Scholars formed the social and cultural elite of Muslim urban life for numerous generations, and some were close to state officials through the important posts they held within the state apparatus. The ruling authority and its figures needed the social legitimization that scholars offered in order to augment the political and military skills that enabled them to hold on to the reins of power. Scholars, on the other hand, earned popular legitimacy through their own high standing, for they were considered representatives of Islam and its principles.
This study includes sample cases of Jerusalem scholars who shored up their influence by holding important administrative posts in the state apparatus, or others that were close to it, such as those of assistant magistrates, the muftis of the Hanafi and Shafa’i schools of Islamic law, the naqib, or head, of the ashraaf syndicate (ashraaf are descendents of the Prophet Muhammad, singular sherif), and others. These kinds of positions allowed their holders a large degree of influence upon administrative and government officials in Jerusalem, Damascus, and Istanbul.
This study will discuss the means by which Jerusalem’s effendiya (intellectual capital holders), including scholars and notables, bolstered their influence among the people and acted as intermediaries between them and the state and its agencies. This upper class of the city’s residents formed relations of cooperation and cultural exchange with Ottoman state officials on the one hand, while remaining an organic part of the local population and culture on the other. This special status allowed them to play the role of an intermediary and acclimatize to political changes, utilizing these changes to serve their own interests.
Urban Ottoman society was a natural continuation of the structure of Islamic urban life, both socially and culturally. Most historians have divided such societies into two separate groups.1 These two groups are the rulers, including military officials, administrators and scholars, who were responsible for governance; and subjects or taxpayers both Muslim and from the dhimma community who did not participate in governance or administration.
Scholars, then, were close to state officials throughout Islamic history including the Ottoman period, when they held the respect of government authorities, foremost the sultan. In the empire’s golden age during the sixteenth century, the measure for the respectability of scholars and their positions was their acquisition of knowledge and humble lifestyles, ostensibly led in the custom of the pious forefathers. To encourage education and culture in the Ottoman state, the sultan and his most powerful ministers offered grants and awards to educational institutes and the top scholars running them. Religious endowments were allocated for schools and scholars were exempt from paying taxes. Their money and property was protected from seizure, contrary to conditions for military officers and government and administrative officials.
Yet scholarly and judicial institutions were not spared when the Ottoman state and its administrative agencies began to decline in the seventeenth century. The corruption and bribery that spread throughout the government apparatus in the Ottoman capital also entered the offices of the Shaykh of Islam, judges, and other top scholars. Money and personal connections became the most important factors in making scholarly appointments. What was happening in Istanbul and major state capitals spread to the districts and fringe areas like Jerusalem: some families succeeded in controlling administrative and scholarly posts and in fact monopolized them, transferring them to family members through inheritance.
In the eighteenth century, the monopolization of scholarly posts reached its apex in large and small cities, beginning with the Ottoman capital Istanbul. During that century, 24 individuals were appointed to the post of Shaykh of Islam, 17 of which were the children of previous appointees. Later, following 1839, during the Ottoman tanzimat period when the Janissary were done away with and the power of scholars was weakened, transferring the post of the Shaykh of Islam from father to son through inheritance was put to an end.
As in the Ottoman capital, in major Arab cities local elites benefited from the declining fortunes of the Ottoman administration, which became less centralized and allowed greater participation and autonomy for these city’s scholars and notables. The geography, natural environment, and population characteristics of each city affected the extent to which state agencies could intervene in local struggles over scholarly posts. Such direct Ottoman influence was stronger in Aleppo, for example, than in Damascus, and less so in Cairo, so distant from Istanbul, as was also the case with the cities of the Hijaz, Mecca and Medina. One of the true measures of the extent of the local elites’ power and influence was the ability of the city’s scholars to select candidates for top posts (judges in the Islamic courts, muftis, and the naqib of the ashraaf) and to appoint them without major interference from state officials in the Ottoman capital.
There was a direct relationship between the extent of the Ottoman state’s power and centrality and the degree of autonomy or influence enjoyed by the state capitals’ scholars and notables. Scholars were a major part of the local elite, alongside notables, top merchants, and others with money and influence. In his peerless study, Albert Hourani divided elites of the Ottoman period into three primary groups: scholars, who were the traditional representatives of the Islamic urban population’s interests; Janissary soldiers and others groups including local militias; and notables, including top officials, merchants, and those with social influence in cities and the countryside.
The determining factor for class distinctions in Islamic urban society, particularly in the late Ottoman period, was the position people held within state institutions and the place they held within society. It was on this basis that top government and administrative officials occupied the peak of the socio-political pyramid. Jobs became the primary means for gaining material wealth and social status. Education, whether religious or vocational, was not a determining factor in itself unless it was connected to a post or had a direct relationship to state institutions. Only third in terms of importance was material wealth, which was not sufficient to secure a high socio-political position among the class of elites. Yet if the wealthy invested some of their money in acts of pious charity, on the one hand, and bought religious or administrative posts, on the other, this enabled them to join the elite of local scholars and notables.
It is important to emphasize that the Islamic urban elite of scholars and notables, even after becoming the monopoly of certain families passed on through inheritance in the eighteenth century, did not fully close its doors in the face of those climbing the social ladder. Contrary to the European aristocracy of the Middle Ages, the Islamic urban elite remained in contact with the rest of society and did not close in on itself to the degree of preventing social mobility.
Scholars and notables maintained open channels of communication with the members of society’s middle and lower classes in order to gain legitimacy for their elitism and to brandish their popularity if the state and its officials attempted to interfere with their interests and posts. One of the secrets of the success of the local elite was that even after its members assumed official administrative posts within the state apparatus, they continued to flaunt the social support they enjoyed and their ability to help the authorities apply their policies among the population with them acting as intermediaries. When they appeared before the public, however, despite an interest in pious charity and contact with local residents on special occasions and holidays, members of the elite always appeared wearing the prestigious apparel of important state officials. Scholars and notables thus became points of contact between rulers and subjects. The former needed them to gain legitimacy and to enforce their policies, while the latter supported them for reasons of self-interest and to gain protection from the state and its representatives.
As for the composition of the local elites of scholars and notables, this differed from one city to the next, even within a single geographical area such as the Levant, or within Palestine. There were differences between the cities of the coast, some of which began growing in the eighteenth century (Akko and then Haifa and Jaffa), and the inland, including mountainous cities such as Nablus, Jerusalem, and Hebron, for example. Geographical distance from the Ottoman capital, the area’s economic base (rural or industrial), and the commercial position of these cities were all factors that also contributed to forming the character of local society and the features of its local elite of scholars and notables. With regard to the countries of the Levant and the Arab east in general, there was a great difference between state capitals such as Damascus and Aleppo and small cities whose population did not exceed 10,000 people.
Although nationality or ethnicity was not essential in defining people’s identity or behavior in that period, the religious and ethnic composition of a city’s population was an important factor in the formation of its culture and the character of its local elite. Also important was its sectarian or religious composition. While the overwhelming majority of the elite were Muslims until the early nineteenth century, a percentage of Christians and Jews among the population also had important influence. Mount Lebanon, Mount Druze, and the Nassiriyya and Alawite areas offer various examples in terms of the character of their residents and local leaderships in contrast to the rest of the Levant, including Palestine.
Returning to the intermediary position held by the elite of scholars and notables, some researchers argue that local scholars grew close to the Ottoman authorities in the eighteenth century. John Voll, for example, came to this conclusion in his study of the scholars of Damascus during that period, based on his observation of many having embraced the Hanafi school of law. Voll holds that this change of schools was an expression of local scholars growing closer to the Ottoman state, contrary to other elites who held onto their schools of law and did not try to integrate. Yet a conclusion of this kind demands other tools of assessment besides a change of schools. Despite the importance of distinguishing between scholars who held posts and were close to both state agencies and local ruling elite families, the latter were not any less connected to or integrated with state agencies or culture. Changing affiliation to a school of law was only a means to, or primary condition for, attaining some official scholarly posts, and not necessarily representative of a sense of affiliation with the state whose official school of law was Hanafi.
