The Ridwan dynasty (also spelled Radwan) was the most prominent pasha family in Palestine and the southwestern districts of the Damascus Eyalet ("Province of Damascus") in the 16th and 17th centuries under Ottoman rule. The dynasty was based in Gaza, where its members became hereditary governors (sanjaq-begs), although members also ruled different provinces and districts throughout the Ottoman empire at different times. The Ridwan period in Gaza was considered the city's last golden age.
The Ridwan dynasty was founded by Kara Shahin Mustafa (later known as "Mustafa Pasha"), a former kapikulu ("slave of the Porte") of Suleiman the Magnificent. As part of the Ottoman devsirme system, Mustafa received his education by the inner service of the palace, eventually being elevated to high-ranking positions in the government. In 1524, after having successively served as the governor of Erzerum and Diyarbakir and then as the personal tutor of Shahzade Bayazit, he was temporarily appointed the governorship of Gaza, which was the capital of a sanjak ("district") still maintaining its importance from the previous Mamluk era. By 1560, he had already been promoted to the governorship of Egypt. Taking his place as governor of Gaza was his son Ridwan Pasha, who gave the dynasty its name. Ridwan formerly served as the treasurer of Yemen.
In 1565 Ridwan was promoted to beylerbey ("governor-general") of Yemen for two years before returning to rule Gaza for a short period of time in 1567. Meanwhile, in 1566, Mustafa was deposed by the new sultan Selim II for his closeness to Bayazit, Selim's brother and rival for power. Mustafa died shortly thereafter. By 1571, Ridwan had been promoted to vali ("provincial governor") of Habesh (Coastal Ethiopia), Basra and Diyarbakir in succession. Bahram Pasha, a second son of Mustafa and a high-ranking official in the Ottoman government, became governor of Sanjak Nablus in the mid-16th-century. After some time he was promoted to beylerbey of Damascus and later amir al-hajj ("leader of the hajj caravan"), making him responsible for the pilgrimage route to Mecca.
Stronghold in Gaza
In Gaza Ridwan was replaced by his son Ahmad Pasha, the longest-running Ridwan governor of Gaza, reigning for nearly 30 years. At times during his rule, the districts of Nablus and Jerusalem were attached to Sanjak Gaza. Under Ahmad's leadership, Gaza became the family's stronghold and base of power. Towards the 17th-century, he had Mamluk-era Qasr al-Basha enlarged and transformed into the dynasty's fortress and governor's palace. Ahmad intermittently served as amir al-hajj. He struggled to gain promotion by the Ottoman government, having to lobby several Istanbul-based viziers and bureaucrats with large sums of money and other gifts, unlike his predecessors. He was eventually appointed as governor of Damascus in 1601. His son Hasan "'Arap" Pasha subsequently inherited the governorship of Gaza. Ahmad later died in 1607.
Hasan's nickname Arap ("Bedouin") derived from the Ridwan family's good relations with and reputation for keeping the Bedouin tribes in check. In the 1620s, Sultan Murad IV ordered Hasan to take part in putting down the prolonged rebellion of Fakhr ad-Din II in the Lebanon region where Hasan's Bedouin units proved particularly effective, enabling the Ottomans to defeat Fakhr ad-Din's army. During this period, Hasan gained the additional governorship of Tripoli, although he was deposed in 1644. His rule brought poverty to Sanjak Gaza and burdened the Ridwan family with heavy debt. According to his biographer Muhibbi, Hasan had numerous wives and concubines and fathered 85 children. During Hasan's lifetime, his son Husayn Pasha served as governor of Nablus and Jerusalem as well as amir al-hajj.
After Hasan's death in 1660, Husayn inherited the governorship of Gaza and administered the district well. Because he was able to guarantee the safety of the main roads and countryside by securing and maintaining close relations with the local Bedouin tribes, Gaza and other cities in Palestine were allowed to prosper and develop extensively during Husayn's reign. Its importance was elevated to the point where Gaza was considered the "capital of Palestine." Husayn also developed benign relationships with the city's Christians and Jews, allowing the former group to construct and restore churches. He appointed his son Ibrahim ibn Husayn Ridwan as governor of Jerusalem, but Ibrahim died in 1661 during a punitive expedition against the Druze in Lebanon.
In 1663 Husayn was sent on an expedition to assist the governor of Damascus in quelling a Bedouin rebellion, but failed and left the battle disgraced. After petitions by his enemies in the Ottoman government, he was summoned to Istanbul where he was imprisoned and killed shortly afterward. According to historian Dror Ze'evi, the Ottoman state had grown weary of the growing power of the Ridwan and believed that killing Husayn would enable them to "destroy the remnants of the extended dynasty."
Musa Pasha succeeded his brother as governor of Gaza and central Palestine the same year. The length of his rule is not exactly known, although a document from Jerusalem in 1670 listed him as governor. Musa did not continue Husayn's liberal policies with non-Muslims and more cautious in his rule. Following the end of his rule, the Ridwan dynasty was stripped of its hereditary governorship and afterward officials appointed by the Ottoman government came to rule Gaza, which gradually declined in importance.
