An Introduction to the Druze Path of Tawhid By Omar Wahab
From Faith to Knowledge
What is Tawhid, and why is it important? Like many other Druze, for much of my life I knew very little about the Druze faith, and still less about why it was important. My understanding consisted of only a handful of facts: the Druze believe in reincarnation; their ranks are divided between the initiated and uninitiated; their religion developed as an offshoot of Islam, etc. Such a situation, of memorizing basic facts and dogmas, is spiritually stale and unsatisfying. Consequently, many Druze yearn to learn about what Tawhid really means.
There are a number of practical reasons why the Druze should learn about Tawhid. As the world’s societies globalize and expose their inhabitants to different ideas and customs, it will ultimately be a shared understanding of their faith that holds the Druze community together rather than shallower forms of identity based on language, social norms, and political values. Druze parents who make the faith a priority for their children will help ensure that they grow up to possess strong senses of identity and belonging to a community, which in turn positively affect selfconfidence and happiness.
However, the importance of Tawhid goes beyond all this. Tawhid is exceedingly essential because it is a truth that supersedes the myriad philosophical, religious and ideological systems that have existed throughout time. While the Mowahhid’s journey in Tawhid begins with faith, it ends with an experiential certitude that can only be called knowledge. It is knowledge so profound and so gratifying that if properly internalized, it rewards the knower with a glimpse of Eden. What follows in these pages is a concise summary of the concepts and prescriptions of Tawhid. The reader should know that this is only the tip of the iceberg. The path of Tawhid does not stop with a basic understanding of its core concepts. It is both a continually deepening contemplation and a lifestyle. Consequently, those who are adept continue to learn and to practice it, as should those who read this piece and thirst for more.
Tawhid as Metaphysical Truth
In order to get to the root of what Tawhid is, one must first understand the concept of Origination. Origination is defined by what may seem to be a contradiction: that God is both immanent within existence and transcendent at the same time. The term “immanent” means that God’s presence permeates everything that exists. More specifically, all of existence is a manifestation of God’s Will in real time, a projection of divine meaning through His Will. The same way that the human mind can come up with a set of abstract interconnected rules to govern the functioning of a complex organization, the laws that govern our universe are perfectly calibrated so that at any given moment, anywhere in the universe, God’s Will is unfolding exactly as He wishes.
At the same time, however, God is absolutely transcendent, meaning that he has nothing in common with his manifestation (existence) whatsoever. He is above any and all attributes and characteristics. A helpful, albeit imperfect, analogy to understand the immanent-transcendent reality is that of a dreamer and a dream. The dream (existence) is a projection of the consciousness of the dreamer, but the dream does not physically encompass the dreamer, making him transcendent.
Origination is very different from the traditional Judeo-Christian and Islamic notions of “creation”, where God creates the universe from nothing, steps back and lets it go its own course, only to intervene periodically in the form of revelations and miracles. According to Tawhid, there is no separation in space and time between God, human beings and the rest of his manifestation, only the illusion of separation imposed by the ego. The ego is the cause of all perceived separation from God and is thus the fundamental source of all suffering and evil.
The purpose of Tawhid is to teach the Muwahhid how to bridge this perceived separation and internalize the all- encompassing oneness of existence. If successful, he will directly perceive this oneness of existence and the agency that moves it, resulting in inward tranquility and bliss. In this context, 'perception' is different from belief or reason, which can both be subject to doubt. It rather implies sensing incontrovertibly much the same way that skin senses touch or the eye senses light. Man’s purpose is to be mystically re-united with his Divine Origin (the Divine Will) because everything returns in essence to the Origin, which is beyond time and place.
A Druze writer once summed up the essence of Tawhid in one sentence: “He who really knows that nothing exists except the Divine, and that Divine goodness is preeminent to whatever exists, cannot but act consequentially; and this act is prayer.”
The key to understanding Origination is that manifestation is a matter of degrees proceeding from the subtlest down to the coarsest. Tawhid elaborates five principles that form the limits of existence beginning with the subtlest: the All- Encompassing Principle (al-aql al-kulli), the Universal Soul (al-nafs al-kulliya), the Word (al-kalima), the Precedent (al- sabiq), and the Follower (al-tali).
Existence proceeds as a projection of the All-Encompassing Principle (God’s Will) and materializes into the tangible reality we call the universe through the final principle, the Follower. These five principles transcribe the subtleness of divine meaning into our physical world. They are Origination in action and their roles are beautifully and succinctly summed up in one line of the Quran: "His will is such that when he desires something, he says to it 'be', and subsequently it is."
What Is the Ego?
The ego is that part of your consciousness that sees inherent value in multiplicity or duality. What does this mean? When engaging in thought, your mind isolates the object of its thought (a physical object, an event, an idea, your conception of yourself, etc.). In analyzing the object, it necessarily differentiates it from other objects (gives it an “identity”). The problem is that when the mind isolates and attributes identity to an object, it also is tempted to attribute inherent importance to that object. However, no single object or grouping of objects ultimately possesses any inherent value, whether it is a nice house, a fancy car, or a coveted professional position. Human beings tend to apply this combination of objectification and valuation most intensely to themselves, which is why we associate the term “ego” with arrogant persons, but this activity frequently extends to other objects of thought, and manifests itself in human character through covetousness towards and attachment to worldly objects.
In popular parlance, this phenomenon is referred to generally as infatuation, and sometimes narcissism when it is applied to the self. The problem, though, is that behaviors are typically only classified as infatuation or narcissism when they become socially problematic (ex. stalking, socially unacceptable low levels of empathy…). In fact, all attachment to objects or inflation of the self, no matter how thoroughly rationalized through the faculty of thought, represents the unhealthy musings of the ego. In the end, the true way to peace of mind and happiness is to recognize the oneness of reality, and an important step in internalizing that oneness is to learn detachment from individual things, including the demanding, insatiable self.
According to Tawhid, existence is a projection of the Divine and is always moved by the Divine Will. Consequently, existence is suffused with meaning by necessity and awareness is nothing but a continual stream of meaning. The individual's ability to grasp this existential meaning is inversely proportional to the size of his ego.
Those with exceedingly small egos cannot help but perceive the meaning of the things that happen to them. Alternatively, the larger a person's ego, the more he will view reality through the lens of randomness. The ego fuels self-centered ambition, which pushes the individual to create his own meaning for himself. In the process of doing so, he inevitably comes across factors and obstacles that are outside of his control. In this context, his mind is tempted to associate his powerlessness with a certain degree of randomness because his focus on his own narrow and self-defined meaning precludes him from understanding the wider meaning that is outside of his vision. It is like putting on blinders or only seeing part of a painting.
We have now alluded to the fact that existence by its nature is suffused with meaning, which proceeds from God’s Will, the All-Encompassing Principle. Tawhid holds that it is unconditional love of this Principle that leads us to intuitive realization of the meaning permeating our existence. We can call this form of realization “pristine awareness”. In the state of pristine awareness, the individual no longer harbors fears and anxieties nor their ‘positive’ equivalents, self-centered dreams and desires. In such an elevated state, the mind becomes like a mirror, reflecting the meaning of its surroundings without any sort of bias or interpretation (i.e. perceiving God’s Will, the All-Encompassing Principle). This absorption of pure truth is exceedingly gratifying, for the human mind is programmed to thirst for meaning. Alternatively, the perception of meaninglessness, what is commonly called ‘randomness’, is anathema to the human experience. Pristine awareness guards against the perception of meaninglessness and its emotional attendants, confusion and despair.
