People of the Levant (E. Mediterranean)
• Eastern Mediterranean people exhibit a good diversity because of the unique geography -being at the cross point between Asia, Europe & Africa.
• Modern human bones were found in the Levant dating back to the earliest out-of-Africa migrations.
• From historical records, East Mediterranean has seen many migration waves from Arabia; also it was subject to occupation from Egyptians, Hittites, Mesopotamians, Persians, Greeks, Romans…
• Canaanites, Phoenicians, Arameans, Hebrews, Hurrians, Mitanni, Kurds, Armenians, Arabs, North Africans, Crusaders, Turkmen -amongst others- all have left their genetic footprint in the Levant.
• Pre-Islamic Arabian tribes that settled the Levant included: Quda’a قضاعة (e.g. Tanukh تنوخ, Salihids سليح, Bahraa' بهراء, Banu Kalb بنو كلب), Ghassanids الغساسنة (S.W. Syria, N.W. Jordan), Banu Amela عاملة (S. Lebanon), Banu Judham جذام & Lakhm لخم (Jordan/Palestine).
• N. African Berbers settled the Levant subsequent to the Fatimid invasion in the late 10th c. CE; these composed mainly from soldiers in the Fatimid army (who were primarily from the "Kutama" tribe كتامة, the army also included soldiers of Sicilian descent). Later, many more waves of migrations came from North Africa to coastal cities and major inland urban centers. Many Sunni families in the coastal cities; especially those whose ancestors migrated during the Ottoman times, can still trace their lineage to N. Africa (some even to "Al-Andalus").
• Kurdish & Turkmen migrations to the Levant came mostly in the 2nd millennium CE.
Technical Definition of A Druze
Technically, the Druze community is composed of those who are descendants -strictly via direct patrilineal lines- from the clans & families that accepted the Druze faith in 1017-1043 CE (no new adherents to the Faith were allowed after this period).
Druze Genetic Diversity
The Druze community, from a genetic perspective, does fairly represent the genetic profile of E. Mediterranean people around the end of the first millennium CE. This can be attested by the following:
• The Druze community practiced endogamy since inception & greatly discouraged intermarriage with other communities. Having been located mostly in mountainous areas has helped keep their genetic admixture with other groups at minimal levels.
• Having said that, some exogamous marriages/relationships did happen & as a result the mtDNA of the Druze might include later genetic input from external groups (e.g. Crusaders). In effect, it is only males who marry from outside the community are still considered Druze, provided their children & grandchildren stays and marries within the Druze community. As for females, the children of any woman marrying outside the community are not considered to be Druze.
• The DNA studies done on the Druze so far prove their genetic diversity; with Y-DNA haplogroups: (J, E, R, G, L, Q, C, K/T), & mtDNA Haplogroups: (H, K, X, U, T, HV, I, J, L2, M1, N1, W, R0). As for admixture, Druze people show closeness to other Levantine, Anatolian, Cypriot, Armenian, Samaritan, Kurdish, Persian as well as Peoples of the Caucasus.
Ethnic Background & Geographic Distribution
The vast majority of the Druze people assert Arab ancestry -being entirely an Arabic speaking population. However, given the results of the Y-DNA genetic studies, the truth is far more complicated than that. Below is a more detailed commentary that can help shed more light on the geographic distribution & ethnic background of the Druze community:
S. Mount Lebanon (modern Matn, Baabda, Aley & Shouf Districts)
In medieval times, the region was loosely defined as the “Gharb district” (in some contexts it meant roughly only the modern districts of Baabda-Aley. In its current use amongst the Druze, the term refers specifically to the modern Aley district).
• Inhabitants of this region included indigenous people, who were supplemented by my many waves of Arab tribes that migrated from N. Syria (Idlib province) starting in the mid-8th c. CE.
• These waves included clans from “Tanukh” (In the 8th c. CE, "Tanukhids" were mainly centered in "Ma'arrat al-Nu'man" معرة النعمان, Idlib province, N.W. Syria) & “Lakhm” (some families in Lebanon still retain genealogical records linking them to the "Lakhmid" dynasty المناذرة اللخميين of al-Hirah الحيرة in S. Iraq).
• Starting in the 10th c. CE, Lebanon witnessed other waves of migrations as a result of the military conflicts in the region. Amongst these were Arabian tribes that came with the Qarmatians القرامطة (e.g. E. Arabian tribes from Al-Hasa الأحساء region; “Tayy” tribe طي in 904 CE “عقب معركة السيل”); others included some N. African clans & Egyptian families that settled the Levant subsequent to the Fatimid invasion.