Patronage of ruling families
The Ridwan family saw themselves as the leaders of the wider region and the patrons of other ruling families. Farrukh, the Circassian governor of Jerusalem and founder of the prominent Farrukh dynasty, was a former mamluk of Bahram Pasha. The Farrukh dynasty ruled the Sanjak of Nablus up until the mid-17th-century. Kiwan, another mamluk of the Ridwan dynasty, became a major aid to the wali of Damascus before his son gained the wali and amir al-hajj positions in the 1670s.
Between the 16th and 17th centuries, three families controlled the sanjaks that constituted the region of Palestine. The Ridwans presided over Gaza, while the Farrukhs and Turabays presided over Nablus and Lajjun, respectively. Because of common interests and prior military slave relationships, the three families forged close ties throughout the course of their rule. The Ridwans were the dominant faction in this emerging unified dynasty. Evidence of intermarriage between the families is indicated by Ottoman registers. For example, the granddaughter of Ahmad ibn Turabay, the founder of the Turabay dynasty, was the mother of governor Assaf Farrukh Pasha. Assaf's wife was Shaqra Khatun, a daughter of governor Husayn Ridwan Pasha. After the deaths of Assaf and Shaqra, two of their sons, Muhammad Bey and Ali Bey, entered the custody of Husayn's brother, governor Musa Pasha. A daughter of Hasan "Arap" Pasha, sister to Musa and Husayn, was married to Assaf's brother Ali Farrukh.
Sharing common property also helped sustain unity among the families.
The Ridwan-Farrukh-Turabay alliance treated the territories of Palestine and, at times, Transjordan as hereditary fiefdoms. During troublesome periods, the three families would unite their forces to confront challenges from rebels or local rivals. The military relationship between them originated with the protection of the annual hajj caravan. When a particular governor was assigned the role of amir al-hajj, it would require him to depart from his sanjak for extended time periods. In order to protect their districts from Bedouin raids, tax evasion and personal property damage, departing governors normally entrusted their authority with the rulers of the neighboring sanjak. In 1589 Ridwan Pasha requested Assaf ibn Turabay to temporarily replace him as governor of Damascus, beginning a tradition that lasted well into the 17th-century.
The mutual trust between the families developed into a firm military alliance in the early 17th-century as a result of the increasing strength of Fakhr-al-Din II in the region. Backed by the Medici Grand Duke of Tuscany, Fakhr-al-Din briefly repaired his relations with the Ottoman government and in 1622 gained control of the territories of Safad and Ajlun before becoming governor of Nablus and tax-collector in Gaza later that year. His forces proceeded to head towards Jerusalem, traversing Palestine's coastal plain. Fakhr al-Din's moves threatened the rule of the three families who, after encouragement from the sultan's court in Istanbul, formed a coalition to stop his advances. In 1623 the armies of Hasan "Arap" Pasha, Muhammad ibn Farrukh and Ahmad ibn Turabay successfully routed Fakhr al-Din's army at the Awja River, forcing him to withdraw from the Palestine region.
Throughout their reign, the Ridwan dynasty accumulated vast wealth in Gaza, including agricultural lands and several buildings. The family allocated a large part of that wealth to awqaf ("religious trusts") which they used to fund the construction and maintenance of various public buildings. Many members of the dynasty were buried in Maqbarat al-Ridwan ("Ridwan Family Graveyard") located just south of the Great Mosque. There are a few graves built out of marble.
The family restored the minarets of two mosques in the Shuja'iyya quarter of Gaza, while Musa Pasha had the minaret of the Great Mosque of Gaza rebuilt. A mosque was constructed within the confines of Qasr al-Basha fortress, which later came to be known as the Ridwan Castle in light of its function as the Ridwans' residence (ad-Dabawiyya.) The fortress itself was outfitted with additional defenses, including arrow slits and narrow openings which were extended to employ the use of cannon.
The Qaysariyyah Market in the al-Daraj quarter was reconstructed as was the Hamam al-Sammara bathhouse and the former Khan az-Zayt caravansary. Bahram Pasha ordered the construction of the main sabil ("fountain") in Gaza in the mid-16th-century.
- Ze'evi, p. 39.
- Sharon, p. 196.
- Ze'evi, p. 41.
- Ze'evi, p. 40.
- Shahin, p. 435.
- Sharon, p. 197.
- Ze'evi, pp. 58-59.
- Ze'evi, 1995, p. 45.
- Ze'evi, 1995, p. 47.
- Ze'evi, 1995, p. 48.
- Ze'evi, 1995, p. 49.
- Sharon, p. 192.
- Shahin, Mariam (2005). Palestine: A Guide. Interlink Books. ISBN 1-56656-557-X.
- Sharon, Moshe (2009). Handbook of Oriental Studies: The Near and Middle East. Corpus inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae. BRILL. ISBN 90-04-17085-5.
- Ze'evi, Dror (1996). An Ottoman century: the district of Jerusalem in the 1600s. SUNY Press. ISBN 0-7914-2915-6.