culture in general, the priority of the family over the individual is predominant. Druzes build their houses when possible on land adjacent to their parents, and extended families usually remain in close proximity to one another. Decisions are often made in consultation with other members of the family on matters such as whether to buy a motorcycle, car, or truck, and, in previous centuries, whether to buy a horse, donkey, or camel. The more important the decision, the greater the number of family members involved in the decision-making process.