Religious Sects Of Syria -- By: Leauder Thompson
BSac 14:55 (Jul 1857) p. 525
Religious Sects Of Syria1
Within the bounds of Syria and the Holy Land, there are from twenty to thirty religious sects.
Of the two great divisions of the Muhammedan body, the Sunmites, or followers of ’Amar, are the lords of the country, and more numerous than any other single sect of any religion in the land. The other division, called Shî’ah, are very few in number, and are generally despised by their brethren of the Sunmite or self-styled orthodox faith, while the Shî’ah of Persia, being there the dominant sect, equally despise the Sunmites of Syria, Egypt, and Turkey Proper.
Besides these two great divisions of the Muhammedan body, there are several sects which are commonly regarded as off-shoots, or heretical subdivisions of the family, as the Metâwileh, the Derûz, the Nusaivîyeh, and the Isma’iliyeh.
The Metâwileh or (as the word signifies) the followers of ’Aly, are few comparatively, numbering probably not more than 25,000 souls, and are chiefly found in a single district, called Belâd Beshârâh, including Ba’albek and vicinity. Their religious belief is very similar to that of the Shî’ah of Persia; and, like them, they are regarded, by the Sunmites,
BSac 14:55 (Jul 1857) p. 526
as heretics. They have their own feudal lords, have but little friendly intercouse with others, and are exceedingly fierce and warlike. It is said that nothing can induce them to eat or drink with those of another religion. If a Christian chances to eat or drink out of one of their metalic vessels, they invariably, before using it, subject it to a thorough scouring, while an earthen vessel is, at once, dashed to pieces as useless. If a stranger should even happen to touch their clothing, they look upon themselves as unclean until they have completed a process of purification.
The Derûz, commonly called Druzes, are an energetic, warlike people, numbering about 100,000 souls. They inhabit the mountains of Lebanon chiefly, though they are found elsewhere. Formerly they were masters of Lebanon and the adjacent coast, including Beirut as their most important port. But since the late Emîr Beshîr, and some other leading princes, abandoned their former religion and joined the Maronites, the latter have gradually gained the ascendency, both in numbers and in power.
Of the religion of the Druzes, it is not safe to speak with confidence. Hâkim, an insane Khalif of Egypt, who ascended the throne a. d. 996, is regarded as their founder, and, in some sense, also, their deity. Their religion seems to be a ...
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