In 1987, more than half of Lebanese Druzes resided in rural areas. Druzes were found in the Shuf, Al Matn, Hasbayya, and Rashayya Regions; those who chose to live in an urban setting resided in Beirut and its suburbs in confessionally marked neighborhoods. The Druze elite consisted of large landowning families.
The religion of the Druzes may be regarded as an offshoot of Ismaili Islam. Historically it springs from the Fatimid caliph of Egypt, Hakim (996-1021 A.D.), who considered himself the final incarnation of God. His close associates and followers Hamza and Darazi (hence the name Druze) spread the new doctrine among the inhabitants of southern Lebanon, and founded among them a sect which non-Druzes called "Druze" and Druzes called "Unitarian." The Druzes believe that Hakim is not dead but absent and will return to his people. Like the Ismailis, they also believe in emanations of the deity, in supernatural hierarchies, and in the transmigration of souls.
The Druzes are religiously divided into two groups. Those who master the secrets and teaching of the sect and who respect its dictates in their daily life, are referred to as uqqal (the mature) and are regarded as the religious elite. Believers who are not entitled to know the inner secrets of the religion and who do not practice their religion are called juhhal (the ignorant).
The leadership of the Druze community in Lebanon traditionally has been shared by two factions: the Jumblatt (also seen as Junblatt) and the Yazbak family confederations. The community has preserved its cultural separateness by being closely knit socially. The Druzes constituted about 7 percent of the population (153,000) in 1987. Shaykh Muhammad Abu Shaqra was the highest Druze religious authority in Lebanon in 1987, holding the title of Shaykh al Aql.
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