• Also, starting in the 11th c. CE, the Levant started witnessing the migrations of Turkish & Kurdish clans. In Lebanon, these successive waves mainly targeted the “Beqaa Valley” سهل البقاع as well as coastal lines (mostly intensifying subsequent to the Mongol Invasions). It is reasonable to assume that some families belonging to these lineages might have ended up in the mountains, possibly adopting the Druze Faith.
• According to the traditional Lebanese historical account, Amir “Ma’an ibn Rabia’a” (“معن بن ربيعة الأيوبي”) came with his clan to the “Shouf Mountain” in 1120 CE. Amir Ma’an -according to this tradition- is from the “Ayyubid” clan of the “Rabi`ah” tribe ربيعة who inhabited Upper Mesopotamia (“Rabi`ah” is assumed to be that famous Arabian tribe, which was originally based in “Nejd” -C. Arabia).
• New research on the Maanid dynasty المعنيون shed doubts on the historicity of these events; especially since the Maanid dynasty only appeared in the written historical records by the late 15th c. CE as rulers of the Shouf Mountain. The hypothesis put forward by Dr. Anis Yehya (modern Druze historian) links the lineage of the Maanids back to the Lakhmid dynasty & concludes that the Maanids were in fact agnatic cousins to the rival house of “Alamuddin” (unlike traditional historical accounts which base their arguments on the differing Qaysite-Yemenite factions).
• Modern Kurdish historians citing “Mohebbi” (“محمد أمين بن فضل الله المحبي الحموي الدمشقي”; Syrian historian, 1651-1699 CE) claim that the Ma’anids are actually descendants from the Kurdish "Ayyubids" الأكراد الأيوبيين (presumably the dynasty founded by Sultan Saladin; which ruled different parts of the Levant from 1171-1341 CE; one Ayyubid branch ruling Hasankeyf حصن كيفا in S.E. Turkey remained in power until the area fell to the Ottomans in 1515 CE).
Wadi al-Taym وادي التيم (Hasbaya/Rashaya Districts, E. Lebanon)
Inhabitants included indigenous population of the region (area was ruled by the Iturians in the 1st c. BCE), which were later supplemented with Arab Tribes. Most notably:
• “Taym-Allah” (formerly “Taym-Allāt”, Arabic: “تيم الله ابن أسد ابن وبرة”, the main branch of “Tanukh” from “Quda'a”); & later
• “Banu Jandal”: (“بنو جندل بن قيس التميمي”) from “Tamim” tribe تميم. Interestingly, one of the founders of the Druze faith, “Isma'il ibn Muhammad ibn Hamid al-Tamimi” (“إسماعيل بن محمّد بن حامد التميميّ”) is from the “Tamim” tribe.
• In the 12th c. CE, Chehabs الشهابيون (aka “Shihab”, from “Banu Makhzum” بنو مخزوم branch of “Quraysh” قريش) became the rulers of this area. The Chehabs are today either Muslim Sunni or Christians (some branches converted to Christianity in the 18th c. CE). Historians, however, disagree whether the “Chehabs” were originally Druze or Sunni Muslims.
Jabal al-Jarmaq جبل الجرمق (Mt. Meron, Galilee)
• These were indigenous inhabitants in the area, later supplemented by Arab tribes. Patrilineal lines might include descendants of people brought over from Assyria in the 1st millennium BCE. This can be inferred from the term “al-Jarmak” (derived from Persian/Kurdish “Garmakan"; "Beth Garmai" in Syriac), which was used by early Arabs to refer to the original inhabitants of the Kirkuk province in N. Iraq (the actual term used by medieval Arabic documents for the "Kirkuk" province was either "Jermakan" or "Bajermi").
• Another indication about some of the ethnic groups who adopted the Druze faith in this area comes from one of the founders of the Druze faith, “”سلامة بن عبد الوهاب السامري (“Salamah ibn 'Abdal-Wahhab as-Samirri”) whose name points to a Samaritan origin. This might imply that adherents to the faith might have included some Samaritans inhabiting the Galilee.