The chief goal of the Muwahhid is to subjugate the ego, thereby coming closer to pristine awareness. Under such an elevated state of mind, existential questions such as “what is the meaning of life?” or “what is my purpose?” become superfluous because the simple act of being, permeated by so much meaningfulness, leaves the individual without want. In fact, this is the essence of why Tawhid is commonly referred to as a “mystical” or “Gnostic” faith: to know with certainty and satisfaction by virtue of divine grace despite God’s transcendent and therefore unknowable nature.
Virtue and Diminishing the Ego
The concept of morality is as old and varied as human society itself. Modern western philosophy has developed very complex and sophisticated systems of morality that have been designed to rigidly regulate human behavior for the sake of creating outcomes that further “the common good”. In contrast, many religions base their codes of morality on the explicit commandments of a deity. Most mainstream religions follow this model. Tawhid, however, rejects both these forms of morality.
From Tawhid’s point of view, if existence is a projection of the Divine, then it is only natural that human beings would follow the Divine Norm, which is virtue. The virtues are basic, and everyone knows them (patience, humility, generosity, etc.). The problem is that most people think that the virtues are good almost exclusively because they result in outcomes that are considered good. For example, feeding a homeless person out of generosity results in that person no longer feeling the pain of hunger. While this mentality may indeed result in good outcomes, it unfortunately does not fully encompass the logic of virtue.
Virtue is not simply a means to an end, which is why Tawhid does not condone the idea of doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. Virtue happens to be our original nature, which proceeds from our manifestation by way of the All- Encompassing Principle. Consequently, if virtue has usefulness per se, it is to diminish the ego and thereby facilitate knowledge of God’s oneness through goodness towards ourselves and others. Tawhid particularly singles out five cardinal virtues that together constitute the nature and intention of the All-Encompassing Principle: obedience, acumen, humility, forbearance and openness (See more details under “Tawhid as Lifestyle”).
We are programmed as a result of our Divine Origin to be attracted to virtue. Being naturally attracted to virtue in turn means that we automatically associate the notion of virtue with beauty. Whenever you feel touched from seeing someone perform a virtuous act, it is because of your attraction to the meaning of the action. You are literally witnessing beauty.
Thus, whereas western systems would have you believe that virtue is good just because it results in good outcomes, Tawhid tells you that virtue is in fact your original nature and an indispensable part of the return to the Origin. The practice of virtue is the path to oneness with God’s Will.
God’s Will and Yours
Tawhid does not embrace fatalism nor does it posit total free will. Although this seeming ambiguity may not be satisfying from a philosophical point of view, we nonetheless know without doubt from our daily experiences that there are things within our control and things outside of our control. Because existence is a manifestation of God’s Will, God contains everything and He wills innumerable things, but he does not ‘accept’ evil. Man’s choices, whether good or evil, complement God’s Will in terms of cause and effect, ensuring that karma is always just. The universe is governed by an impeccable order that is perfectly calibrated for this purpose.
It is also important to understand what freedom is. The vulgar notion of freedom is the ability to undertake any course of action desired regardless of the motivation. This is not freedom. In fact, undertaking an action inspired by a base intention is considered a form of enslavement because the subject’s lack of awareness of thehigher good in such a situation compels him toward thoughtless and ignorant actions.
Freedom is being free from the negative tendencies of the ego that separate the individual from God. It is a feeling of inward release conditioned by proximity to the Divine. One Druze writer aptly described it as “holy carefreeness”. Perhaps one of the great ironies of Tawhid is that one must accept God’s Will in order to be free. Thus to pursue Tawhid is to pursue freedom.
The Intellect: Your Connection to God
Druze tradition postulates five human faculties: sense perception, memory, imagination, reason and intellect. It is important to note that reason and intellect are differentiated as two distinct faculties, which is not the case in common modern thought. As we all know, the faculty of reason encompasses analytical, discriminative thought. Tawhid recognizes the indispensable importance of this faculty, but despite its explanatory power, reason by itself fails to convey a sense of personal purpose or meaning. Enter the intellect, the highest of all faculties, which we have previously referred to as “pristine awareness”.
The intellect constitutes "seeing things as they are", by developing a deeply intuitive understanding of human nature and the ability to objectively observe one's surroundings without personal or emotional attachment. This intellect, which corresponds to a high degree of self-awareness that is in tune with the psychological dynamic of virtue and vice, is the most direct link between human consciousness and the All-Encompassing Principle. In other words, your intellect is the All- Encompassing Principle that resides within you.
It is difficult to aptly and concisely sum up the activity of the All-Encompassing Principle through the faculty of intellect. Perhaps the closest term would be ‘existential insight’. By fully integrating the five virtues of the All-Encompassing Principle, the subject attains the heightened awareness that allows him to understand the meaning of things as they happen to him, without resorting to the analytical processes of reason or the judgmental formulations of opinion. The result is a clarity of mind that is unrivaled by the other faculties. The development of the intellect may be seen by some as an optional exercise, perhaps even trivial, but its importance cannot be overstated. As previously highlighted, the perception of 'randomness', the idea that something could happen without a discernible meaning or purpose, is deeply jarring to the human psyche. The five virtues of the All- Encompassing Principle are prescribed precisely because they are good for you. The heightened awareness to which they contribute allows for the perception of meaning that is crucial for your psychological well-being.
The development of the intellect is also the cardinal trait of the Mowahhid and the unifying element among all Mowahhideen since the intellect is strictly speaking none other than the one will of the All-Encompassing Principle. The intellect is the only faculty that cannot be individualized or tailored to individual circumstances. This is the meaning of Plato’s seemingly enigmatic quote: “Your friend is none other than yourself in a different body”.
People nowadays spend a great deal of time and effort to find a sense of purpose or to manufacture their own brand of meaning, but such an endeavor is not needed. God in his inexhaustible generosity never ceases to instill insight into those who achieve clarity of mind. To this end, the laws that govern our universe constitute a system of abstraction that is calibrated to convey meaning to those who train themselves to listen. Existence is ultimately a grand conspiracy of knowledge.
The Illusory Nature of Evil and the Elusive Interplay of Intellect and Ego
What is evil? There are probably as many different interpretations and understandings of evil as there are religions. Before we delve into the Druze perspective, let us first deal with the rubbish. Evil is not an army of red demons that must be repelled by an army of white angels; nor is it Satan possessing an innocent soul to force it into perverse behavior; nor is it someone having a bad day, week or life because they received the 'evil eye'. Tawhid considers all of this to be complete and utter nonsense. Evil is indeed real, but you will only ever experience it in human form.
In order to fathom the Druze understanding of evil, we must recount in more detail the process of Origination that is responsible for our reality:
There is the Absolute, which we usually call God. The Absolute is utterly transcendent; it has no attributes or characteristics and is unknowable, to the point of contradiction (we just referred to it as transcendent to try to understand it). The Absolute initiates the supreme cause, which is akin to total, unadulterated awareness and its associated ability, the pure power of the will. This all encompassing, supremely aware power is God’s Will (the “All-Encompassing Principle”).
