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People and The Land 

  Families of Jerusalem and Palestine
  • The Joudeh Family

Sultan Saladin…The Key of the Church of The Holy Sepulchre…and Nabi Musa Celebrations

For over 700 years the Muslims have been celebrating the holy occasion of Prophet Musa (Moses) which has a glorious national background. Sultan Saladin El Ayyoubi created a national holiday in memory of Prophet Musa when he liberated Jerusalem from the hands of the Crusaders (AD 1187), since his concern was to protect the Muslims of Jerusalem from Crusaders who might return to the city as pilgrims.

Saladin showed much forgiveness in allowing all the Crusader soldiers to leave the city with their women and children within 40 days after an arranged ransom, and guaranteed their safe departure to the ports of Tyre and Tripoli. On the other hand he allowed the Arab Christians of Jerusalem to remain safe and protected in their houses. He also struck an agreement for European pilgrims to visit the Holy Land to perform pilgrimage and to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem.

Royal Decree

Appointing his Honorable, the Holiest Shikh Abd Al Qader Bin Al Shikh Mosa Al Ghudayeh in the post of Key Custodian of the Church of The Holy Sepulchre in replacement of Late Al Shikh Mohammed Bin Ali.

Rajab the Twentieth day of the year 1050 AH


The number of European pilgrims started increasing drastically in the second year and the Sultan was concerned that the Europeans might nullify the agreement. His first precautionary step was to order one of the two doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre sealed while keeping the other door open, then he entrusted the Key of the church to Al-Ghodayya, an honored Jerusalem Islamic family that has noble roots in the history of Islam. In the last second centuries Al-Ghodayya came to be known as the Joudeh family, the sole Key Custodian of the church up to this day.

Three well-known families descended from Al-Ghodayya. They are the Joudeh, the Younis Al-Husseini, and the Naqeeb Al-Husseini families.

The Joudeh family possesses over 150 Sultanic faramans (official documents issued by 22 successive sultans) for their assignment in four honorable positions:

  1. Superintendent on behalf of the Sultan on his Waqf (religious trust).
  2. Key’s Custodian of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
  3. Chairman of the Nobles.
  4. Islamic Mufti of Jerusalem.

In this assignment the Joudeh family became responsible for the Islamic affairs in the church, expressed clearly in the faramans and the documents issued by the heads of the Muslim Supreme Court in Jerusalem. He also assigned the Nusseibeh family for door keeping of the gates of the Holy Sepulchre.

The entrance fees that were collected under the supervision of the Superintendent of the Sultan, who also was the key’s Custodian, were kept in the treasury of the Waqf-- a charity establishment which fed every hungry mouth in Jerusalem. This remained until the time of the Ottomans when princess Rokellana, of Russian origin, later known as Khaskey Sultan, wife of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (AD 1565) embraced Islam and donated all her money. This comprised of several properties in Istanbul, Mecca, Jerusalem, and over thirty other villages and farms in Palestine, to a Waqf.

The Waqf of Sultan Saladin was combined with Waqf of Suleiman the Magnificent under the Name of Khasky Sultan Waqf.

The Khaskey Sultan Tikeya (House of charity) was the largest Islamic society for charity in Palestine for several centuries, open to any person in need of food, whether he was a resident, visitor, or a foreign tourist.

Most of the families of Jerusalem received food daily from Khaskey Sultan Tikeya and prayers were said for her soul by the Mu’azen from the minarets of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The wisdom behind entrusting the Key of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Muslim family was to ensure an open eye for the protection of this holy place.

The Holidays of Prophet Musa

The celebration took place in a spot located 25 km from Jerusalem on the way to Jericho. Here, the Muslims, especially the Knights, used to gather by the orders of Sultan Saladin to practice horsemanship during a time when the large crowd of pilgrims were in the Holy City of Jerusalem to celebrate Easter. The wisdom behind this was to guarantee a striking force to come to the aid of their brothers in Jerusalem in case of any sudden attack.

At the time of Sultan Babarse, a Mamluk of Egypt (AD 1260), the branch of Younis and Naqeeb Al-Husseini of the Al-Ghodayya family, were assigned by the Sultan as Superintendent of the Waqf of prophet Musa. Sultanic faramans and documents from the supreme Muslim court were issued to supervise the needs of the Mosque and the monastery and to organize celebrations, which initiated in Jerusalem and proceeded in sizeable parades to the Mosque of Prophet Musa. The catering for the masses was free of charge under the supervision of the superintendent of the Waqf. Those celebrations coincided with the Mamluk period, the Ottoman rule, the British Mandate to Palestine and stopped after the Israeli occupation of Palestine.





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