If we take the Jerusalem district and the rest of Palestine as an example, we can see a gradual move by scholars’ families to the Hanafi school starting in the sixteenth century. The phenomenon of embracing the Hanafi school in Jerusalem and other Palestinian cities continued during the eighteenth century. Ottoman rule and its administration in the Levant, and Palestine in particular, underwent a clear decline during that period. Local scholars and notables advanced to fill this gap, acquiring an important role in the affairs of governance and administration. This transformation in the position of the local elite, and its’ becoming a real partner in governance, brought it closer to the people in terms of interests and culture, and not necessarily closer to the state. The reliance of some families on the Hanafi school rather than the Shafa’i school of law is not proof or a basis for conclusions connected to identity and a sense of affiliation. A matter such as this requires examining numerous factors, of which change in school affiliation may be only one.
Scholars did not have a political and military base that would have allowed them to secede from the state and its institutions, as some administrative and government officials sometimes attempted to do. Maintaining good relations with Ottoman authorities was important for guaranteeing a post. Yet most of the scholars who monopolized official posts and transferred them by inheritance to their children and relatives were also in need of the public to protect them from attempts by the state to remove them. In this regard, there was not a great difference between the Jerusalem scholars who held on to the Shafa’i school and those who embraced the Hanafi school of the state and its judicial agencies. Even those who changed to the Hanafi school did not form a cohesive, homogenous group. Some exerted great efforts to obtain official posts, while others held themselves at a distance. Likewise, within the ranks of a single family, we find a range of official closeness: top scholars with official posts and others closer to the general populace and their mosques, Sufi hospices and local culture.
Who Were Jerusalem’s Effendiya?
Jerusalem’s religious standing for the three Semitic religions was an essential factor in determining the status of its scholars and notables throughout the Islamic ages. After the city and entire region was reclaimed from the Crusaders, the Ayyubids and then the Mamluks strengthened the position of Jerusalem and its Islamic surrounds. As part of this policy, mosques, schools, Sufi hospices, and other public institutions were constructed and renovated. The religious endowments agency monitored these institutions to ensure that they were always functioning and kept independent from the rulers. These built-up institutions drew increasing numbers of scholars and Sufis who stayed in the city as visiting students in some cases and as permanent residents in others, and this increased its Muslim population. As for the Ottomans, they showed a special interest in the city and its residents in the sixteenth century, during which Jerusalem underwent an upswing in construction, population, and economic conditions. Even after the Ottoman state’s interest in Jerusalem dwindled in subsequent generations, the city remained a focus for both rulers on the one hand and visitors and pilgrims on the other.
A collection of biographies of Jerusalem’s residents in the twelfth Islamic century serves as an important source of information on the city’s scholars and notables. Its author, Hassan bin Abdul Latif al-Husseini did not include a single biography of a government or administrative official or a top merchant. Everyone included in his book was from the class of scholars and prominent notables.
With regards to the debate among researchers and historians over defining this class, this study, which focuses on Jerusalem’s history during a specific period, does not even try. Rather, it presents a picture of that class through manuscripts and printed sources, most specifically Islamic court records. This class, that I have called the ‘effendiya’ of Jerusalem, mostly included scholars and notables for whom military and administrative posts were not a goal or primary source of influence, even if they occasionally held them.
Some of Jerusalem’s scholars and notables have been mentioned in previous studies of mine–judiciary-related posts like that of the mufti and the naqib, or head, of the ashraaf syndicate. Sufis do not usually fall within the class definition of scholars, unless they were among the important shaykhs who graduated from well-known religious schools in Istanbul, Damascus and elsewhere. As for the notables in this study, they were the elite who assumed government posts or became prominent through their leading socio-political positions. These definitions are elastic, in that they might include certain people at one time and place who would not be included at another during the Ottoman era. And while the group ‘scholars and notables’ makes a distinction between the two groups, they are brought together by certain individuals who held both roles in society. Moreover, while distinguishing between scholars and notables in the Levant is extremely difficult in general, this is particularly true for Jerusalem during the period of this study, as will be explained below.
No powerful group of notables dependent on military or administrative posts for its status and influence ever developed in Jerusalem. Moreover, the families of Jerusalemite scholars were behind the emergence and prominence of several notables who did not graduate from religious schools or hold scholarly posts.
In some cases, sources have made reference to individuals who were assistant magistrates, muftis, or even shaykhs of Sufi orders as top notables. In his biographies of Jerusalemites, Hassan bin Abdel Latif attributed qualities of greatness to lowranking scholars, from the imams and preachers of mosques to unheard-of Sufis, who were usually members of old Jerusalemite families he described as “senior-ranking and notable”. At the same time, he referred to two of the top scholars in Jerusalem, Shaykh Muhammad al-Taflani (the Hanafi mufti) and the Sufi shaykh Muhammad Effendi al-Budairi only as scholars, withholding the characterization of notables. These two scholars migrated to Jerusalem from North Africa and lived in the city, becoming its most prominent scholars. Yet despite the great respect Hassan Abdel Latif and the people of Jerusalem had for them, they lacked the socio-economic class base appropriate to members of well-established Jerusalemite families.
The Jerusalem elite of scholars and notables were given the title of effendiya (singular: effendi), a class of intellectual property holders. Contrary to the aghas and beys of Nablus who Ihsan al-Nimr sometimes called emirs, most of the effendiya held scholarly posts. In addition to posts within the Islamic courts, some of these scholars worked as imams and preachers in mosques, oversaw the religious endowments, and held other posts in public institutions. Despite the competition for these posts among Jerusalem’s effendiya during the late eighteenth century, they were for the most part permanently distributed in such a way that the majority were kept within certain families and passed on through inheritance. Even though competition for them sometimes grew fierce, for example for the post of the naqib of the ashraaf syndicate, this never led to the bloody struggles so deplored by the historian of Mount Nablus as a civil war within his city. Moreover, in contrast to the Nablus district, the shaykhs of Jerusalem and its villages were never party to competing with the Jerusalemite families over scholarly posts and political standing. In general, the effendiya of Jerusalem succeeded in securing their high positions and guaranteeing their holding of posts without resorting to arms. Instead, they used the power of money, standing, and a network of close relations with state officials in Damascus and the Ottoman capital.
The first third of the nineteenth century saw a natural extension to the growing influence of Jerusalem’s effendiya throughout the district and those neighboring it in the Jerusalem governorate. The mutasallem and the muwalla khilafa (the Hanafi judge) who represented the Ottoman state were usually appointed from outside the ranks of the Jerusalem elite and needed the cooperation of the effendiya to carry out their work. With the exception of these two posts in the district administration and Islamic judiciary, posts were held by Jerusalemites during that period. In addition to the Husseini, Khalidi, Abu Saud, and al-Ilmi families, other less famous Jerusalemite families also held important scholarly posts. The most important and prominent of them were the Jarallah (Abul Lutf), al-Dajani, al-Muqat, al-Imam, al-Jama’i (al- Khatib), al-Shihabi, al-Budairi, al-Fitiyani and al-Asili families. During the Ottoman period, across the span of generations, these families experienced ebbs and flow in their standing and influence. The following will attempt to present and explain the mechanisms by which posts and influence were maintained during the period of time in question.
In his Introduction, Ibn Khaldun noted the importance of clan systems as a fundamental factor in building political greatness and establishing a state. He wrote that states died when their leaders grew lazy and the factors for cooperation between the state’s people were removed. As for established families in Islamic urban areas, they built their greatness upon scholarship and wealth, joining these together through leadership based on illustrious work and generosity. Scholarship alone without wealth, the status of an official post, and a close relationship with the state was not a solid inheritance. Likewise, wealth alone, without scholarship or status, was susceptible to decline and ruin. If the three were joined together, however, with scholarship and morals taking precedence, augmented by the status of an official post, and then wealth spent on educating children and grandchildren, this was the source of greatness and leadership. The effendiya of Jerusalem in the Ottoman era exemplify an urban elite that maintained its position, passing it on generation after generation.
As sources do not assist us in discussing the circumstances of all the Jerusalemite families, and it is beyond the scope of this study to cover the entire Ottoman period, the rest of this article will suffice with offering examples of some of the effendiya families, the most important of whom were the Husseini and Khalidi families.