All of existence proceeds as a projection of God’s Will in real time through the laws of the universe, which are everywhere and always calibrated to serve His Will. In terms of intention (what His Will actively manifests), the All- Encompassing Principle is characterized by the five virtues: obedience, acumen, humility, forbearance and openness.
However, at the initiation of God’s Will something inevitable happens: the Principle becomes self-aware. In realizing and understanding His own goodness as defined by the virtues, the All-Encompassing Principle must also become aware of their opposite, the vices which constitute evil. From this realization of His opposite nature springs forth the ego, which is defined by limited, fragmentary vision- the anti-thesis of the supreme awareness of the Principle.
There are two very important things that must be understood from this process. The first is that because of its role as the supreme cause, the Principle’s goodness (the virtues) represents the de facto ‘mode’ of existence, the underlying substance defining it and the over-arching intention driving it. If the Good represents the substance, then Evil as its opposite can therefore only be defined by its lack thereof, or nothingness. The vices can only be understood as the absence of the virtues, and not vice versa.
The relativity of the vices in relation to the virtues, which are in turn indistinguishable from the absolute awareness of the Principle, is extraordinarily important because it means that the integration of the virtues leads to the attainment of existential knowledge while the adoption of the vices leads to the acquisition of illusory, misleading notions; hence the definition of the ego as fragmentary and limited understanding.
The second essential thing to know is that the interaction between good and evil does not take place in some far off celestial realm or in the distant past. The self awareness of the Principle that produces the ego happens in the present and its stage is the human psyche. Human beings as a species are special because they possess what Tawhid refers to as “subtle” intelligence, a high capacity for nuance that can intuitively detect the differing shades of virtue and vice being acted out in a given scenario as it unfolds.
In previous sections, we have explained that we refer to the activity of the All- Encompassing Principle through human consciousness as the intellect. The intellect is the faculty associated with clarity of mind and the highly intuitive perception of meaning, which can only be achieved through adoption of the virtues. This is the natural sequence of causation for the production and acquisition of existential knowledge, in which the supreme awareness and will responsible for universal manifestation is indistinguishable from the characteristics that define it.
When the Mowahhid attains the heightened awareness of the intellect, he experiences a piercing insight into himself and his surroundings (the Truth) that is deeply gratifying. “Appreciative acumen” is thus born within him, and he is duly rewarded: he comes to understand that existence, virtue and beauty are all one and the same thing. We can call this realization the ‘divine epiphany’, the point at which the individual is so attuned to the divine presence through his absorption of Truth that his consciousness becomes flooded with the perception of beauty. The Mowahhid becomes luminous- he shines with contentment, confidence and benevolence, the closest to “God’s image” that a human being can come. In a nutshell, Heaven. As a Mowahhid, it is essential for you to know that the perception of Truth and the perception of beauty are two sides of the same coin. Tawhid does not make any distinction between these two experiences.
Now let us return to evil. By now you have deduced that evil is the adoption of vices by human beings, and that we collectively sum up their activity as the ego. However, a contradiction remains: if evil is truly ‘nothing’, characterized purely by the absence of the omnipresent Good, how can we say that it is real? The short answer is that the nature of evil resembles that of an illusion. Take the example of a hallucinating person. Hallucinations are both real and unreal. They are real in that the behavior of the individual is affected by the hallucination, but unreal in that the object of the hallucination is fictional. Tawhid similarly treats evil as an illusion and the evil person as mentally imbalanced because the practice of evil rests on a false perception, that the Good is absent, which is impossible according to the principle of Origination described above.
This treatment of evil sets us up to understand the psychology of evil in human beings. Tawhid relentlessly requests the individual to acknowledge the wisdom of things as they happen to him, either by clearly seeing the meaning of them or trusting that they will know the meaning in the future by God’s grace. When the individual refuses to trust in the wisdom of the situation in which he finds himself, he creates his own meaning for what he would like the truth to be. This action represents the primary vice of disobedience that is directly equated to false perception. Deep down, however, the violator knows that he has perceived wrongly.
Torn between his stubbornly proud disobedience and his natural intuition towards the Good, the second vice of the ego surfaces: confusion. Robbed of the confidence that comes from certitude and trustfulness, the individual then resorts to the third vice of the ego to mask his sense of insecurity: arrogance. Yet it is only a matter of time before all that confusion and insecurity weighs so heavily on the individual that it explodes into the fourth vice, foolish anger. And finally, after undergoing the disappointment that such a process must necessarily entail, the individual succumbs to the final vice of the ego, the suspicion and bitterness of cynicism. This is the sequential nature of evil- a pathetic downward psychological spiral that has no substance and is ultimately nothing because it all goes back to the lie that the individual tells himself in denying the omnipresent Good.
Of all the stories that capture the Druze perspective of the ‘nothingness’ of evil, none does it better than the story of the Prophet Job (Nabi Ayyoub). For millennia, biblical scholars have puzzled over the meaning of the story of Job. Why would a merciful and compassionate God let Satan have his way with Job, a virtuous man whose torture at the hands of Satan seemingly defies justification? The story of Job is so perplexing because its moral logic is ultimately counterintuitive for the Abrahamic faiths. In the traditional view of the monotheistic religions, evil is a force to be reckoned with. Evil is an actual threat to the Good- a distinct entity whose characteristics could possibly overcome the Good. Confusion for the reader in such a context is normal: in addition to appearing harsh, what if God’s giving Satan license to go after Job actually allows him to turn Job against God?
For the Mowahhid, the allegorical understanding of Job’s predicament removes all mystery: the moral of Job is that evil is a powerless non-entity. Satan’s victory was never a possible outcome because there was never a moment in the entire episode where Satan was in control of the situation. God knew that Job would never waver in his trust, which means that Satan’s loss was pre-figured no matter what route he took in attempting to sow doubt in Job’s mind toward God. It all happened in accordance with God’s purpose: to fully display the powerlessness and futility of evil; and since Job never wavered in his trust of the Good, strictly speaking he never felt worse off during all his trials, making his apparent suffering inconsequential.
This is Tawhid’s understanding of Job. The story of Job only has shock value if it is taken literally: some autonomous force outside of God’s Will, in this case a nasty devil, inflicting damage on Job through its own will with its own powers. In Tawhid’s rendition, Satan symbolically represents the vice of cynicism, and its failure to prevail in any way in the story is meant to make us understand that it is nothing more than the perceived absence of the Good rather than a force that compels. Job chooses the Good because he knows there can be nothing else. Anyone who doubts this allegorical understanding of Satan should recall that his name in Arabic is ‘Iblis’, which comes from the classical Arabic verb ‘balasa’, ‘to despair’, the indisputable spiritual byproduct of the vices.
The Universe as an Extension of the Divine Will
Up until now we have focused on the relation between the All-Encompassing Principle and human perception, but we have not touched upon the relation between the All-Encompassing Principle and the infinite array of natural phenomena that we collectively label the universe. As we have previously noted, the process of Origination takes place in the present and is repeated indefinitely so that its byproduct, existence, is an infinite time series continuously projected by the Divine Will without beginning or end. Existence is thus fundamentally timeless in addition to it being fundamentally one by virtue of its projection from one source.
