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Lecture: Druze Community in the Middle East
Organized by Haigazian University Women's Auxiliary
Speaker: Judge Abbas Halaby

On Friday the 11th of February 2005, The Haigazian University Women's Auxiliary (HUWA) Beirut organized a lecture on the Druze community in the Middle East.
Staff, faculty, students and community women gathered in the Media Center of the university to listen to the comprehensive lecture of Judge Abbas Halabi, a prominent figure in the Druze community.
Halabi tackled the different aspects of this minority community, its structure, social and religious organizations, historical contribution to the Lebanese community, and its religious heritage and basics of faith.
Concerning the Druze community structure , Halabi explained that it includes:
1. The Hermitages (khalwat), which are a sort of cloister where a man can isolate and meditate.
2. The Majlis, which is the assembly where elders gather each Thursday to pray and meditate collectively.
3. The Sanctuaries (maqam or mazar), which are places of worship where the remains of a prophet or a famous person are found.
Halabi added that the Druze community has many social, educational and health institutions, among which:
1.The Druze Community Confessional Council, which promotes and preserves the community's rights and represents it in its social being matters. This Council is dormant, and it is planned to reactivate it.
2. The Board of Trustees, which runs the Waqfs on a daily basis.
3. The Shaykh al-aql, who is the spiritual leader of the Druze.
Talking about the religious organizations, Judge Halabi differentiated between the 'uqal (initiates or sages) who gather in the majlis each Thursday and the juhal (ignorant or non-initiates) who may become sages if they pass a rigorous examination and mortify themselves, without distinction between men and women.
According to Halabi, the Druze contributed historically to the Lebanese unity. The Emirate established by Druze emirs (the Ma'an family) in the early 17th century, in the "Druze Mountain" was the starting point of Lebanese unity and was the basis of modern Lebanon. Moreover, liberalism and rationality characterized the Druze emirate, which crystallized the Lebanese identity out of a melting pot of confessions. The secular spirit of the Emirate tolerated the diversity in opinions and religious freedom, which are the foundations of the Lebanese state.
In his speech, Halabi focused also on the basics of the Druze faith, and implied that such faith created many controversies within the region's confessional landscape.
In short, the Druze inherited the Shi'a and Isma'ili movements in addition to the influence of religious and philosophical trends prior to Islam, the main characteristic being the duality between good and evil and the importance given to the hidden meaning of the texts (the batin). The Druze have their own sacred texts, The Book of Wisdom, written by Druze da'is and interpreting Abraham's heritage and disclosed only to initiates.
In addition, the Druze faith recognizes the Judeo-Christian idea of the Messiah's return, like the Shi'a groups who wait for the Mahdi's return, which symbolizes the end of time and salvation of believers. The Druze discipline integrated elements of the neo-platonic Greek philosophy, presenting God as transcendent, beyond human conception and declared absolute divine unity. The soul is immortal, and the notion of metempsychosis (reincarnation), of Asian origin, allows every believer to continue his search for divine truth during successive lives, within the Druze community.
Halabi concluded his speech by emphasizing more on the Druze faith, as being mystical, Gnostic, messianic and Unitarian discipline, including elements of Greek philosophy. Its object is to search for the Divine truth, the genuine knowledge of God, "The One and Only". Hence, the Druze designate themselves as the Muwahhidun (Unitarians) or ahl al-haqiqa (the people of truth).
The lecture of Judge Halabi was more than informative, since it created enthusiasm and curiosity among the listeners, and at the same time it promoted tolerance and coexistence in a multicultural and confessional country like Lebanon.

Mira Yardemian
Public Relations Director
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