Relatively small Middle Eastern religious sect. It originated in Egypt in 1017 and is named for one of its founders, Muhsubdotammad al-Darazī (d. 1019/20). Strictly monotheistic and based in Islam, particularly Ismāaynīlī Islam, Druze beliefs include an eclectic mixture of elements from Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Judaism, and Iranian religion. The Druze believe in the divinity of al-Hsubdotākim bi-Amr Allāh (985–1021?), sixth caliph of the Fātsubdotimid dynasty of Egypt, and expect him to return someday to inaugurate a golden age. The Druze are divided hierachically into two orders—the sages, who are fully initiated in the beliefs of the religion, and the ignorant, who constitute the uninitiated lay majority. They permit no converts, either to or from their religion, and no intermarriage. Their religious system is kept secret from the outside world, and they are permitted to deny their faith if their life is in danger. In the early 21st century they numbered about one million, mostly in Syria and Lebanon.
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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.