However according to Tawhid, it is also the case that the inevitable self-realization of the All-Encompassing Principle that produces the ego is the source of all duality, which is the pre-requisite for the differentiation that we perceive as the phenomena of the universe. How does this process work? We can understand it from the bottom up: through the laws that govern the universe, we understand it as being composed of multiple phenomena, but phenomena are not possible without differentiation.
The laws of physics serve to differentiate and thereby produce phenomena. Differentiation in turn is not possible without the conception of duality, and the origin of duality is the seminal self-realization of the All-Encompassing Principle, which necessarily creates the sense of “what is” and “what is not”. The universe with all its laws and phenomena “cascade down” from this activity.
This is the Druze rendition of the Big Bang, in which the infinite forms and phenomena of the universe explode from the subtlest act of differentiation possible, awareness of virtue and vice. Existence then proceeds in the present from the subtlest (virtuous intent) down to the less subtle (abstract natural laws, logical precepts, mathematical concepts, etc.) and finally congeals so to speak into the coarse (physical matter, energy, sense perception, etc).
Thus, while our consciousness and the physical world around us may be the result of the interaction of the myriad laws of the universe, the differentiated nature of those laws springs forth from the duality emanated by the self-realization of the highest awareness, the All-Encompassing Principle; and unlike the common scientific understanding of the Big Bang as an inorganic and mechanical occurrence, the Principle-induced explosion of form and phenomena is supremely organic and meaningful: a profound and simple oneness intentionally expressing itself as infinite complexity precisely because such a nakedly paradoxical display of Truth could only be perceived as beautiful by the subtle mind, that of the human being.
The more one comes to understand the workings of the universal order, the more one sees that all is so intimately interconnected that “true” differentiation in terms of physical separation is not in fact real. In other words, even the most advanced analytical and experiential examinations of the universe reveal an unavoidable oneness that negates the fundamental differentiation so readily apparent at first. Thus, all the differentiation and phenomena, along with their respective laws, almost seem illusory because the subtle yet more deeply apparent oneness of existence hints that there is only The Law, the agency of the All-Encompassing Principle.
Tawhid teaches that God has blessed humanity with continuous life through the phenomenon of reincarnation. The Mowahhid therefore does not spend an inordinate amount of time contemplating his mortality, and he certainly does not fear the illusory specter of non-existence. However, it may be asked why human beings must undergo the periodic process of rebirth instead of simply possessing only one body indefinitely which would not age or perish (i.e. "Living forever"). The answer can be summed up in two words: cynicism and narcissism.
Unfortunately, human beings, through their own choices, have a high potential for picking up these vices. Not every experience in life makes you cynical, but even those individuals who reach great heights in the adoption of virtue accumulate traces of cynicism over their lifetimes. Likewise, human beings also have great potential for thinking highly of themselves even when they don't deserve it (narcissism).
One of the primary functions of reincarnation is that it "wipes the slate clean". It serves as the mechanism through which previous experiences, especially those in which the individual entertained cynical and narcissistic thoughts, are erased from memory. A person's character is still largely shaped by choices made in previous lives, but through erasing past experiences reincarnation gives the individual the chance to overcome previously acquired tendencies and resolve to change himself for the better.
Reincarnation is therefore much like a partial re-do. With enough partial re-dos, you can incrementally turn yourself into a highly virtuous, spiritually enlightened person on your journey to oneness with God's Will. Alternatively, we can imagine a world of "living forever" without the regenerative process of rebirth: most people would become increasingly cynical and narcissistic indefinitely, a never-ending process of accumulating psychological baggage that could only end in mental illness or insanity, which for Tawhid is the true meaning of Hell.
Thus, reincarnation represents a continual process of cleansing and humbling that is good for you. This does not mean you need to celebrate death. It simply means that you should treat death with the sober respect that it deserves as a natural phenomenon. Remember- there is no such thing as a natural phenomenon that exists without God intending it to exist, and God only intends the good.
Who Are the Mowahhideen?
When examining the three big monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), one notices that the focus is primarily forward in that a chief concern for their followers is ensuring entry into heaven and avoiding hell. Tawhid also has a conception of the end of our current cycle. However, considering the reality of reincarnation and that a person’s character is the result of many lifetimes of experiences, then the ‘million-dollar question’ is what everyone was like in the beginning.
The fact of the matter is that humanity has passed through spiritual ups and downs over the ages, and that spiritual journey is a large part of who we are. Unfortunately, humanity has undergone periods of spiritual decay in which egotism became more pronounced and we consequently separated ourselves from the Divine Will and its virtuous norms. We became convinced that meaning was our own to create rather than understanding ourselves as receptacles and transmitters of meaning from the higher will, the All-Encompassing Principle. Consequently, we lost the ability to behold the Divine presence within ourselves and in our surroundings.
This is where religion comes in. Religion was brought forth by God’s messengers as a tool to discipline peoples’ minds so that they would be open to receiving metaphysical truth. Human beings developed such deep-seated egotistical tendencies that religion became necessary to forestall them from worshipping material goods, from interpreting the fleeting nature of individual objects as an injunction to seek physical self-preservation at all costs, and from generally losing sight of the fundamental oneness of existence, all of which would lead to spiritual decay, unhappiness and mental deterioration. The bottom line is that mankind was and is in need of teaching to obtain knowledge.
Of course, religion does not exist simply for the sake of performing rituals. Tawhid teaches that there were always people who were able to grasp the inner meanings of ritualistic religions. For them, the rituals were just a disciplinary stepping- stone to humble themselves so that they could understand deeper metaphysical truths. In Egypt in the eleventh century, matters finally came to a head. The "founders" of what we know as the Druze faith announced that it was time for those spiritually enlightened people to shed ritualistic religion, and begin to live a form of faith devoted to the attainment of metaphysical truth and the behavioral habits necessary for such attainment.
These people were and are the Mowahhideen. Over many lifetimes, they have learned to internalize things that others could not. At the heart of the differences between the Mowahhid and the non-Mowahhid is the conception of divinity. The non-Mowahhid has spent many lifetimes accustoming himself to a mainly anthropomorphic conception of God (i.e. a person with supernatural powers, and more importantly, one limited by virtue of his separation from his creation). For the non-Mowahhid, God is ‘the other’. In other words, “there is me, and there is God”.
The Mowahhid, on the other hand, accustomed himself to God as the "non-numerical One". God is one not just because there is only one of Him; He is one because nothing exists except for God, in accordance with the principle of Origination discussed earlier. For the Mowahhid, subscription to the All-Encompassing Principle and his norms is the only path to realization of oneness with the Divine Origin (see “Tawhid as Lifestyle” below).
To a non-Mowahhid, the concept of Origination would probably seem like an intellectually fascinating idea. After all, it means that existence is fundamentally good and that there is nothing inherently evil in matter. On the other hand, though, it comes with heavy implications, namely that existence is by nature both justice and mercy, one big karmic wheel where everyone always gets what they deserve and that this destiny is for their own good. It requires an extraordinary amount of patience and humility for someone to accept this. In fact, it is impossible to fully accept it without deeply internalizing God's immanence, which the Mowahhideen have been doing persistently and diligently over many lifetimes. The reward, however, is reaching the peace of mind associated with the state of oneness with God's Will.
