The origin of the religion is closely connected with the Egyptian Fatimite calif al-Hakim bi'amri-Ilah (996-1021). His chief object was the propagation of the tenets of the sect of the Ismailiyyah, the main source of the doctrines of the Druses, in Egypt, where the people were adherents of orthodox Sunnite Mohammedanism. In 1017 a Turk named Darazi, a member of the Ismailiyyah, who had come from the East and had been made a confidant of al-Hakim, published a work asserting that the soul of Adam had passed to Ali, the cousin and son-in law of Mohammed. whence it had descended to the Fatimites, and thus had come to al-Hakim. The heretic barely escaped with his life from the fury of the people, but the calif aided him to flee to Syria, where at Wadi al-Taim, in the southern Lebanon,
In origin the Druses were both political and religious, since they were closely connected with the Shiites, the strict legitimists who upheld the claims of Ali and the first three califs, but rejected the Ommiads and the Abbassids. These Shiites, especially in Persia, regarded Ali and his descendants, the Imams, as incarnations of the Deity, and held that the soul of an Imam passed immediately at his death into the body of his successor. Since it was politically dangerous to appear as an Imam, the theory of a hidden Imam was developed, of whom the Mahdi is to be the last. The missionary activity of the various Shiite sects included northern Africa, and was accepted by the Fatimite califs. Of these sects the Ismailiyyah and the Karmathians were the most important for the development of the Druses. The Ismailiyyah rose about 765. After the death of the Imam Jaafar a schism was caused by the fact that some accepted his son Musa as the seventh Imam, while others gave this honor to his other son, Ismail. The same period saw a development of the theory that incarnations of the divinity had been sent to earth to bring man nearer to God and to reveal his will. These prophets, who were called "speakers" (naṭiḳ), were Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, and Mohammed al-Mahdi, the son of Ismail. These prophets, each of whom marked an advance on the teachings of his predecessors, were aided by a "silent one," who spoke nothing on his own authority, but proclaimed and promulgated the tenets of the "speakers." These "silent ones" are the Imams, so that Seth was the Imam to the prophet Adam, Shem to Noah, Ishmael to Abraham, Aaron to Moses, Peter to Jesus, Ali to Mohammed, and Abdallah ibn Maimun to Mohammed al-Mahdi, and between each prophet came seven Imams. This entire system of prophets and Imams was accepted, though with modifications, by the Druses. The Abdallah ibn Maimun just mentioned was an adherent of a dualistic sect and used his propaganda of the doctrines of the Ismailiyyah solely to advance his teachings which were a confused mixture of Zoroastrian, Manichean, and Greek concepts. His missionaries were charged to lead suitable adepts of the new faith through various stages (at first seven, and later nine) to his own nihilistic and materialistic point of view, thus alienating them not only from Shiite Mohammedanism, but from all positive religion. Abdallah's propaganda naturally brought upon him the hostility of the authorities, and he was forced to flee to the town of Salamiyyah in Syria. Many adherents were won in Persia and the lands lying along the Euphrates, while on the lower Euphrates the Karmathians split off from the Ismailiyyah and formed a political party with communistic tenets. The Iamailiyyah also made their way back to Africa before the califate of al-Hakim bi'amri-llah, as noted above, and communities of them still exist in Syria.
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