Jabal al-Summaq (Harem District, Idlib Governorate, N. Syria)
• Adherents to the faith came from different patrilineal lines, including original inhabitants who were later supplemented by Arabian tribes. Originally, adherents to the faith were spread in the provinces of Aleppo & Antioch (modern “Hatay Province”). After the ascension of "Ali az-Zahir" (r. 1021-1036 CE), he ordered the Fatimid army to destroy the new faith, the Druze community of Aleppo & Antioch was greatly depleted; survivors mostly took refuge amongst their brethren in “Jabal al-Summaq” (aka “A'la Mountain” /"الجبل الأعلى"; historically part of Aleppo province).
• “Jabal al-Summaq” is part of the area encompassing the so-called Byzantine "Dead Cities", which were Byzantine towns that got gradually deserted due to intermittent Byzantine-Arab wars that lasted between the 7th & 11th c. CE. The area is presumed to have been re-settled by many subsequent waves of people (e.g. Arabs, S. Anatolians, Kurds).
• "Jabal al-Summaq" is believed to have been part of the areas settled by the "Mardaites" in the 7th & 8th c. CE.
• N.W. Syria is also known to have been settled heavily by Yemeni Arabian Tribes; namely: the “Tanukh”, “Bahraa'” & “Banu Kalb” (the tribe that produced the "Kalbid" dynasty, which ruled Sicily from 948-1053 CE). So, modern Druze families in the area are most likely to include lineages that descend from these tribes.
• “Tanukh” tribe produced the “Tanukhid” dynasty of Latakia province, which governed the N.W. Syrian coastal line between 863-974 CE, at times extending their control inlands to “Maarrat al-Nu'man” & “Qinnasrin” قنسرين. The Tanukhids seemed to have been at good terms with the Hamdanid dynasty of Aleppo. After losing power in 974 CE as a result of Byzantine attack, they were able to reinstate their control over Latakia in the early 11th c. CE, but ultimately were deposed by the Seljuk Turks in 1086 CE (subsequently the whole coastal line fell to the crusaders). The tribes of Tanukh & Bahraa' (both from Quda’a tribe) presence in Latakia is attested by Estakhri (d. 957 CE, Persian medieval geographer) who referred to the nearby mountains of Latakia as the “Mountains of Bahraa' & Tanukh”.
• New historical research suggests that this mountain was also inhabited by the Kurds in the 11th c. CE (The Kurds still inhabit the neighboring district of Afrin/Efrîn in Aleppo governorate).
• Interestingly, one of the founders of the Druze faith “Ali ibn Ahmad al-Samuqi” (“علي بن أحمد الطائي السموقي”, from “Tayy” tribe) is believed to have come originally from the town of “Sammuqa” السموقة (North of Aleppo; N 36.417054°, E 037.261520°). This might indicate that members of the “Tayy” tribe could have adopted the Druze faith & that some of them might have ended up in the neighboring “Jabal al Summaq” area. "Hadir Qinnasrin" (Modern: al-Hadhir الحاضر, East of Qinnasrin) became known during early Islamic times as "Hadir Tayy" حاضر طيء as it became inhabited mainly by members of the Tayy tribe (earlier it was inhabited mainly by Tanukh; later the town was also inhabited by members of the "Banu Abs" tribe).
• “al-Hamdan” الحمدان family (a famous medieval Druze feudal family in Mount Lebanon; a branch of which led the original Druze expansion to S. Syria in the late 17th c. CE & were instrumental in defeating the raiding Bedouin tribes coming from Arabia). The “al-Hamdan” family is generally believed to descend from the “Hamdanid” dynasty that ruled Aleppo & Northern Mesopotamia in the 10th c. CE. The “Hamdanid” dynasty of Aleppo became under the suzerainty of the Fatimid dynasty of Egypt at the time of Caliph “Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah” (r. 996-1021 CE). It is probable that some individuals from the “Hamdanid” dynasty as well as members of their tribe (the“Taghlib” tribe) could have adopted the Druze faith.
The Ismaili Connection (N. Syria, Upper Mesopotamia)
• The early Druze people n N. Syria are most likely descendants from the various ethnic groups that adopted “Ismailism” & subsequently got converted to the “Druze” faith in the 10th c. CE.
• The majority of these ethnic groups that adopted the Ismaili faith were located in the provinces of Aleppo (N. Syria) & Al-Jazira الجزيرة الفراتية (N. Iraq, S.E. Anatolia). This area was the perfect place for the spread of the “Ismailism” as it included both Shiites & other indigenous religious groups. The Ismaili faith appeal to the indigenous religious groups has to do to with the similarities shared by these faiths as they were all influenced to various degrees by the Gnostic, Hermetic, Neo-Platonic philosophies (Alexandrian Philosophical schools that were renowned throughout the Near East in the first 5 centuries of Christian Era) as well as elements of Zoroastrianism.