Thus, the Muwahideen, as a result of their spiritual journey, are making their way back to the primordial state of purity, through the realization of knowledge that they knew all along, but that they had forgotten a long time ago.
A Fellowship Both Timely and Timeless
The writings of Tawhid make it clear that the community of Mowahhideen constitutes a fellowship, which is a group of like- minded equals working together towards a common goal. Egalitarianism is thus an essential cornerstone of Druze social structures, with each Mowahhid seeing himself in other Mowahhideen through their shared values. This egalitarianism extends across the sexes. Women are expected to reach the same heights of spiritual maturity as men, if not greater. A woman who reaches a high degree of spiritual enlightenment is sought for her insight and as a role model by men and women alike. A person’s spiritual ‘rank’ is thus determined by common communal recognition of his or her integration of the virtues, devotion to the community and attainment of Tawhid’s wisdom.
Tawhid discourages the formation of rigid, hierarchical religious structures with formal titles and specially created positions for two reasons. First, hierarchies have a tendency to produce rivalry and conflict between those who occupy positions of authority within them, and to sow alienation between those at the top of the ladder and those at the bottom. These fissures have been amply documented across religious and secular hierarchies alike, from the Roman Catholic Church to the United States Government. Second, structured hierarchies promote title worship and an excessive focus on procedural issues. Both of these behaviors distract the individual’s attention away from the pursuit of wisdom, and Tawhid is nothing if not the pursuit of wisdom. Rather than developing complex organizational and ritualistic structures that must evolve over time, Tawhid sets forth a very specific set of principles and prescriptions that are essential to the spiritual formation of the individual Mowahhid and the wider fellowship regardless of the societal landscape or historical epoch they inhabit (see Tawhid as Lifestyle below).
However, one aspect of the fellowship of Tawhid that strikes many as peculiar is its closed nature. Many observers both within and outside the faith find it difficult to understand why the Druze do not accept converts. It should be understood that this closed position is not a matter of policy: the Druze have not adopted it for furthering their exclusivity as a group nor out of any practical consideration. It arises from a philosophical point, namely that Tawhid considers the very notion of conversion to be unconvincing because of its transactional nature.
According to Tawhid, an individual’s spiritual formation and identity is an evolutionary process that occurs incrementally over many lifetimes. Every thought and every action that the individual has undertaken over those lifetimes is imprinted upon his character- he is the sum of all of it. Thus, while we all have a certain degree of free will, the idea of a deeply genuine but rapid transformation of identity (conversion) is not very convincing. Conversion is primarily promoted in religions that emphasize outward displays of rituals because rituals can be adopted immediately.
Historians of the Druze faith have frequently painted the ‘beginning’ of the religion a thousand years ago in Egypt as a mass conversion, a twenty-year enrollment period in which anyone who happened to like the new religion during that brief period signed up. This is not correct. What happened a thousand years ago was a call (dawa in Arabic) to those individuals who had reached a level of spiritual development from previous lifetimes that allowed them to accept the final understanding of metaphysical truth that we call Tawhid. This call was supposed to reach all the people who had achieved that stage of development and only those people.
Upon affirming their readiness to commit to this final understanding of Truth (i.e. the famous covenant that we all signed), these people, the Mowahhideen, then continued their spiritual development in their newfound fellowship. All the Mowahhideen today are the same people who undertook that commitment a thousand years ago. Thus, to be clear, the Druze refuse converts not because non- Mowahhideen lack the intelligence to understand the faith’s concepts but because their differing spiritual trajectory renders them unable to fully accept and internalize to the core of their being Tawhid in its entirety
Tawhid as Lifestyle
While understanding the fundamental concepts of Tawhid is essential to any Mowahhid’s spiritual journey, the fact of the matter is that Tawhid is not mere philosophy. It is an active way of life predicated on knowledge of truth. Everything that you have read so far has minimal value-added without incorporating what you will read below.
The five cardinal virtues of the All-Encompassing Principle and the seven admonitions elaborated below together constitute the keys to the Garden of Eden. The virtues cover character dispositions while the admonitions prescribe behaviors. The Mowahhid who successfully masters the admonitions and fully integrates the virtues into his being will experience the utmost excellence of his humanity. The stranglehold of the ego will be broken, and he will behold the comforting truth.
The Five Virtues
The first virtue of the All-Encompassing Principle is obedience, which in the context of Tawhid is indistinguishable from a deeply sincere love of God. Its outward effect on the individual is devotion to spiritual betterment. Its opposite comprises the chief vice of the ego, stubborn disobedience.
The second virtue is acumen, which translates into the ability to read people and situations with certitude in order to discern between good and evil and make appropriate choices. The development of your acumen in turn rests on the adoption of the three virtues listed below. Its opposite is the second vice of the ego, confusion.
The third virtue is humility, whose primary outward effect is generosity towards others. At the heart of actualizing humility is the practice of empathy, which inspires you to put others before yourself by seeing yourself in them. Its opposite is the third vice of the ego, arrogance.
The fourth virtue is forbearance, which in turns expresses itself through equanimity, the ability to stay calm under pressure. Patience and composure are the keys to combating over-emotional states, most notably anger, which is both practically unproductive and psychologically damaging and draining. Forbearance also entails bearing other peoples’ faults patiently, even when one knows that he is right. The opposite of forbearance is the fourth vice of the ego, foolishness (think the foolishness of getting angry or losing one’s temper).
Finally we come to the fifth virtue, openness. Openness in the context of Tawhid is our personal willingness to adopt the above virtues and keep them in balance. Such openness requires a certain trust in the fundamental goodness of existence by virtue of it being a manifestation of God’s Will. Openness’s opposite is hardness of heart, which manifests itself as jadedness or cynicism. The less ‘open’ or accepting an individual’s character, the less likely he will integrate the previous four virtues. His cynical view of the world compels him to judge his surroundings negatively, mistrust others’ intentions, and generally assume the worst in those around him.
The Seven Admonitions
Truthfulness in Tongue and Intent
If Tawhid is knowledge, which in turn is predicated on truth, then it should come as no surprise that truthfulness in tongue and intent is the first of the seven admonitions. Unfortunately, this is also by far and away the hardest admonition to master. Few of us lie with malicious intent on a regular basis. But how many of us tell white lies to avoid difficult situations? How many of us speak in tones that mask our true intentions or feelings? How many of us have done the right things but for the wrong reasons? Worse still, how many of us find it difficult to admit that we are wrong, or that we are not as good as the way we project ourselves to others?
Dishonesty takes many forms. Furthermore, the more subtle or diplomatic a person’s subterfuges, the more an indication it is of their skill in the game of dishonesty. Each individual act of dishonesty may seem trivial, but it adds up, and before you know it, a whole day or week has gone by without anyone seeing the real you (including yourself). As if that is not oppressive enough, dishonesty has other unintentional consequences for your own identity. It is not a coincidence that dishonest people tend to assume others as dishonest, while truthful people tend to give others the benefit of the doubt. Your character is the lens through which you perceive others. You may fool someone through dishonesty but the person who actually gets transformed is you.
