A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Nabi Shu‘ayb: Greetings for a Druze Feast

I almost missed a holy observation which I missed entirely last year; from the 25th to the 28th of April the Druze make their ziyara or pilgrimage to the tomb of Nabi Shu‘ayb (Nebi Shueib), at Hittin near Tiberias in northern Israel. (Oh, and Hittin is also the namesake of the Horns of Hattin of Crusader fame, but then, in Galilee, history keeps tripping over itself.) Nabi Shu‘ayb is also a Prophet of Islam but plays a smaller role there as the Prophet sent to the Midianites; he is often equated with the Biblical Jethro (Moses' father-in-law, if you haven't watched The Ten Commandments lately). (And there's a rival tomb in Jordan more popular with Muslims than the Druze site in Galilee.)

Today the Druze are divided among Israel, Lebanon, and southern Syria and adjoining parts of Jordan, and generally only those in Israel and the West Bank (and officially some from Jordan) can get to the Prophet's tomb at his feast. But I almost missed one of the few Druze holidays that is not also a major Muslim feast, so I should belatedly include it here. I'll be honest: I don't know precisely why Nabi Shu‘ayb is so big among the Druze, whose religion is largely secret. He's seen as one of the emanations of God, since the Druze have a bit of Neoplatonism, a bit of Gnosticism, and a whole lot of Isma‘ili batini theology in their (apparent) beliefs. If those terms mean nothing to you, let's leave that for another day, now that I've marked the holiday. Shu‘ayb, apparently, is one of the emanations of the Divine Mind, along with others culminating in the Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim, whom most Muslims consider a lunatic but the Druze consider an emanation of the Godhead. As I say, we'll address Druze beliefs another time. But Shu‘ayb is very big.

We'll talk about the Druze another time.

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