I have read an article in the al-Sharq al-Awsat London daily dated May 18, 2000 under the title "Al-Judeh-Ghuday Muslim Family Custodians of the Holy Sepulchre since 800 years."
I have been deeply astonished by the article’s historical narration and, in particular, its attempt at mariginalising the ages-old historic relationship between the Nuseibeh al-Khazraj family, one of the oldest in Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulchre since the Arab-Islamic conquest of Jerusalem 1400 years ago under the leadership of Caliph Omar ibn-al-Khattab, peace be upon him.
What is the relationship of the Nuseibeh family to the Holy Sepulchre? If I had addressed this question to the people of Jerusalem or of Palestine in general, they would have been surprised at the askance. The elevated marble platform at the main entrance of the Holy Sepulchre on which members of the Nuseibeh family used to take their seats from time immemorial, and the closets above their seats which belong to them up to this day, have often been described by historians, pilgrims, tourists and visitors since hundreds of years, including father Felix Fabri in his book " the travels of father Felix Fabri – written in 1484.
The ancient records and manuscripts kept by the various Christian denominations in their monastries all record the Nuseibeh family’s relationship and that of their ancestral forefathers from the Bani Ghanim al-Khazraj to the Holy Sepulchre, at least since the time of Sultan Sallahudin (Saladin) more than 800 years ago, specifically since 1192 (a.d), when Sultan Saladin and King Richard the Lion heart concluded an agreement allowing western Christian pilgrims to visit the Holy Sepulchre under certain stipulations. Saladin entrusted the custody of the doors of the Holy Sepulchre to the leading and most renowned Shaikh Ghanim ben Ali ben Hussein al-Ansari al-Khazrajy, the Jerusalemite, and all matters pertaining to it. Ghanim had been born in Boreen village near Nablus in 562 h, where his family had taken refuge after the crusader conquest of Jerusalem in ( 1807) a.d..
Sultan Salahuddin also entrusted Shaikh Ghanim with the Sheikhdom of the Khanqah Seminary, established by Salahuddin in Jerusalem and carrying his name. The post remained with the family for hundreds of years until the beginning of the 16th century when the esteemed Alami family succeeded to its custody.
The renowned historian of Jerusalem Mujiruddin al-Hanbali, author of al-UNSS al-Jaleel; Fi Tarikh al-Quds wa al-Khalil writes in his history that he saw the signature of Sultan Sallahudin on these investitures and was happy and grateful that he did. The Ghanims had many distinguished descendents who for hundreds of years were
Sheikhs of the Jerusalem Holy Sanctuary, in addition to the Sheikhdom of Saladin’s Seminary and the posts of chief justices, Qadis and custodians of the Holy Sepulchre, in addition to large estates granted to them by Salahuddin, including 50,000 dunums of land of East Lubban village between Jerusalem and Nablus as a joint foundation for the benefit of the Dome of the Rock, the Ibrahimi sanctuary in Hebron and the family itself.
The Nuseibeh family still continues to receive tithes on this estate up to the present day. The Nuseibeh family is also receiving tiths from other Waqf foundations such as Khaski Sultan, Khan al-Sultan and other Waqfs in Jerusalem.
It should be noted here that the fabulous library, discovered accidentally in a ceiling of the library of the Holy sanctuary twenty five years ago and, some of those manuscripts have been published by the Goethe Institute in Beirut, Lebanon, belongs to the Ghanim al-Khazraj family, recording its long history. Its manuscripts are probably the oldest and biggest records of Ayyubid and Mamlluk eras in which they played such a prominent part.
In 1966, the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church presented the medal of the Holy Sepulchre to the late Anwar zaki Nuseibeh, then governor of Jerusalem, before the Israelis occupied the city. The late Anwar Nuseibeh declined to accept the award because the certificate accompanying the award dated the Nuseibeh family’s custody of the doors of the Holy Sepluchre to Salahuddin – 800 plus years, which is their record in the Church.
The Nuseibeh’s believe and, with them the people of Jerusalem, that it dates back to the Arab Islamic conquest of Jerusalem 1400 years ago, when the illustrious.
Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab, May God Bless him, declined the invitation of the archbishop Sofronious to say his prayers within the precincts of the Church, for fear the future generations of Muslims, less highly endowed, may make of this a precedent and convert the church into a mosque.
The Caliph Omar entrusted the custody of the Church to ‘Ubadah ibn al-Samit, a companion of the Prophet and the first ruler of Palestine. His tomb, as well as that of another ancestor of the Nuseibeh family, and a companion of the Prophet, Shaddad ibn Aws al-Khazraji, are still intact at the southern corner of the wall enclosing the Holy Sanctuary at the Bab al-Rahma cemetry, near Bab Al-Asba’at
Forefathers of the family who were in Jerusalem at the time of the conquest also included two other companions of the Prophet – Abdullah ibn Nuseibeh and Ma’ath ibn Jabal, and many others of the Prophet’s companions and maternal uncles, descendents of Salma from bani al-Najjar a clan of Khazraj, the wife of Hashim, founder of the Hashemites and mother of its renowned Leader Abdul Muttalib, grandfather of the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace..
From these illustrious ancestors did the Nuseibeh family inherit, amongst other inheritances, the custody of the Holy Sepulchre, and were over countless centuries arbiters of conflicts which had arisen between various Christian denominations within the church. All these are recorded in church records as well as in the registers of the Shari’a courts, for anyone who may wish to see.
The Nuseibeh family is also duly entrusted with stamping and certifying the Holy Sepulchre's sacred fire in the Sepulchre at the annual celebrations which Christian denominations observe on the night before the great feast of Easter Sunday.
The Judeh family have no relationships with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre prior to 1611 ad. when its founder obtained a fireman, a certificate from Istanbul, in lieu of which the key of the Sepulchre would be kept in a home of the Judeh family and hands it every morning to a member of the Nuseibeh family for opening the church in the morning and closing it at night. The arrangement is still being observed up to this day.
One of the reasons why another family was invited by the Ottomans to partake in the service of the Church was their unhappiness with the Nuseibeh family, for having mobilized forces in Jerusalem and Nablus, in the war effort of the the Egyptian Mameluke late kingdom against the attempts of the Ottoman King of Rumia Muhammad ibn Uthman to conquer the domains of the kingdom and, the entire Arab East, which the Ottomans succeeded in achieving in 916 h., i.e. the beginning of the 16th century (ad.) In addition to involving a third esteemed Jerusalem family al-Darweesh, for purposes of collecting revenues to the state from the fees collected from Christian pilgrims. This was later terminated.
But the historic and lasting relationship of the Holy Sepulchre remains solidly with the Nuseibeh family since the Arab Islamic conquests, in which the Khazraj tribe, forefathers of the Nuseibeh family and helpers of the Prophet played a pivotal role, 1400 years ago. After an interval of 100 years in which the relationship was disrupted by the crusader invasion, the relationship was restored, at the behest of the Liberator of Jerusalem Sallahudin. It remains up to this day and for the foreseeable future.
It should be noted, in conclusion that the revenues accruing from custody of the Holy Sepulchre and other related Waqfs are close apportioned two thirds to the Nuseibeh family and one third to Judeh-Ghuday.
Notwithstanding the above, we maintain the closest and most friendly relationships with the Judeh Family on matters of pertaining to the church. I would be grateful of you could publish this article, as a contribution to revealing historic facts which cannot, and which must not be overlooked or ignored.
DR. HAZEM Nuseibeh
FORMER MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS IN JORDAN