Truthfulness is also the supreme ego-buster. Those who train themselves to be truthful are in fact training themselves to recognize that the truth is an end in itself that supersedes their relatively insignificant and selfish needs and desires. Trusting in the plain and simple goodness of truth guards against the jaded spiritual rut of the dishonest. In perhaps the greatest and certainly most veracious line ever written in literary history, Russian writer Leo Tolstoy summed it all up: “There is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness and truth.”
Safeguarding Brothers and Sisters
There is a very good reason why safeguarding your fellow Mowahhideen is ranked as the second of the seven admonitions: Tawhid is not a solitary path. It maintains that expending and sacrificing on behalf of others is a vital and necessary component in subjugating the ego. Putting others before yourself prepares you to put God before yourself. Furthermore, Tawhid is a fellowship, a group journey throughout which the Mowahhideen learn from one another through their words, deeds and behaviors. The prescription to safeguard fellow Mowahhideen is thus a most practical one: it affords the Mowahhid the opportunity to break down the ego and to learn from others.
Tawhid’s concept of fellowship among the Mowahhideen does not preclude you from behaving virtuously towards non- Mowahhideen. In fact, it mandates virtuosity towards non-Mowahhideen because the practice of virtue helps subjugate the ego no matter who it is aimed at. However, Tawhid is also emphatic that like attracts like. The same way that you spend time with friends that have common interests, your spiritual life will naturally focus on people who have the same worldview and spiritual inclinations as you. Focusing your attention on fellow Mowahhideen is not an act of selfishness aimed at excluding others; it is nothing more than your inherent inclination to be with people who are like you. In fact, he who denies his inclination for like-minded people condemns himself to estrangement from others.
Our daily setting in well-integrated and multicultural societies means that we will develop personal connections with Mowahhideen and non-Mowahiddeen alike over our lifetimes, which is normal. However, your connection to the Mowahhideen constitutes a long spiritual journey that transcends this lifetime. You will not remember whom your best friend or your favorite coworker was in the next life, but the Mowahhideen do have a shared destiny that conspires to bring them together from one life to the next.
Tawhid’s conception of marriage follows this same logic. The purpose of marriage is not simply to spend leisure time with someone you love or to have children. It is also to be with someone who can help you to better understand and internalize Tawhid, which is any Mowahhid’s top priority. As mentioned, Tawhid insists that the path to divine unity is impossible alone. It can only be done as a group effort. At the heart of this group effort is the unit of marriage, which pairs two spiritually likeminded people, two Mowahhideen.
Renunciation of Idolatry and Paganism
Does this admonition seem outdated? After all, who nowadays bows down before statues or believes that there are a bunch of scattered gods doing their own things? If these are your ideas of idolatry and paganism, then you are probably right that this admonition would be out of date in a modern society. However, the admonition goes much deeper than that. Consider this question: is there a substantive difference in motivation between someone who venerates the statue of a god and someone who is enamored with a brand new luxury car he bought? Are they both not placing undue importance into what are nothing more than clumps of matter, or seeing status in agglomerations of atoms? Traditional religion focuses on statues and other physical religious objects as manifestations of idolatry, but Tawhid maintains that all attachment to worldly objects constitutes idolatry.
Idolatry is as alive and well today as it was thousands of years ago. Today it comes in the forms of materialism, celebrity worship, and, of course, the classic king of all idolatries: vanity or worship of the self. If all this is idolatry, then you can take the next logical step to understand what paganism is. It is being in love with a multitude of possessions, much the same way the ancients divided their adoration between a sun god, a moon god, a god of war, etc. What is important to note is that the images have changed but the behaviors have not.
In our discussion of the ego, we highlighted its tendency to see inherent value in objects that in fact have no value in and of themselves when we put them in the context of a wider perspective. Engaging in a sober moment of self-awareness would reveal to anyone the absurdity of the notion that one must have this or that thing. If all is one and all proceeds from God’s Will, then does it really matter whether you get the blue car or the red car?
Tawhid’s goal is not to condition you to hate your possessions, but to see the real purpose of matter. The Mowahhid’s acceptance of reincarnation rests on the rule that it is impossible for a person’s consciousness (his “soul”) to be aware without inhabiting a physical form (the body). What this means is that the realization of knowledge is impossible without matter. In other words, the physical world exists so that we can know. Alternatively, when you place personal importance in an object, you are diverting your attention towards nothingness. Rather than knowing, you have concentrated your energy on forming an attachment for no good reason. Matter is ultimately meant to serve the mind, not to entrance it.
Renunciation of Satanic and Tyrannical Influences
The wording of this admonition may seem dramatic, but all it is advising us to do is to avoid the people and situations that bring out the worst in us. The second admonition previously highlighted enjoins us to look out for the physical and spiritual well being of our brothers and sisters, but once again, Tawhid also asks us to be reasonable in our assessments. The sad truth of the matter is that there are people who through their many misdeeds and jaded thoughts in previous lives have built up characters that would be difficult to change short of a miracle. Tawhid wants you to avoid those who would derail your path to divine unity, and a key to doing so is to differentiate between those who can be helped and those who cannot.
While this may seem politically incorrect, understand that unless you have developed strong will power and a high degree of self-awareness, others’ negative behaviors and sentiments will rub off on you. If you were to force yourself to constantly spend time with those for whom you do not care, you would find to your great dismay gradual adoption of their behaviors. In terms of compatibility, a person who is exceedingly selfless, patient and humble cannot regularly share company with someone who selfish, emotionally unstable and arrogant. Inevitably, the former will suffer the abuse of the latter, and the latter will interpret the former’s goodness as a “holier-than-thou” attitude that will push him further towards bitterness and obstinacy. It’s a lose-lose situation.
If the above covers the “satanic”, then what is the “tyrannical”? As mentioned previously, the pursuit of Tawhid entails freedom from the negative forces of the ego that weigh down the individual spiritually, emotionally and even physically. It naturally follows then that the ego is tyranny over the self. Selfishness, anger, fear and arrogance all conspire to block the awareness and peace of mind that constitute true freedom (remember “holy carefreeness”). Satan is not a tyrannical red devil; Satan is the fall from grace that blinds you to the truth.
Belief in Tawhid of Our Lord in Every Age and Stage
This admonition is relatively straightforward in that it reminds us that there was never a time in which God was not one or a time in which the reality of that all encompassing oneness was purposefully hidden from us. It also asks us to take responsibility for our ignorance. Is your inability to perceive God’s Will the result of His absence or the result of an over- bearing ego clouding your sense of what is real? In order to experience Tawhid as direct experiential knowledge (see “What is the ego”), one must first integrate the virtues and admonitions previously mentioned. Otherwise, the world will continue to appear to you as a specter of meaninglessness filled with seemingly random occurrences. This admonition asks you to get back on track by acknowledging God’s eternal oneness and adopting the norms to internalize that oneness.
Acceptance of God’s Divine Acts – Submission to God’s Will in Public and Private
The last two admonitions of Tawhid, alternatively known as “contentment and surrender”, constitute a reminder for us to contentedly accept our limitations. Yes, we have free will, but we also live in a place called the universe, which is an infinitely larger manifestation of the All-Encompassing Principle that dwarfs our puny actions. The fact of the matter is that the immanent-transcendent reality forms the perfect basis for accepting God’s Will, which is what it really means to “worship” God. His immanence within all there is, including ourselves, fosters a sense of intimacy while his absolute transcendence inspires deep respect. It is like being in the presence of a parent whose combination of unconditional love and awareness of things beyond your knowledge irresistibly commands obedience. In the context of Tawhid, “surrender” is the fruit of “contentment”. The latter feeds the former.