The Husseini Family
The Husseini family was the leading Jerusalemite family of scholars and notables starting from at least the end of the eighteenth century. During that period and subsequently, this family succeeded in controlling three important scholarly posts held by Jerusalem’s effendiya: the Hanafi mufti, the naqib of the ashraaf syndicate, and the head of the shaykhs of al-Haram al-Sharif. Moreover, the family held other important posts in teaching and oversaw public endowments such as that called ‘the Prophet Moses’ or Nabi Musa. It also organized visits to this shrine between Jerusalem and Jericho, and its annual festival.
The Husseini family became prominent immediately following the revolt of the naqib of the ashraaf in Jerusalem that took place from 1703 to 1705 and which ousted the al-Wafa’i Husseini family. The status of the new Husseini family (the branch of Abdel Latif via the Ghadya family) was bolstered starting in the mid-eighteenth century. The family reached the height of its influence during the period in which Abdullah Abdel Latif headed the ashraaf syndicate in the late eighteenth century and in which his brother Hassan was the Hanafi mufti until his death in 1224 H/1809 CE.
The history of this family has preoccupied historians and researchers in recent generations and discussion of its origins is ongoing. Before discussing the status of the Husseini family in the early nineteenth century, it is worth briefly reviewing the various accounts and clarifying this author’s opinion in an attempt to put an end to the confusion concerning the family’s origins and history.
Researchers and historians have differed in their evaluations of the Husseini family’s lineage since the Mandate period, following a political struggle between Haj Amin Husseini and his parliamentarian supporters and the opposition led by the Nashashibi family. Haj Amin contributed to the spread of an account of the family stating that it was among the ashraaf, that its members had settled in Jerusalem and its suburbs since the thirteenth century CE, and that they had played an important role in Jerusalem’s history since the Mamluk period. The opposition to Haj Amin’s appointment as Palestine’s mufti and his political leadership in turn spread an account stating that the affiliation of the Husseini family to the ashraaf was false and that Haj Amin’s grandfather, Mustafa, had attained the post of mufti through lies and trickery. The opposition’s account found traction with Zionist researchers inimical to the Palestinian national movement, who then spread it in campaigns against Haj Amin intending to mar his family’s reputation and harm the national movement he led. Israeli researchers in recent decades have published studies casting doubt on the Nashashibi family’s account of its competitors. In fact, they have leaned towards accepting the Husseini account of their lineage and their historic role in Jerusalem, at least post-eighteenth century. Although these studies are important, have distanced themselves from propagandistic research, and have removed some of the confusion concerning the Husseini family history, they have not entirely uncovered the truth of this family’s origins or its role prior to the mid-eighteenth century.
In previous studies, I have dealt at length with the subject of the naqib of the ashraaf syndicate’s revolt in Jerusalem led by Muhammad bin Mustafa al-Wafa’i Husseini. These events ended with his execution and, after the flames of the movement were doused, his succession by Muhibbeddin bin Abdel Samad, popularly named ‘Ibn Ghadiya’ for his family predecessor. Muhibbeddin led the Jerusalem ashraaf syndicate for two decades with near-ease. During that time he accumulated wealth and numerous buildings in the city that he transferred to his children and his wife Amina Khanun shortly before his death. In subsequent decades, the syndicate was passed on as inheritance from the sons and grandchildren of Muhibbeddin until it reached another branch of the Ghadiya family (the branch of Abdel Latif, the paternal first cousin of Muhibbeddin) on the first of the Islamic month of Muharram in 1158 H/3 February 1745 CE. The appointment of Abdel Latif to the syndicate was renewed over three decades until his death in early Dhu al-Qaeda 1188 H/January 1775 CE. The syndicate was then passed on to his children and grandchildren. One of his children, Hassan bin Abdel Latif, succeeded in being appointed the Hanafi mufti.
In my book, The History of Palestine in the Late Ottoman Period, I addressed the origins of the new Husseini family going back to the Ghadiya family, which included Muhibbeddin, naqib of the ashraaf mentioned above, and Abdel Latif bin Abdel Qader of the Ghadiya family. This surname was subsequently dropped, and from the nineteenth century they became known as the Husseini family. I discovered, by reading the records of the Islamic courts in Jerusalem, that the family tree with origins to the Husseini al-Wafa’i al-Badri family is not at all precise. In fact, the branch of Abdel Latif of the Ghadiya family that joins with the tree of the al-Wafa’i family through the persona of Abdel Qader is one of the sources of confusion over the origins of this family and the veracity of its affiliation to the ashraaf.
It is useful here to add an important additional source that clearly supports my conclusions about the lineage of the new Husseini family (previously the Ghadiya family), which differs from the al-Wafa’i Husseini family. Scholars such as Hassan bin Abdel Latif from the twelfth Islamic century and author of the biographies of Jerusalem’s residents, and Khalil al-Muradi who authored A Chain of Pearls, were aware of the existence of these two separate families. In Murtada al-Zubaydi’s Dictionary of Shaykhs, he describes the biography of prominent scholars from the two families and clarified the confusion over their separate lineages. His biographies leave no doubt that both families’ lineage was among the ashraaf despite being different ancestral lines. It is thus useful to present al-Zubaydi’s research, garnered when he visited their homes in Jerusalem, staying as their guest.
Al-Zubaydi mentioned Abdel Latif bin Abdullah, who inherited the ashraaf syndicate from his cousins via the branch of Muhibbeddin of the Ghadiya family in 1158 H/1745 CE. He noted the lineage of Abdel Latif, who was named after his grandfather Abdel Latif bin Abdel Qader bin Abdel Rahman bin Musa bin Abdel Qader bin Musa bin ‘Ali bin Shemseddin Muhammad Ghadiya al-Aswadi al-Maqdadi al-Maqdasi. Al-Zubaydi further added to his description of Abdel Latif (father of Jerusalem’s mufti and author of biographies of Jerusalem’s residents) that he was “head of the sayyids (ashraaf), the grandson of the al-Hassan family, and a famous generous individual”. Al-Zubaydi had heard of him when he was in Medina in 1163 H/1750 CE and yearned to meet him. When al-Zubaydi reached Egypt, he traveled to Mansoura and then Damietta, and from there traveled by sea to Jaffa. When he reached the home of the naqib of Jerusalem’s ashraaf, he and his children were generous with him and paid him the utmost interest. He added in his description of the naqib of Jerusalem’s ashraaf that he had “a decent and reverent heart. Everyone visits him from near and afar. Strangers find refuge in his home, residing there as they like, respectable as though in their own homes.”
When Emir al-Haj came to collect taxes from the district and its residents, he stayed in his home for a few days. When he left, “he was presented with luxurious gifts suitable for him,” reported al-Zubaydi, who stayed in the home of the naqib of Jerusalem’s ashraaf for 19 days. When he left, a group of Abdel Latif’s men escorted him on horseback “until we reached Ramla. He ordered me to stay in the home of their relative, Taj al-Huda, and so I stayed in their home, respected and blessed.” When al- Zubaydi arrived in Egypt, their relationship was sustained through correspondence and “gifts and greetings” sent by the naqib of Jerusalem’s ashraaf to this eminent scholar. The author closes his biography of Abdel Latif by saying that “he passed away on the third of Dhu al-Qaeda 1188 H., at the approximate age of 90.”
Hassan Abdel Latif, biographer of Jerusalem’s residents, also recorded the life of his own father and mentioned that Muhammad Murtada al-Yamani, “orator of the age and intellectual of the period and time” had also written his father’s biography. Yet Hassan Abdel Latif’s biographies of his father and great-grandfather Abdel Latif bin Abdel Qader, “shaykh of al-Haram al-Sherif and naqib of the ashraaf of its pure surrounds” who died in 1107 H/1695-1696 CE, did not mention the lineage of the family mentioned by al-Zubaydi, that of the Ghadiya al-Aswadi al-Maqdadi family. Likewise, Khalil al-Muradi, the mufti of Damascus and author of A Chain of Pearls, did not mention this important fact about the lineage of Abdel Latif bin Abdel Qader in his biography of him. Yet Hassan Abdel Latif’s biography of his father is not completely free of reference to the lineage described by Murtada al-Zubaydi. A poem by Shaykh Muhammad al-Tafilani, who was the Hanafi mufti of Jerusalem, made one reference in the following lines: “From the Miqdad family is the son of the proud/ Time is truly pleased with him despite the deviant.”