• The appeal of the Ismaili Fatimid dynasty to the Shiites rested mainly on their claim to be of legitimate Alid lineage (The claim which the Sunni Caliphs of Baghdad did their best to discredit). Both the Hamdanid dynasties in Al-Jazira (890-991 CE) & Aleppo (945-1004 CE) were Shiites; their territories were also lost to other Shiite dynasties: Al-Jazira taken by the Arab Uqaylid dynasty (990-1096 CE) in Upper Mesopotamia & the Kurdish Marwanid dynasty (990-1085 CE) in S.E. Anatolia; Aleppo province in N. Syria taken by the Arab Mirdasid dynasty (1024-1080 CE, from “Banu Kilab” بنو كلاب, a branch of the “Banu 'Amir" tribal confederation بنو عامر بن صعصعة; "Banu Kilab" moved from Najd to Syria in 936 CE).
• The founder of the Mirdasid dynasty, Salih ibn Mirdas (Amir of "Banu Kilab"; r. 1024-1029 CE), played a key role in the destruction of the early Druze community in N.W. Syria (especially those in Antioch province) at the time of Fatimid Caliph "Ali az-Zahir". Salih was killed in the battle of al-Uqhuwana (near Tiberias on the banks of the Jordan river) in May 1029 CE; he was defeated by Fatimid General "Anushtikin al-Dizbiri" & "Rafi' ibn Abi al-Layl ibn 'Ulyan" (Amir of "Banu Kalb" from July 1028 CE) -both suspected of being Crypto Druze.
• As for the ethnic components of these provinces in the 11th c. CE, we know that both areas were inhabited by a mix of indigenous people (e.g. Arameans, Assyrians, Kurdish) & Arabian tribes (some of these tribes came subsequent to the Islamic conquests in the 7th c. CE; others represented earlier migrations to the regionfrom Roman/Byzantine times). The Arab presence in Al-Jazira can be attested bythe classical Arabic names given to its 3 districts: “Diyar Rabiah”, “Diyar Mudar” & “Diyar Bakr” (i.e. the abode of the Tribes of “Rabiah” ربيعة, “Mudar” مضر & ”Bakr” بكر; these tribes being amongst the largest N. Arabian Tribes).
• In the 10th c. CE, “Hamdanid” Emir “Sayf al-Dawla” (r. 945-967 CE) is reported by Ibn al-Adim (1192–1262; historian from Aleppo) to have brought Shiite people from “Harran” (aka“Carrhae”, city in S.E. Turkey; N.W. Mesopotamia) to Aleppo in 962 CE. Harran at the time (before 1033 CE) was reported to have been mostly inhabited by “Sabians” (Hermetic-Gnostic sect) & 'Alid-Shiites. Classical Arab historians report the earliest presence of “Ismailism” in “Jabal al-Summaq” area in the late 10th c. CE.
• By the 11th c. CE, the cities of “Aleppo” (N.W. Syria) & “Amid” (Diyarbakır -S.E. Anatolia; Kurdish: “Amed”) were both major Ismaili centers in their respective areas. In addition, it is likely that Kurds were also present in the Aleppo province during this time, especially that historians reported marriages taking place between the Hamdanid dynasty of Aleppo & the Marwanid dynasty of Amid. In 1033 CE, the Mirdasid Emir of Aleppo, “Shibl al-Dawla Nasr” (r. 1029-1038 CE) is reported to have re-settled Kurds to “Hisn al-Safh” near Homs, Syria (later to be known as “Hisn al Akrad”, “Krak des Chevaliers” قلعة الحصن).
• In the 12th c. CE, the Ismaili communities suffered greatly from the encroaching Sunni Turkic tribes that invaded the region (namely, the Seljuq Turks), as well as the later Crusader campaigns. Classical historians associate “Jabal al-Summaq” area with the presence of “Nizari” Ismailis during these turbulent times (probably unable to differentiate the “Druze” from the other Nizari/Mustaali Ismaili groups present in N.W. Syria at that time).
