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Renouncing Idolatry, A Principle of The Druze Faith

Image courtesy: Architect Akram Chaya, Sawfar, Lebanon.
This article is part of a series of round-table discussions covering the principles of the Druze faith. Special thanks to our Contributors: Dr. Ramy Fayad (Ohio, US), Sam Radwan (Florida, US), Wiaam El Khatib (Indiana, US). Thanks to Architect Akram Chaya for Photography.
The third tenet in Tawhid is translated by the late Sami Makarem as “Renouncing all Beliefs Leading to the Negation of the Oneness of God”. While this tenet extends across other doctrines, our faith embraces unity and refutes idolatry. 

Wiaam El Khatib: Our monotheistic beliefs were notably alluded to during the Grecian period and took final shape in Islamic monotheism, when wise philosophers openly challenged the idea of polytheism and any ideologies imposing limitations on His attributes. At its core, Druze mysticism revolves around the evolution of unity between the worshiper and the Worshiped. Such efforts are generally achieved through developing awareness of the Divine consciousness within us (via contemplation) and endless love towards the Beloved (through action). A vital condition, however, is that such a state of Oneness is only achieved when all egoic attachment, desire, and intention has been purified from the mind.

A beautiful poem by Jalāl ad-Dīn Rūmī describes two birds that are tied together, yet unable to fly as they are both flapping their wings at the same time. One must concede for the other to carry it, just as the ego must wither for one to reunite with His grace. Such realization of this tenet becomes not just an intellectual understanding, but an act of daily life. Perfect adherence to our first two tenets (truthfulness and safeguarding) transforms the soul to a state more receptive to reflecting His eternal divine love. Like attracts like, and Light may pierce the veil of separateness.

Dr. Ramy Fayad: The Oneness of God is very important as it is what Tawheed preaches. It is a call to worship the One and Only God and to let go of anything and everything else. The mowahid should let go of any other beliefs and all worldly possessions. The Tawheed faith goes beyond ethics and goodwill, humility and meditation; it goes beyond egoic detachment, and letting go of material possessions. We are willingly, and without reservation, giving up all material possessions and connections for our Lord.

Sam Radwan: Idolatry is sin because it misses the mark. It’s off target and the original intention is lost. If symbols are used to enhance self importance, to gain advantage or control over others, to impose the individual will against the divine will, then know they are false works of a desperate ego. Resisting its creator, such an ego will only cause confusion, pain and suffering.

In the early stages of spiritual seeking, an individual may follow worldly paths. One assumes common pleasures as a guide, and thus remains dissatisfied. One assumes intellect, and remains forever perplexed and unfulfilled. The seeker desires more and desperately clings to anything that could contain or reflect the beloved Lord.

Each individual feels the pull of the divine love, yet struggles to place its source of origin. It remains obstructed by the ego and its many layers, veils, forms and bodies. These all distract  our attention to outward material things that we can associate with the divine. They remain mere representations presumed to embody the omnipresence of the Lord.

Wiaam El Khatib: Expanding upon the concept of idolatry, English writer Gilbert K. Chesterton once said, “idolatry is when you worship what you should use, and use what you should worship.” The concept seems to have picked up cultural influence in the Druze community over many years. One should be careful with how they view things like religious pendants, holy sites, and candle lighting for special occasions. Blindly associating objects or jewelry with spiritual significance, without a deeper cognizance of its symbolic meaning, is akin to hollow superstition. Visiting holy sites is an opportunity to meditate in prayer in a space which represents humility, pure actions, and knowledge. One must realize the divine underpinnings of the saint laid to rest within the corporeal and spiritual realm.

As previously mentioned, refuting idolatry may be extended to curbing desires for an overly materialistic lifestyle and constant desire. Material is not itself an evil, because we all require basic comforts to survive. But, pursuing excessive materialism is more like a bag of potato chips: tasty from the outside, but mostly air inside. The finite cannot satiate that which craves the infinite. Worship of anything below God is slavery, bringing its own form of cyclic suffering. Our wisest leaders lived the simplest lifestyles.

Dr. Ramy Fayad: As for superstitions, so much has arisen from our cultural background that has nothing to do with our faith. It is unfortunate to see the faithful visiting holy sites asking for health and healing. Our expectations from visiting such holy shrines should be based on our faith. How did our brothers and sisters come to believe in the supernatural power of dead people? How did we come to believe a piece of cloth will protect us from evil?

Holy shrines are intended for meditation and reflection, rather than the material things commonly associated with visiting them. Faith should be separated from cultural and mundane practices. Although the act of visiting holy shrines is encouraged by many, our expectations for such visits should be based on our faith. It’s not the physical act of visiting a holy shrine, walking barefoot inside it, and taking a piece of cloth that bestows health and prosperity on us. Rather, the sacred meanings behind the objects and acts allows us to practice our faith and get closer to God.

Sam Radwan: This act of surrendering the perceived evil in exchange for trust and faith is an act of Tislim (tis-leem), or surrender. With daily practice, it’s possible to shed the burdens of the ego. Each offering is a sacrament to the Divine essence and a surrender of the individual’s duality of the mind.

Worshiping a rock or a cloth is unnecessary. It’s not kissing a holy rock or the rock itself which reduces negativity, doubt, and fear of the mind. It is the focused attention and loving contemplation on the divine. However, if a thing engenders contemplation of the oneness of the Lord, then it is on the righteous path.

People often place faith and trust in objects or icons. One can even argue their sacredness as conduits of the divine. But, what if we perceive others with such reverence as holy conduits of the divine? Would there be any more need for an outer object or temple? Idols, symbols and even our limited language can only succeed in inspiring contemplation and remembrance.

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