Thus the affiliation of Hassan bin Abdel Latif and his father and grandfathers to the Ghadiya family, or the Ghadiya al-Aswadi al-Miqdadi family, and not to the Husseini al-Wafa’i family, has become obvious. It is confirmed by the records of the Islamic courts and the books of biographies from that period that clearly distinguish between the members of each family. As for Murtada al-Zubaydi’s Dictionary of Shaykhs, it confirms these sources and leaves no room for doubt that his age featured prominent scholars and important notables from the Ghadiya family (the Abdel Latif branch) on the one hand, and from the al-Wafa’i Husseini family on the other (the most important of whom was ‘Ali bin Musa bin Mustafa bin Abi Wafa’, the nephew of Muhammad bin Mustafa, the Husseini al-Wafa’i naqib and leader of the naqib of the ashraaf revolt in Jerusalem).
Al-Zubaydi also recorded the biography of Abdullah bin Abdel Latif, who inherited from his father leadership of Jerusalem’s ashraaf syndicate and the post of shaykh of al-Haram al-Sherif. In this biography, he confirmed that Hassan Abdel Latif’s biography reported the family’s affiliation to Ibn Ghadiya al-Aswadi al-Miqdadi. In his discussion of Abdullah bin Abdel Latif, al-Zubaydi added that he had met him in Jerusalem in 1167 H/1753-1754 CE when he stayed as the guest of his father. Abdullah was the oldest of Abdel Latif’s children, followed by Hassan, who became the mufti of Jerusalem and biographer of Jerusalem’s residents. When Abdel Latif passed away, his oldest son Abdullah inherited the leadership of the ashraaf. “The man’s blessing was in his faith and his kindness. He participated every year in negotiations that never end, may God Almighty reward him with goodness.” In the footnotes to this biography of Abdullah bin Abdel Latif, it was stated that he had followed the footsteps of his father in the way of generosity and the welcoming of guests and visitors. Yet some of Jerusalem’s notables “harmed him immensely and even caused his exile from his city with his oldest son al-Sayyid Abdel Latif and wrote petitions to the state against him and his son that they were innocent of.” After some time, Abdullah succeeded in overcoming this problem and a high decree was issued for his return to the city with his son, and for him to lead the ashraaf. Abdullah bin Abdel Latif remained the naqib of Jerusalem’s ashraaf until he passed away in 1208 H/1793-1794 CE. He was buried in Bab al-Rahma next to Shaddad al-Sahabi, may God be pleased with him.
Before al-Zubaydi arrived in Jerusalem for the first time in 1167 H/1753-1754 CE, he went to Egypt, where he met Shaykh ‘Ali bin Musa bin Mustafa bin Shemseddin al-Wafa’i, the Jerusalemite Hanafi Azharite known as the son of the naqib of the ashraaf “because his grandfathers had led the syndicate”. This ‘Ali bin Mustafa was born in Jerusalem in 1125 H/1713 CE (i.e. after the revolt of his uncle, the naqib of the ashraaf) and grew up there. He then traveled to Damascus before returning to Jerusalem, where he met Shaykh Abdel Ghani al-Nablusi and Mustafa al-Bikri. He joined his order and was encouraged to go to Egypt, which he did, and he studied under its shaykhs.
‘Ali bin Mustafa became well-known in al-Azhar and became one of Egypt’s leading scholars, “skilled in issuing fatwas. He taught the sciences of exegesis, Islamic law and prophetic sayings at the Hussein shrine.” When Murtada al-Zubaydi met him, he joined him in his lessons and “he introduced me to the shaykhs and pious men. I studied with him al-Bukhari, The Small Collection, The Forum, The Resemblances, and other books.” Murtada al-Zubaydi added in his biography of this Azharite scholar of Jerusalem: ‘Ali bin Musa had a stable with horses, for he was skilled in horsemanship and shooting. He built a spacious home in Husseiniyya and then his debt grew and so he migrated to Istanbul, where he was welcomed. He responded harshly to owners of wealth, emirs, and kings of the age, whom he affiliated with injustice and enmity. Then he left the city [the Ottoman capital] and traveled to Egypt, where he died in 1186h/1772/1773 CE.
Al-Jarbarti also mentioned the biography of ‘Ali bin Musa Husseini al-Wafa’i in a census of those who died in 1186 h/1772-1773 CE, and repeated much of what Murtada al-Zubaydi had said. Yet he added important information when he mentioned his teachers, for example, including al-Wafa’i’s mother’s paternal uncle, Shaykh Hussein al-Alami, who resided in Lod, Abu Bakr bin Ahmed al-Alami, the mufti of Jerusalem, and Shaykh al-Mu’ati al-Khalili. This famous chronicler also mentioned the generosity of ‘Ali bin Musa bin al-Naqib and his move from his home to a new, spacious house in Husseiniyya “on the city’s fringe, on the basis that the fringes are the residencies of the ashraaf.” Al-Jabarti also noted the incident of al-Naqib’s trip to Istanbul, which he departed after envious people slandered him, causing him to return to his home in Egypt in 1183 h/1770-1771 CE. He added another incident in which he met with Muhammad Bey Abul Dhahab, who asked him his opinion of the people of Istanbul, which he had recently visited. ‘Ali bin Musa replied, “There is no good remaining in Islambul or in Egypt, and no one is honored other than evil beings. As for those of scholarship and the ashraaf, they die of hunger.” Abul Dhahab understood this as an allusion towards the emirs and rulers, and he ordered that 100,000 silver halves be given to al-Naqib from the mint. He spent some of it on his debt and distributed the rest among the poor. ‘Ali bin Musa died on Sunday, 6 Shaaban 1186 h/ 2 November 1772 CE.
In Hassan bin Abdel Latif’s autobiography, he noted some of the teachers and shaykhs he had studied under, including “’Ali al-Qudsi, son of the late naqib of the ashraaf who resided in Egypt, when he graced Jerusalem to visit family”. In other words, the family of Abdel Latif of the Ghadiya family was joined in marriage to the children of the al-Wafa’i Husseini naqib of the ashraaf who lost the Jerusalem ashraaf syndicate following the 1703-1705 revolt. Following the death of his brother Abdullah, Hassan bin Abdel Latif played an important role in keeping the syndicate within the family until it was transferred to Omar bin Abdel Salaam. As for the post of the Hanafi mufti, following the death of Hassan bin Abdel Latif, it was transferred to his nephew Taher bin Mustafa. The position remained within the household until the days of Haj Amin Husseini in the British Mandate period. As Taher Effendi was a scholar, mufti, and teacher, he maintained the family’s relationship with the scholars of Cairo, Damascus and Istanbul. In contrast, Omar al-Naqib (Omar bin Abdel Salaam) inherited the political leadership and social standing of his forefathers and also upheld their tradition of hosting guests. He opened his home to guests, visitors, emirs, and rulers from around the world.
In order to strengthen his leadership, Omar Effendi al-Naqib (Omar bin Abdel Salaam) married into a number of families of Jerusalemite scholars and notables. First he married the daughter of Shaykh Nijmeddin al-Jama’i, the head of the preachers (imams) at al-Aqsa mosque “and formerly the Hanafi mufti of Jerusalem”. Soon afterwards he married Ruqaya, the daughter of Musa Effendi Khalidi, “the bashkatib [head clerk] in the Islamic courts.” Yet Omar Effendi did not suffice with marrying into Jerusalemite families, for he also forged relations with the Tuqan family in Nablus. Musa Bey Tuqan, the mutasallem of the Nablus district, married Tarfanda, the daughter of Omar al-Naqib, whose oldest son, Abdel Salaam, also married one of the daughters of Musa Bey Tuqan in the common manner of marriage exchange. In addition, Muhammad Pasha Abu Maraq married one of the women from the Husseini family in Jerusalem.