It is suggested that the Druze faith reached the Kurdish areas at the time of the Kurdish Marwanid ruler “Nasr al-Dawla Ahmad ibn Marwan” (r. 1011-1061 CE). It is unlikely that we can identify all the Druze families of Kurdish ancestry going to that time. However, we can identify the following notable Druze families with perceived Kurdish ancestry:
• “Joumblatt” جنبلاط: According to “Sharafnameh” (the famous medieval Kurdish historical work), “Mand” منتشا/مند (the ancestor of the “Joumblatt” family), was originally appointed by the “Ayyubid” dynasty as ruler of the “al-Quṣayr” القصير (most probably the modern “Altınözü” district, Hatay Province, Turkey) in the 13th c. CE. Later, he was able to extend his control over the entire areas of “Kilis” كلّس & ”A’zaz” أعزاز; effectively becoming the ruler over the entire Kurdish population of North-Western Syria, primarily encompassing the area of “Kurd-Dagh” (largely Sunni Kurdish population centered on “Afrin” عفرين, but also including considerable “Êzidî”/Yezidi population "أيزيديون" at the time). The family later aligned itself with the Ottoman dynasty till the 17th c. CE, where they attempted to secede. Their failed attempt to gain independence caused them to lose their rule. Some members of the "Joumblatt" family fled to Mount Lebanon where they took refuge with their previous ally, Emir Fakhr-al-Din II (1572-1632). According to “Sharafnameh”, the “Mand” descendants are agnatic cousins to the dynasties that ruled the Kurdish principalities of “Bahdinan”, “Hakkâri” & “Shamdinan”.
• “al-Imad” العماد: The "al-Imad" Medieval Druze feudal family in Mount Lebanon are believed to have originally come from “Amadiya” (“العمادية”, Dahuk Governorate, N. Iraq). Historically, “Amadiya” was a major Kurdish city that became the capital of the “Emirate of Bahdinan”. Interestingly, if the oral tradition linking “al-Imad” family to "Amadiya" is correct, it can help explain whether the Druze faith reached the heart of the Kurdish regions in S.Anatolia/N. Mesopotamia or just the areas surrounding “Jabal al Summaq”. The oral traditions regarding the “al-Imad” family states that they are descendants of the Buyid dynasty founded by Emir “Imad al-Dawla al-Daylami al-Kurdi” (“عماد الدولة الديلمي الكردي”; r.934-949 CE) who is credited for re-building the city in 949 CE & calling it “Amadiya” after his name (most historians; however, believe it was Atabeg "Imad ad-Din Zengi" who rebuilt the city in 1142 CE). The Buyid dynasty was Shiite & either of “Dailamite” (i.e. from Gilan, N. Iran) or Kurdish origin; whereas the Zengid dynasty was Sunnite of Oghuz Turkic origin.
Notable migrations in medieval & modern times:
• In the 2nd half of the 13th c. CE, The Malmluk sultanate persecuted Druze in N. Palestine, which caused many Druze families to migrate to Mount Lebanon & Mount Hermon (Iqlim al Ballan).
• Many Druze from “Wadi al-Taym” also moved to Damascus (“Haei al-Tayamne”/“Tayamine” quarter حي التيامنة & "Achrafieh Sahnaya" أشرفية صحنايا).
• Later waves of migration from “Wadi al-Taym" targeted the Syrian side of Mount Hermon (modern “Quneitra Governorate”; eventually expanding into the “Golan Heights”).
• In the early 17th c. CE (during the reign of Amir “Fakhr-al-Din II”), many Druze families moved from Mount Lebanon to N. Palestine, especially the mountainous areas surrounding “Safed” صفد.
• By the late 17th c. CE, many Druze families left Mount Lebanon to S. Syria (modern “As-Suwayda” Governorate), the bulk of the migration took place later in 1711 CE (after the"Battle of Ain Darra") & 1860 CE (Druze–Maronite conflict).
• Another major wave of migration came from “Jabal al Summaq” (where the community was greatly depleted due to several Ottoman military campaigns), to Mount Lebanon, Swaida, Golan Heights & N. Palestine (expanding as far as “Mt. Carmel” جبل الكرمل).
• In the 20th c. CE, Druze families expanded their presence into “Azraq” & “Um al-Qottain” (N. Jordan) as well as “Jaramana” (near Damascus). In Jordan, some Druze families later spread to the cities of “Zarqaa” الزرقاء & “Amman” عمان (primarily in “Jabal Akhdar” الجبل الأخضر).