Now, understand that acceptance of God’s Will is not an invitation to complacency or laziness in serving others or bettering yourself. It is simply a call to reasonably discern and accept what is within your power and what is out of your power. This is an especially important exercise for those of us who live in societies that encourage us to have grand ambitions and to define ourselves by the grandeur of those ambitions. When one learns to understand where his own will ends and where God’s begins, he cannot feel guilty for shortfalls in achievement or performance because he knows that he did all he could reasonably do.
All this may beg the question of how one comes to know where this boundary of wills lies. Ultimately, it is a matter of self- awareness rather than a precise calculation or a fixed formula. Only knowledge of the self teaches one his limitations. How does one achieve maximum self-awareness? Through integration of the five cardinal virtues of the All- Encompassing Principle and previous admonitions elaborated above. The virtues and admonitions form the antidote to the negative tendencies of the ego and its concomitant lack of awareness. Once liberated, the self becomes a repository of unadulterated knowledge, a mirror reflecting truth without distortion.
Conclusion: Heaven and Hell
Up until now we have discussed how the seven admonitions and the five virtues together constitute the vehicle towards a higher level of awareness that perceives meaning from and oneness with God’s Will, a state which can only be referred to as heaven. Following elaboration of the five vices, you should also now know what hell is. Imagine yourself feeling stubborn, confused, condescending, angry and mistrustful all at the same time. Feel disgusted? You just got a glimpse of hell. As far as Tawhid is concerned, to experience the five vices is to experience insanity. Chaos permeates the mind; it loses the perspective of timeless oneness, becoming convinced that there is some sort of urgency to life, as if we are running out of time or as if someone may take away what is rightfully ours; in fact, someone intensely suffering from the five vices would most likely appear schizophrenic to us in terms of his visible behavior.
By now it should be clear that the key to happiness is to love God and trust in the goodness of existence because God is the source of your being and all being, not in some distant past, but right now. Heaven is witnessing the Divine Presence that is within you and all around you, constantly conspiring to grace you with meaning as long as you are open to receiving it. One last personal tip with this in mind: think less and observe more; give up trying to create meaning and give yourself up to receiving it from our spiritual archetype, the All-Encompassing Principle. Meaning is not yours to create. It is yours to behold and to pass on to others by way of what is both the carrier and the content: virtue.
Tawhid in the Modern Age
As is the case for many other religions, the modern age, especially the last half century, has brought with it some challenges for the practice of Tawhid. It should be made clear that the notion of modernity does not pose any threat to Tawhid because Tawhid is the Truth and will continue to be the Truth regardless of humanity’s path of development. The quiet, steady faith of a single Mowahhid holds more value than all the noisy, hollow ideologies that are blared across the globe for their short-lived heydays.
Fortunately, most of the developments of the modern age represent convenient improvements to our day-to-day living that do not violate Tawhid’s values. There are, however, some challenges that should be discussed. In addition, those who live in modern societies far away from the traditional Druze village may need clarification on some aspects of the faith and the community’s structure. What follows are brief explanations and comments on selected issues of importance.
The Importance of Modesty
In our modern society, self-promotion and vanity have all but been elevated to the rank of virtues. Self-promotion, the act of marketing one’s worth explicitly and implicitly to gain the approval of others, is now considered a model behavior in competitive work places, to be replicated by all who seek success. Complementing self-promotion is vanity, which has been euphemized in all sorts of ways (“dressing to impress”, “taking care of yourself”…). While one can argue the secular merits of self-promotion and vanity, the fact of the matter is that they fly in the face of modesty, which is a form of humility, that indispensable foundation of a virtue for the realization of Tawhid.
Perhaps the nastiest lie in common circulation these days is the idea that self promotion and vanity are character- building components that reinforce the individual’s confidence: We must promote our accomplishments so that people will appreciate us; or we can make ourselves feel better by looking really good. If this is your view, then keep in mind that it is only a matter of time before you find yourself repeatedly wondering if people still appreciate you or think you are good enough. This is the constant practice of self-objectification and valuation fed by the ego, which we discussed previously. By contrast, truly confident people do not feel the need to self-promote precisely because their profound peace with themselves renders them immune to the fleeting recognition that vain self-promoters seek.
One must also understand that modesty is not a rigid dress code or set of rules, but an intention that springs forth from humility. Whenever one puts on clothing or engages in a certain behavior, he knows very well how modestly he is behaving through the barometer of his conscience. Sometimes modesty calls for conforming to a group, while other times it requires going beyond social norms. One should also have the humility to openly admit that others are more modest than he is. To embrace those among us who are genuinely modest without pretense is in turn a supreme act of humility.
The Rise of Self-Righteous Indignation
We live in an era of activism. Not only do people feel empowered to take up causes they judge as noble, but they do so with an eye to making their points as loudly as possible. Of course, there is nothing wrong with striving for a noble cause. The problem is that the rise of activism has also seen the rise of a behavior most aptly described as self-righteous indignation. Self-righteous indignation occurs when someone is so passionately convinced of their cause’s righteousness that it leads them to experience intense feelings of disappointment and anger when coming into contact with others with differing views, or with those who simply do not speak the same language that they have deemed politically correct.
Self-righteous indignation is everywhere nowadays, from radical, fundamentalist militant groups that angrily slaughter their way to imposing an ideology, to highly charged political activists who go on television shows designed specifically to encourage belligerent postulation and emotional moralizing between the participants. The world of self-righteous indignation is a frenzied one, in which those who shout, cry, complain and kill the most in the name of a belief are deemed most fit for our attention.
My intention here is not to defame activism, but to spotlight a behavior that has unfortunately accompanied it, and yes, Tawhid has something to say about self righteous indignation. Tawhid encompasses a stoic lifestyle, not a sentimental one. Forbearance, the fourth virtue of the All-Encompassing Principle, is meant precisely to counter behaviors like self- righteous indignation. Even the virtue of obedience, which may seem sentimental because of its deep love of God, is predicated on a sober and humble love. The Mowahhid is therefore not to engage in self-righteous indignation. There is nothing heroic in losing your cool, no matter how noble the cause.
The ‘Uqqal-Juhhal Dichotomy and the Need for Discretion
As all Druze know, traditionally the ranks of the faith have been divided into two camps, the so-called ‘Uqqal (“enlightened” sheikhs devoted to learning and practicing Tawhid to the fullest extent) and the ‘Juhhal’ (“ignorant” laypeople familiar with the general principles of the faith who led a less intensely devoted life). I have intentionally avoided the use of the terms ‘theocratic’ and ‘secular’ because of their focus on the role of religion in political systems, a topic which Tawhid does not treat because political processes and structures are irrelevant to the path of unity with the Divine Will.