Omar al-Naqib was also able to strengthen his leadership and expand his family’s influence beyond Jerusalem by investing money in commerce and the purchase of real estate in Gaza, Jaffa, and elsewhere on the coast. And thus Omar Effendi al- Naqib added to his authority in appointing the naqibs of ashraaf syndicates in cities throughout the governorate–a socio-political standing that he strengthened at times through marriage and at times through the expansion of commercial and investment activities in Jerusalem and elsewhere.
Omar Effendi al-Naqib followed the path of his forefathers in Jerusalem in the honor he extended to guests and visitors and in spending his wealth, and thus his influence also surpassed the boundaries of his official post as naqib of Jerusalem’s ashraaf and defender of their rights and privileges.
Like his forefathers of the eighteenth century, Omar Effendi became a prominent notable of the Levant, in addition to playing an important role in all the affairs of governance and administration in Jerusalem and its environs. Whenever a mission proved difficult for the mutasallem of the district, the governors of Damascus and Akko would turn to Omar Effendi Husseini and seek his assistance in solving it or at least facilitating its solution. Like his forefathers, this naqib had many relations, extending as far as the important capitals of Istanbul, Damascus, Cairo, and Acre, on the one hand, and the shaykhs of villages and neighboring areas on the other. The family of Abu Ghosh, for example, which grew prominent as one of the most powerful families of shaykhs in Mount Jerusalem, was among his allies. Powerful Hebron-area families such as Badr al-Tamimi and the Amru family in the village of Doura rallied under his banner, an indication of his influence in various areas of the district. Like his forefather Abdel Latif bin Abdullah, whom Murtada al-Zubaydi and other scholars and emirs had visited, the home of Omar Effendi al-Naqib was famed for being a focal point for visitors to Jerusalem and its surrounding holy sites. While the scope of this article does not permit mention of everything that sources note about this, I will offer some examples of prominent visitors who stayed as guests with Omar Effendi. Shaykh Hassan al-Attar, one of Egypt’s renowned scholars who later became the shaykh of al-Azhar, visited Jerusalem in 1229 H/ 1814 CE. During his stay in the city, this Azharite scholar was the guest of Omar Effendi al-Naqib, about whom he stated that his home was the only one open to welcome guests and visitors. When al-Attar’s stay in Jerusalem lengthened, his friend, the chronicler Abdel Rahman al-Jabarti, wrote to the Mufti Taher Effendi Husseini asking for the guest to hasten and return to his home in Cairo. In explaining his stay of many months in Jerusalem, al-Attar noted that he had been waiting to participate in the Festival of the Prophet Moses. The naqib of the Jerusalem ashraaf was at that time responsible for organizing the annual festival and pilgrimage to the shrine, including the feeding of all those who traveled to take part. Like other guests of the naqib, Shaykh Hassan al-Attar generously praised Omar Effendi upon his return to Egypt for his hospitality, generosity, and lofty morals.
Traveler Richardson, one of the few Europeans who visited Jerusalem in the early nineteenth century, he left a detailed description of his visit to the home of Omar Effendi and his encounters with his family and guests. The naqib sent an invitation for Richardson to visit him with a member of the Abu Ghosh family in the city and this tourist, a physician by profession, accepted. After his first visit and their acquaintance, Omar Effendi asked his guest to examine and treat his eyes. At that time, the naqib was suffering from an inflammation and Richardson provided him with the appropriate treatment. This traveler described his host, Omar Effendi, and his paternal cousin, Mufti Taher Effendi, as intelligent scholars with expansive knowledge of the world’s affairs. During the late nights they spent in each others’ company, conversation of local affairs, religion and the affairs of the Ottoman state went on for hours. Richardson noted that the mutasallem was often among the evening’s guests, in addition to a number of the city’s scholars and notables. Those who spent the evening conversing in the naqib’s home ate, drank coffee and other beverages, listened to music and singing, in addition to trading stories and information. Richardson, who visited the home of Omar Effendi several times, noted that it was a destination for travelers from around the world. He added that sometimes he ate in this house in the company of no less than 80 people, including guests, acquaintances, and the household members.
In recording his trip to Jerusalem, Richardson addressed the topic of the household’s women, a matter rarely addressed by travelers, whether Muslim or European. The matter of feeding dozens of visitors and guests on a daily basis, as Richardson noted, was a difficult task that fell on the women of the house. Despite the presence of male and female servants and helpers, both peasants and urbanites, who helped to lighten the family’s work burden, the women complained to this doctor of exhaustion. Richardson noted that a significant portion of his visit to Jerusalem, which lasted three weeks, was spent in the home and diwan of the naqib, to the point that he did not find time to visit the district mutasallem, Abdel Karim Agha. The statements of this traveler, like the testimony of Hassan al-Attar and other letters and documents, make it clear that Omar Effendi al-Naqib was the most powerful and important personality in Jerusalem at that time. His home, always prepared to welcome guests and visitors, was an expression of his high standing and wide influence in a society based upon repute and personal and familial relations.
The posts of the Hanafi mufti, the naqib of the ashraaf, and the head shaykh of al- Haram al-Sherif were among the most prominent positions for Jerusalem’s scholars and notables and were held by members of the Husseini family in the early nineteenth century. As for the remaining men of this family, they held other, more humble posts, such as overseeing religious endowments (like that of the Prophet Moses), teaching, the service of mosques, commerce, industry (mostly soap) and other professions. Mufti Hassan bin Abdel Latif summed up this family in his biographies when he wrote, “In general, they were at that time about 50 men, poor and rich, notables and common folk.” This description is applicable to the members of this family during this study’s timeframe, as well as most Jerusalemite families from which scholars and notables grew prominent but which also did not lack simple folk and the poor. The Husseini family maintained its status and influence in Jerusalem during the late Ottoman period, and this was a natural basis for it leading the Palestinian national movement in the days of Haj Amin Husseini during the British Mandate.
The Khalidi family
The Khalidi family, formally referred to as al-Deiri, occupied an important position among Jerusalem’s scholars and notables over successive generations, including the period of concern. The source of the family members’ significance was always their employment in the Islamic courts as clerks and head clerks (bashkatib), as well as assistant magistrates. Whereas the posts of mufti and naqib of the ashraaf were largely monopolized by members of the Husseini family and sometimes transferred to other scholars and notables of Jerusalem, the Khalidi family was not among their competitors. It succeeded, however, in maintaining posts within the Islamic courts for members of the family. Through their work in the judiciary, some succeeded in climbing the ladder of posts and being appointed assistant magistrates or even judges in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Despite the rise and fall of the Khalidi family’s status throughout the Ottoman era, the family maintained its role in the Islamic courts and, through it, commanded social influence.
In the early Ottoman period, the Khalidi family was known by the name of al-Deiri, a reference to the village al-Deir in the Nablus district. Even prior to the Ottoman era, some of Khalidis who settled in Jerusalem grew prominent, including famous scholars such as Shamseddin Muhammad bin Abdullah al-Deiri. It appears that this judge was the first to reside in Jerusalem and that he started a family later known as ‘Khalidi’ in reference to Khalid bin al-Walid. The name ‘al-Deiri’ continued to be used for this family until the eighteenth century, when it was gradually dropped and the name ‘Khalidi’ emphasized instead, highlighting lineage tracing back to Khalid bin al-Walid, the Islamic conqueror of the Levant under the first Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Sadiq. Some researchers who have carefully studied the family’s history have cast doubt on this lineage established by those of later generations as one more fitting to the family’s status and long history. In any case, the Khalidi family’s ancient lineage was accepted in the eighteenth century and confirmed by documents in the Islamic courts and biographies of that period’s scholars and notables.
Unlike many of Jerusalem’s families, the Khalidi family did not descend from the Prophet Muhammad and remained distanced from competition over the ashraaf syndicate. And despite their affiliation to the Hanafi school of law starting in the early Ottoman period, they did not attempt to obtain the post of the Hanafi mufti in Jerusalem, remaining distanced from the power struggles over such important posts. Among the family’s members who grew prominent in the eighteenth century was Muhammad Sonallah Khalidi, who held the post of the bashkatib in the Islamic courts. Following his decease in 1140 H/1727-1728 CE, his children Khalil and then Ibrahim inherited his status and his post until their deaths, at which time the post was transferred to other members of the family. It seems that the family’s status began to decline in the late seventeenth century due to reforms and reorganization of the judiciary in the Ottoman state. The policy of appointing judges from among graduates of Ottoman schools in Istanbul apparently contributed to shrinking opportunities for judgeships for scholars in the Levant and the Arab provinces. Yet the family’s circumstances improved starting in the late eighteenth century and its influence grew with the rise of the status of the local elite and the decline of the central Ottoman authority.
