By: Rwaida al-Harfoush
Strict religious traditions couldn’t influence Druzes’ social relations with other components of the Syrian community.
Syria is a country that witnessed various cultural groups over thousands of years of history. Ancestors had gone, but the significant cultural values and characteristics they established and inherited were continuously revived from generation to another. Over centuries, new settlers from different territories resorted to Syria for certain reasons, including famine and wars. A cultural diversity was founded due to multiple immigration movements, and the development of Syria into a state opened the door for the emergence of a spirit of unity between the different religious and ethnic groups.
Historically speaking, Syria was referred to as land of Dionysius (god of wine) during the Hellenistic period, basically because of its agricultural wealth in the field of grapes and production of wine. In the late nineteenth century, historian William Waddington identified Dionysian as Sweida –name of the current southern area in Syria, basically populated by Druze religious group. During the Middle Ages, the area was repeatedly conquered by Ghassanies, Umayyad and Abbacies’, until it was populated in the eighteenth century by immigrants from other Syrian cities such as Aleppo and Edlib, and neighboring countries such as Lebanon and Palestine. Afterwards, the southern area of Syria started to prosper.
Druzes in Syria, mainly based in Sweida province and Jabal al-Arab region, are basically Arabs with distinct cultural customs and religious rituals. Originally, Druze religion emerged from the philosophical and Sufi holy books written during antiquity in Greece. There is a strong belief in the spirit as a main reason for human creation, and entails that the spirit, once created, continuous its eternal journey from one body to another after the physical death. Druzes also believe that people from first day of creation until the end remain the same because of the Reincarnation, and those approved to belong to this certain religion stay committed to its teachings through the ritual of reading a holy letter derived from their prophets during their sacred meetings to be constantly reminded with the impossibility of changing their religious beliefs and that no one is allowed in the group. Therefore, some constraints are imposed even on the social activities including marriage –Druze men and women are only allowed to get married to someone from the same religious group. Any violation of such rituals and traditions will most likely lead to the exclusion of the ‘perpetrator’.
However, these strict religious traditions couldn’t influence Druzes’ social relations with other components of the Syrian community. That is also illustrated in their traditional songs that tell about the love of the homeland regardless of religious beliefs. During the Ottoman occupation to Syria, people of Jabal al-Arab region –Including Sweida city– refused to follow the orders of Ali Basha –Ottoman ruler of Bilad al-Sham –to join the military service, and they rebelled against Ottomans during a crucial war that lasted about nine months. In spite of the brutality of the Ottoman troops and leaders, people didn’t give up until accomplishing independence in Syria in 1918, before the French occupation of the country. In a rebellion against the latter occupation, a prominent Druze leader Sultan al-Atrash emerged to lead the Syrian revolutionaries until achieving independence for Syria in 1947. However, al-Atrash refused to occupy any official position after independence, arguing that the mission of him and his comrades was to attain freedom for Syria, not to gain any personal benefits.
Over decades of the rule of Assad family in Syria, Druzes saw a remarkable decline on different levels, especially economically, but the group survived through developing their region agriculturally by themselves, beside the support of Druzes abroad. Moreover, the relatively difficult economic status of a large number of Druze families, some of them moved to settle in other cities; the fact that strengthened their relations with the rest of the Syrians and encouraged residents of other cities to resort to the Druze areas, to exchanging knowledge and ways of life with them, and survived together in good and bad conditions.
Source: ARA News
(Editing by: Adib Abdulmajid)
For the latest news follow us on Twitter
Join our Weekly Newsletter