Despite their close-knit nature, and the fact that some of them do engage in politics, the ‘Uqqal are neither a political interest group nor an ideological faction. The writings of Tawhid refer to the community of Mowahhideen as a ‘fellowship’, a group of like-minded equals working together towards a common goal. The ‘Uqqal are the historical actualization of this fellowship, with Juhhal Druze joining them when they felt spiritually committed and ready to devote themselves to the highest standards of piety. Through their readings of the Books of Wisdom (the writings of Tawhid), their prayers, behavioral code and system of mutual support, the ‘Uqqal believe that their lifestyle constitutes the most effective way to subjugate the ego and reach unity with the All-Encompassing Principle.
The modern age has increased the social disparities between the ‘Uqqal and the Juhhal, sometimes leading to a sense of alienation between the two groups, but that does not change the fact that all Mowahhideen regardless of their camp have the same goal and the same master, the All-Encompassing Principle. The historical relationship between the ‘Uqqal and the Juhhal has always been one of complementarity and mutual support rather than competition. For the Juhhal, those ‘Uqqal who reached a high degree of spiritual enlightenment served as role models of piety that embodied the virtues of the All-Encompassing Principle. Meanwhile, the Juhhal informally served as mediators for the ‘Uqqal with regards to sociopolitical changes, assisting them in coping with a changing societal landscape in ways that did not violate their principles. This has been and should continue to be the relationship between them.
One issue of increasing tension between the ‘Uqqal and the Juhhal has been the practice of discretion in sharing the Books of Wisdom and detailed information about the faith. Some Druze resent the fact that the ‘Uqqal are reluctant to openly share the books and what they know, perceiving it to be an unfair monopoly on knowledge. Such a sentiment is not surprising given that we live in a world in which transparency and the free flow of information are considered basic principles. Much is made of the traditional secrecy of the Druze religion, but without much explanation of where it came from. Yes, that secrecy has served as an effective means for Druze in the Middle East to avoid religious persecution over the centuries, while for those who left the region the low-key character of the faith made it easier to integrate into new societies. However, it must also be understood that the principle of discretion is enshrined in Tawhid for other, more important reasons.
Tawhid prescribes the practice of discretion both because of its positive character implications and because of its usefulness in protecting knowledge. First, discretion is a mark of sincerity and reverence towards Tawhid. Why? Because when something is truly precious to someone, that person’s natural reaction is to guard it from corruption or damage. It’s the reason why parents don’t leave their children unattended in public, why families safeguard irreplaceable heirlooms, and why you take precautions to keep your personal financial information from being leaked. When a Mowahhid discourses openly about the faith without carefully considering to whom or why he is doing so, it’s a sign that he has not fully internalized the precious nature of what he has learned. Some will counter that it is possible to be completely open about something while consciously appreciating its sanctity, to which the answer is yes, only if there is no threat of corruption. This brings us to the next point.
The Books of Wisdom are not a set of stories with readily accessible lessons. The texts are populated with arcane Arabic philosophical terminology that would leave a professor of medieval Islamic philosophy and theology scratching his head. They are rife with symbology, making mistaken interpretations all too easy. This is why the ‘Uqqal closely guard the Books of Wisdom and their study. From Tawhid’s point of view, there is no such thing as freedom of interpretation. You either know something or you don’t know it. If the books or religious information are conveyed to someone who does not have the capacity to respect or to understand them, then the person who conveyed them bears responsibility for the subsequent disrespect done to them and for the misinterpretations that are circulated. For the Mowahhid, the idea of ‘freedom of interpretation’ does not serve as a consolation for corruption of the knowledge of Tawhid.
In response to the growing desire of the Juhhal to learn about their religion- a desire that must be encouraged and met- the Druze community has striven to publish articles and books that explain the faith in ever greater detail and clarity. This process will continue. Given the increasing proliferation of material written by Druze authors for Druze audiences, there is no excuse for any Druze to be ignorant of the most important and substantive aspects of Tawhid. Meanwhile, the ‘Uqqal, with their careful system of apprenticeship for initiating community members into studying the Books of Wisdom, will continue to serve as the reference point for helping us understand what is in those books. Without patience and respect for these processes, the only winner will be confusion.
Proof of God?
With Tawhid holding that God’s presence is timeless and ubiquitous, it may seem strange that no one has been able to ‘prove’ His existence. Western theologians, and many scientists, have puzzled over proof of God’s existence for centuries, with neither analytical reasoning nor the scientific method yielding anything definitive. Although the ‘proof of God’ dilemma has hit religion hard in recent decades, it has never been a theological issue for the Druze. While Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars have wrangled over the issue, the ‘Uqqal have historically not been as concerned.
As with so many other differences between Tawhid and mainstream monotheistic faiths, it boils down to the differing sets of implications that are produced by Origination and Creation. Existence by Origination means that there is no separation between God and human beings because strictly speaking the only ‘being’ is God’s Will. The apparent proliferation of form and phenomena makes us sense multiplicity, a reality built by putting together distinct things, but they are altogether the unified expression of a single agency, much the same way you, as a single person, can have many interconnected ideas or thoughts. Although they can appear as separate entities, ultimately you are your ideas and thoughts. Similarly, the appearance of multiplicity across our universe does not in any way compromise the singular or unified nature of the agency that wills it. Nothing separates the apparent multiple from the unifying One.
Now, the scientific method, in order for it to be effective in understanding a natural phenomenon or a set of phenomena, relies on an essential practice: that the observer of the experiment separate himself from the experiment in such a way that ensures that his presence does not act as a variable influencing the process or results to be observed. Based on this simple premise and in light of the above discussion, it should be clear why the scientific method cannot be utilized to prove God’s existence. If all of existence, including your consciousness, is a projection of God’s Will in real time, then it is impossible to achieve the physical separation necessary to undertake an empirical observation of God.
Empirical observation of God could only be possible within the context of the traditional religious view of divinity, in which the Creator and the Created are fundamentally separate beings. In other words, God is somewhere ‘out there’. For the traditionalists, we have not yet devised the experiments, equipment, or methods to find or prove God; it’s ultimately a failure of ingenuity and intelligence. Tawhid, on the other hand, counters that the inability to ‘see’ God is a failure of perception, which has nothing to do with technological innovation or clever reasoning. It is only the subjugation of the ego and concomitant development of the pristine awareness of the intellect that leads to the direct, intuitive experience of the Divine Will in the seemingly mundane world around us. Interestingly enough, this doctrine also happens to be the reason why Tawhid de-emphasizes the practice of miracle worship. If His presence is timeless, ubiquitous and immanent, why would you be on the lookout for something outlandish or completely unexpected to happen? Your natural course of action would instead be to work on yourself to be able to see what was always there.
The ego-led mind instinctively assigns agency to individual objects and phenomena, resulting in a worldview of competition, conflict and widespread randomness. In such a mindset, it becomes second nature to ask the question “Where is God”? Meanwhile, the ego-less mind, with its tendency toward witnessing interconnectedness and unity rather than separation, perceives a single agency acting behind the mask of multiplicity. Without the ego, the individual senses at one and the same time that his will is aligned with the Divine Will and that his experiences are projected by the Divine Will.
The French philosopher Rene Descartes once coined the famous phrase “I think, therefore I am”. Since then, the concept of the fundamentally distinct nature of the individual has been enshrined in Western philosophy and popular culture. Tawhid’s take is the opposite, but it can be summed up in the same simple format: I perceive, therefore He projects.