Three individuals from the Khalidi family played an important role in raising the family’s status beginning in the late eighteenth century. The first of these was ‘Ali Effendi, who was appointed the bashkatib in Jerusalem’s Islamic court beginning at least in 1782, following the death of his uncle, Ibrahim, the son of Muhammad Sonallah mentioned above. Initially, a struggle took place between him and his cousin, who attempted to inherit the post from his father as was customary at that time, and who obtained sanction from the Sultan to this end. Yet ‘Ali Effendi, who had been a clerk in the Islamic court for two decades, had gained the support of the city’s scholars and notables. And the judge, the muwalli khilafat al-shar’, was in charge of making a decision regarding competition for the post of bashkatib. It is worth noting that the position of the naqib of Jerusalem’s ashraaf at that time, Abdullah bin Abdel Latif, and the Hanafi mufti, Hassan bin Abdel Latif, had a decisive influence on the post being given to ‘Ali Effendi.
The city’s scholars and notables, including the mufti and naqib of the ashraaf, held that Muhammad Effendi, son of the former bashkatib, was new to work in the Islamic court and considered unsuitable by its staff as well as by the people of Jerusalem. In contrast, they held that ‘Ali Effendi was suitable. On this basis, Jerusalem’s scholars and notables requested that the judge grant the post to ‘Ali Effendi and not accept the official appointment for Muhammad Effendi, son of the former bashkatib Ibrahim. They explained this position by arguing that the sultan’s sanction issued for Muhammad Effendi was issued on the basis of incorrect information regarding his qualifications and suitability for the post. And in fact, the judge decided to appoint ‘Ali Effendi and the governor of Damascus announced this decision. He also agreed with the choice of Jerusalem’s scholars and ratified the judge’s choice.
The incident of ‘Ali Effendi Khalidi’s appointment to the post of bashkatib of the Islamic courts illustrates the importance of the role of the local elite in appointments. Although Muhammad Effendi, son of the former bashkatib, had obtained the Sultan’s sanction for his appointment, the position of Jerusalem’s scholars and notables, led by members of the Husseini family, pushed the balance in the favor of ‘Ali Effendi. This position taken by the leaders of the Husseini family may have a role in explaining the friendly relations and cooperation that reigned between employees of the Islamic courts who were members of the Khalidi family and members of the Husseini family during that period. The Husseini and Khalidi families did not compete for the same posts, but rather maintained relations of coordination and cooperation. While Jerusalemite families such as the al-Ilmi, Jarallah, al-Jama’i, Abul Saud, and other families competed with the Husseini family for the posts of the Hanafi mufti and naqib of the ashraaf, the Khalidi family remained distant from these struggles. Relations between the two families were also strengthened through marriage in the early nineteenth century.
The post of bashkatib was always a launching pad for becoming an assistant magistrate whenever the holder of this post was out of town or unable to fulfill the duties of his post for any reason. Working beside the muwali khilafa (judge), or in his place, put the Khalidi family in an important position of influence within Jerusalem and beyond. This reality, which was not overlooked by Ottoman authorities, was sufficient reason for releasing bashkatibs from their posts, despite incidents of complaints by competitors and the envious. In 1204 H/ 1789-1790 CE, for example, the empire released ‘Ali Effendi the bashkatib from his post on the charge of interfering in affairs of governance and administration outside of his jurisdiction. In his place, his brother Musa Effendi was appointed to the post and remained the bashkatib for several years. What is unusual about this case is that ‘Ali Effendi, removed from the post of bashkatib in the Islamic court, was appointed during that period as assistant magistrate in the Islamic courts of Gaza and Jaffa, indicating that the goal had only been to distance him from Jerusalem and its Islamic court. Musa Effendi, the new bashkatib, was appointed several times during the final decade of the nineteenth century, as an assistant magistrate and then as a judge in the Islamic courts during the French occupation in 1799. In 1216 H/ 1801 CE, ‘Ali Effendi returned from Jaffa where he became a judge (assistant magistrate) and was again appointed bashkatib in Jerusalem and assistant to its judge, just as he had been previously.
There are several indications that the status of Jerusalem’s scholars and notables was strengthened following the French occupation, which shook faith in the ability of the sultan and his armies to protect sacred places from European invasion. Documents in the Islamic courts indicate that, starting in the early nineteenth century, the Ottoman state needed the assistance of local elites to resist the French and expel them from Palestine and Egypt, and then to fight the Wahhabis. It was during this period that Musa Effendi bolstered his status and climbed the judiciary ladder following his successful start in Jerusalem. It appears that some people were not pleased by this development and the success of Musa Effendi in bringing his brother back as Jerusalem’s bashkatib; they sought to limit his influence. A sultan’s order was issued, supported by a fatwa issued by the Shaykh of Islam, that required his removal from the city. And in fact this order was executed and Musa Effendi was exiled from Jerusalem and its judiciary, although not for long. He succeeded in climbing the ladder of the Ottoman judiciary and was appointed a judge in Medina, the second most holy Islamic site and one of the most important posts in the judiciary. Musa Effendi continued to advance until he was appointed the judge of the Anatolian army, the second most important scholarly post following that of the Shaykh of Islam.
During the Ottoman period, government posts were a means of gathering wealth and bolstering social influence. As Musa Effendi climbed the ladder of the Islamic judicial system, he succeeded in accumulating immense wealth, some of which he invested in the purchase of property in Jerusalem. In 1828, this judge established an inheritance endowment that included homes, shops, vineyards, and legal rights to a coffee shop, a bakery, a mill, and other buildings. Musa Effendi Khalidi retained this endowment throughout his life and then limited it to his two sons Mustafa and Abdel Qader and his four daughters, Ruqaya, Mahbuba, Asma’, and Aisha. With regards to his son Abdel Qader, the sources available do not offer any information. It appears that he died at a young age without marrying or bearing any children.
As for Mustafa Hamed, Musa Effendi Khalidi’s second son, he lived in Istanbul for a long time, studying and graduating from its schools. He was appointed judge of the Islamic courts in Jerusalem and indeed traveled there to take up this post. Shortly after his arrival in Jerusalem, he married the daughter of his paternal uncle, ‘Ali Effendi, mentioned above. Mustafa suddenly died a few months following his marriage and his inheritance was passed on to his wife and from her to her brother, Muhammad ‘Ali Effendi. As for Musa Effendi Khalidi’s daughters, three of them married the most prominent of Jerusalem’s scholars and notables. Ruqaya married Omar Effendi, naqib of the ashraaf, Asmaa’ married her cousin Muhammad ‘Ali Effendi the bashkatib and assistant magistrate, and Mahbuba married Muhammad Tajeddin Abul Saud, who was appointed the naqib of Jerusalem’s ashraaf from time to time.
Musa Effendi spent the last years of his life in Istanbul and died in 1247 H/1832 CE. Among the effendiya of his time, this Jerusalemite judge had held the most important and highest position in the Ottoman state apparatus. Shortly before his death, Musa Effendi played an important role in urging the people of Jerusalem to fight Muhammad ‘Ali’s army after its invasion, or at least not to cooperate with it. This Khalidi judge played an important role in bolstering the influence of members of his family in the Ottoman capital, for he forged close relations with reformers during the reign of Sultan Mahmoud II. Following his death, leadership of the family was transferred to Muhammad ‘Ali Effendi, his nephew and son-in-law.
As for ‘Ali Effendi Khalidi, he remained in his Jerusalem post of bashkatib and assistant magistrate for an extended period. Like his brother Musa before him, this post helped him to gather immense wealth and bolster his influence and standing among Jerusalem’s effendiya. When Ahmed Pasha al-Jazzar died in 1804, ‘Ali Effendi was assistant magistrate in Jerusalem and in fact the acting judge. An indication of his influence and standing at that time is the fact that he sent a letter to Muhammad Agha, the mutasallem of Gaza and Ramla and the head of customs in Jaffa that retained him in this post until new orders were issued from Istanbul. The Ottoman authorities did not fail to note the extent of ‘Ali Effendi’s influence and attempted to remove him from his post shortly after this move. Yet this attempt failed because Jerusalem’s judge (al-muwalli khilafa) at that time re-appointed ‘Ali Effendi to the post of bashkatib, for in addition to his qualifications, suitability, and lengthy experience in that post, he enjoyed the support of Jerusalem’s scholars and notables.
Another attempt was made to remove ‘Ali Effendi Khalidi from the post of bashkatib in 1228 H/ 1813 CE. He was summoned to Damascus, where the governor warned him not to interfere in affairs of governance and to adhere to the boundaries of his post in the Islamic court. He was charged with cooperating with some of Jerusalem’s scholars and notables in interfering in the affairs of the district’s administration that were the responsibility of the governor of Damascus and his mutasallem. The governor in Damascus sufficed that time with issuing a warning, but it appears that this warning did not affect the course of events or the power balances on the ground in Jerusalem and its surrounds. The Khalidi family, like the Husseini family and other members of local elites in the Levant and elsewhere in the provinces did not hesitate to exploit the weakness of the central authority and its representatives to increase their influence and interfere in the affairs of governance when it served their interests. The governors of Damascus overlooked this behavior among Jerusalem’s effendiya due to needing their cooperation in the administration of the district’s affairs. As for the few instances in which the governors intervened and attempted to contain the effendiya, led by the Husseini and Khalidi families, they were limited and sought to save face before the state and its officials.
‘Ali Effendi Khalidi passed away in Jerusalem in 1231 H/1816 CE, and his post and high standing were inherited by his son Muhammad ‘Ali, who held the post of bashkatib of the court and assistant magistrate for many years. During the decades in which Muhammad Ali Effendi held these posts, the Khalidi family significantly expanded its circle of influence outside of Jerusalem, particularly in Gaza, Jaffa, and other cities of the governorate. Through its work in Islamic courts or by appointing assistant magistrates to these cities, the family succeeded in protecting its economic interests and increasing its investment in those cities and cantons. It is worth mentioning that Muhammad ‘Ali followed in the footsteps of his uncle Musa Effendi and was appointed judge of the Islamic court in Jerusalem and then judge in Adrum and Murash. When he was appointed to judicial posts outside of Jerusalem, he transferred his posts in the Islamic court to his sons, Khalil and Yassin. A quick comparison between the role and status of Khalidi family members in the first half of the nineteenth century with that of the previous century clearly shows that the family strengthened its influence and established itself as the second most powerful family of effendiya in Jerusalem following the Husseini family.
Musa Khalidi, who climbed the ladder of posts in the Ottoman judiciary until the post of judge of the Anatolian army, played an important role in securing the foothold of the family and its status in Jerusalem and the cities and cantons of the governorate. It is noteworthy that, like the Husseini family, Musa Effendi and other members of the family formed close relations with top officials in the Ottoman state. Nevertheless, members of the Khalidi family were vocal supporters of reform and close to the leaders of the Ottoman tanzimat movement in the nineteenth century. This position of support for reform and change was particularly prominent during the time of Youssef Diya’ Khalidi (1842-1906). (However, that period is beyond the scope of this study and demands further research.)
The Socio-political Approach to Maintaining Posts
Jerusalem’s effendiya, as mentioned above, succeeded in bolstering their political standing and expanding their influence throughout the Jerusalem district and all the cities of the governorate from Nablus to the north to Gaza in the south beginning in the mid-eighteenth century. The means for securing and maintaining this standing was, as stated above, the cozying-up to the empire and its officials in Istanbul and the capitals of neighboring governorate, and creation of wealth and standing to protect and hold positions from one generation to the next.
Documents from the registers of the Islamic courts in Jerusalem serve as the most important source for studying the city’s history in the Ottoman era. Yet another source no less important than these registers are the private collections of documents and correspondence preserved in a number of private and public libraries in Jerusalem.
These collections include private letters exchanged between Jerusalem’s scholars and notables on the one hand and state officials and top scholars of the age in Istanbul, Damascus, Akko, Cairo, and other capitals on the other. This correspondence reveals some of the behind-the-scene machinations to secure letters of appointment for certain individuals, and to foil interference by enviers and competitors. Most of the correspondence that has been preserved concerns the Husseini family, and some of it the Khalidi, Abul Saud, al-Ilmi and other families. These personal documents, which were not written for history and historians, shed light on the political approach followed by the effendiya. They also reveal a complex web of relations that the Husseini and other families succeeded in establishing, whose threads stretch from Jerusalem to the Ottoman capital, sometimes passing through the capitals of neighboring states. The documents of the registers offer information on official positions and the final results of struggles over posts, but the personal correspondence reflects details about the efforts expended by Jerusalem’s effendiya to secure appointments and guarantee their transfer to relatives and allies.
In a study published more than a quarter of a century ago, the historian Butrus Abu Minna presented correspondence disclosing aspects of the relationship between the Husseini family and top scholars and officials in the Ottoman state during the second half of the eighteenth century. The collection of personal documents shows a clear strategy for protecting the interests of the family. This approach fundamentally relied on a flow of gifts and bribes offered to state officials so as to secure letters of appointment to the posts held by the Husseini family, most importantly for the leadership of the ashraaf syndicate and the post of the Hanafi mufti. Members of this family continued to follow this approach during the first third of the nineteenth century because it had become a well-known and accepted rule for obtaining posts in the Ottoman state.
The Husseini family’s agents and messengers to rulers and top scholars in the Ottoman capital were sometimes Jerusalemites residing in Istanbul, and at other times visitors and travelers between the two cities. In addition to maintaining relations with friends and admirers of the family, these agents and envoys sometimes had to pursue the messengers of competing families, find out their news, and convey it to Jerusalem. Agents in Istanbul also sent to the Husseini family news of new opportunities for investment in open positions or profitable trade and other such recommendations.
On 25 Muharram 1206 H/ 24 September 1791 CE, Abdullah Effendi, naqib of the ashraaf in Jerusalem, received a letter from an ‘Ibrahim’ in Istanbul which exemplifies the work performed by the Husseini family’s agents in the Ottoman capital. The letter opens by stating that elsewhere enclosed is a letter of appointment for the mufti, Hassan Effendi. Then the writer goes on to raise important information related to the family’s affairs and interests. He writes:
On Wednesday, 22 Muharram, the Right Honorable Amin Bey, judge of Jerusalem, arrived in Islambul via Adaliya in the company of Shaykh Abul Saud and his son and the son of al-Ja’uni and the son of al-Salahi. We went to meet them all. When we met the mullah he mentioned you and your laudable characteristics to those in the sitting and praised with all goodness. We have still not learned anything concerning the arrival of Shaykh Abul Saud. But at the beginning of the sitting he said, ‘We have come to this country so as to appeal to the state.’...He stayed in the home of Amin Bey, although it seems to us that he will not continue there due to some observations I noted.”
The writer then moved on to general affairs of the Ottoman state, mentioning the peace talks whose conditions would not be made clear for another eight months. He then conveyed news directly concerning the Husseini family, making reference to a “weak rumor” that Shamseddin Effendi, the former governor of Damascus, had died on the road. He then mentioned the “responses to gifts” that he would send to Jerusalem on the Armenian ship “that sails in a month.” The writer asked the naqib to support the return of the translator Yacoub “to his place in any way. . . because he is your protégé.” Then Ibrahim concluded his letter to Abdullah Effendi, the naqib of Jerusalem’s ashraaf “by kissing the hands of our shaykh and teacher Shaykh Muhammad Effendi al-Budairi”. He sent his warm greetings to Hassan Effendi, the Mufti, and to Abdel Latif Effendi and Abdel Salaam Effendi (the naqib’s children) and to ‘Ali Effendi Khalidi and Ismail “and to those who seek refuge in your presence and your bountiful home.”
Four years after the date of this letter, Ibrahim sent another letter from Istanbul to the Hanafi mufti and naqib of the ashraaf of the time, Hassan Effendi, which has also been preserved. In it, Ibrahim mentioned the arrival of “your gracious letter accompanied by gifts. That which you graciously offered reached us, may God increase your bounty.” Then Ibrahim changed to another matter, writing, “news has spread in Istanbul about the occurrence of a tremor in Jerusalem that resulted in the collapse of some shops, and that has preoccupied me greatly.” He then went on to discuss the affairs of Istanbul, writing that there was “a plague and many fires and rising prices.” As usual, Ibrahim closed his letter to the mufti of Jerusalem, Hassan Effendi, by greeting and kissing the hands of “our respected Shaykh Muhammad Effendi al-Budairi; our master, the naqib effendi; our master Muhibbeddin Effendi” and Shaykh Nijmeddin Effendi and Muhammad Jarallah Effendi “and all those who seek refuge in your presence in the way of employers and servants.” And on his part, the writer in Istanbul added that Amin Jalabi and his son Muhammad and Haj ‘Ali al- Jandubi and the Jerusalemites “send you warm greetings and prayers. Ismail has still not arrived to us.”
The judge of Jerusalem (al-muwali khilafa) served as an important connection between Jerusalem’s effendiya and state officials in the Ottoman capital because he held the position for only one year. In a letter written by Asaad al-Salahi from Istanbul to Shaykh Taher Effendi Husseini in 1224 H/1809 CE, he clearly indicated that the money and gifts had arrived “in the company of the mullah”. He then asked him to “send the rest of the effects with you” with the mullah of Jerusalem now with you, “for he is one of our dearest beloveds and there is a history between us.” If this particular judge of Jerusalem did not agree to bring that, however, “send it with whomever you rely upon among those coming here, whether Muslims, Christians or Jews.” As the judge of Jerusalem arrived once a year from Istanbul and then usually returned there following the end of his year’s service, he became an important means or channel for transporting news and money and for maintaining relations with top scholars and rulers. The Husseini family therefore always took interest in knowing the identity of the judge appointed to Jerusalem through its friends and agents in the Ottoman capital. The leaders of this family also always took care to greet these judges upon their arrival at the Jaffa port and to protect and accompany them on their return from Jerusalem to Istanbul following the end of their year’s service.
In 1207 H/1792-1793 CE, for example, the mullah of Jerusalem was described as being among the “state’s top notables”. Abdullah Effendi, naqib of the ashraaf at that time, exerted great efforts to secure a ship befitting the status of this judge and his companions in order to take them to Istanbul. Such a ship was found in Alexandria, and Abdullah Effendi went to the effort of having it brought from there to Jaffa to transport the judge and his family members and entourage. This great effort made, or investment undertaken, by the naqib of Jerusalem’s ashraaf was rewarded. This judge and his likes were close to the Shaykh of Islam and the naqib of the ashraaf in the Ottoman capital and other top state officials who made decisions concerning important appointments for the Husseini family.
Yet agents in Istanbul and judges coming and going between Istanbul and Jerusalem were not the only channels for communication with state officials. The heads of Christian sects and their monasteries also played an important role in the service of Jerusalem’s scholars and notables. Many heavy gifts including cases of soap, bottles of rose water, and skull caps, among others, were sent on the ships of religious pilgrims and with monastic leaders and others traveling by land and sea between Jerusalem and Istanbul. Money was usually not sent as cash but rather as transfers that church leaders cashed in the Ottoman capital.
Just as the Husseini family was active in trying to hold on to the Jerusalem ashraaf syndicate and the post of the Hanafi mufti, other Jerusalemite families competed with it, trying to wrest those posts from the hands of those who had monopolized them generation after generation. A letter to Hassan Effendi, Jerusalem’s mufti and naqib of the ashraaf, notes that his adversaries attempted to take revenge on him a month following his official appointment as the Hanafi mufti. This letter stated that Shaykh Jarallah and Muhammad Khalil had joined with some Egyptians and the Damascene Abdel Rahman al-Ramihani and met the Shaykh of Islam and submitted to him a petition. They claimed in their petition that Hassan Effendi had issued a legal fatwa permitting the construction of two churches that were in fact built in Jerusalem on the basis of this fatwa. The mullah of Jerusalem had arrived in Istanbul at that time and went to greet the Shaykh of Islam. When he saw this petition submitted against Hassan Effendi he said, “I think the person who submitted this petition wants the post for himself. But in my opinion, were the syndicate and the post of mufti taken from the hands of the Husseini family, that would affect the calm and order of the city as in the days of Madhi Zada.” The judge added in his discussion with the Shaykh of Islam that following the death of Abdel Salaam Effendi, the son of Shaykh Abul Saud went came to the judge and paid 1,000 piasters so that he would agree to grant him the syndicate. He refused for fear of inciting unrest and instability in Jerusalem, he said. According to the same narrative, the Husseini family gave the judge of Jerusalem only five skullcaps not exceeding a value of 100 piasters as a gift when he left the city.
This episode confirms the success of the Husseini family in bolstering its position and strong relations with state officials, including top scholars including judges. After mentioning the position of the judge of Jerusalem during his meeting with the Shaykh of Islam, the letter writer added that he had sent envoys close to the state officials to support the testimony of the judge and to speak in the interests of the Husseini family. Then he closed his letter by attempting to calm Hassan Effendi and those close to him by saying that the trouble Shaykh Jarallah had gone to in traveling to Istanbul would be in vain for he “will not gain anything other than disappointment.”
One of the Husseini family’s friends wrote in yet another letter preserved in private and public libraries in Jerusalem, this one seemingly from Damascus, that there was no use in intervening for low-ranking employees, for “interests, if employed by a big man, grow with him, and if employed by a small man, shrink with him.” This nameless letter writer added another important statement, “Demands of Islambul are met through giving, and nothing is taken from significant people’s hands.” Added to this important network of allies, the Husseini family was not stingy in its offers of money and gifts to state officials and their entourages so as to maintain their posts and undermine attempts by their competitors to wrest them from their hands.
Just as the Husseini family benefited from the services of their agents in Istanbul, these agents also requested services and personal assistance from Jerusalem. Assad al- Salahi requested assistance of this kind in a letter to the naqib of Jerusalem’s ashraaf dated 23 (?) 1226 H/29 January 1811 CE. He received a letter from ‘Mustafa’ “resident in our shop, stating that the son of our paternal uncle Musa al-Salahi is a burden on him. And thus we have removed him from serving as an agent and transferred the job to you. It is requested that you impress upon him that he is never to employ Mustafa. Take the fee from him and include it in our income. We put our faith in you as you have accustomed us to your high morals. And thus we have been bold enough to write this letter to you.” Then he added on the same topic, writing, “We owe a sum of 37 Egyptian akum to the person responsible. Have the tenant pay it and bring you the remainder; may God never deprive us of your high-mindedness. Whatever services you need in Istanbul, it will be our honor to fulfill them.”
These relationships served the interests of all, as a result. The family’s agents in the Ottoman capital earned material income for their services in addition to influence gained through their interactions with state officials and by offering them and those close to them gifts and money. The members of their families in Jerusalem also gained the protection and sponsorship of the effendiya, led by the mufti and the naqib of the ashraaf. And just as the agents offered their services in Istanbul and gained material income through that, they sometimes asked for the sponsorship and protection of their masters for visitors and pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem and the holy sites. Indeed, collections of family documents include letters in which agents request the assistance of the Husseini family and their protection for scholars, notables, and heads of monasteries and churches visiting Jerusalem.
Overall, the network of relations established by the naqibs of Jerusalem’s ashraaf syndicates and its muftis in the Ottoman capital reminds me of the methods employed by local rulers such as Zahir al-Omar and the al-Atham family and others who grew prominent in the Levant in the eighteenth century. The mutasallems of the district did not have such relations, for they answered directly to the governors of Damascus. Although the interests of the Husseini family were usually met in Istanbul, the governors and top scholars of neighboring states in Damascus, Akko, and Cairo were an important and indispensable connection utilized to reach the top of the administrative hierarchy. And thus the Husseini family also took care to establish close relations with state officials and their representatives in the capitals of these other Arab states.
1 Extensive footnotes in Arabic are available for this article. They can be obtained from the author on request.