Nusaybah clan

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Closing ceremony of Holy Sepulchre church

The Nussaiba Clan (Arabic: عائلة نسيبة‎; alternatively spelt Nusaibah, Nuseibeh, and Nusseibeh) is the oldest Muslim dynasty in Jerusalem.[1] The Nussaiba family has a long history and tight bonds with the Holy Land, Jerusalem, since the days their first forefathers arrived into Jerusalem in the 7th century.

According to tradition, the Nusseibeh family took its name from a female companion or Sahabiyah of the Islamic prophet Muhammad named Nusaybah bint Ka'ab. She was a member of the Ansar who transferred their political power over Medina to Muhammad. Nussaiba fought along with Muhammed in battle and was an early example of women taking leadership roles in Islam. Since the arrival of Islam in Jerusalem in the seventh century, the Sunni Muslim family has held the keys of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre alongside the Joudeh Al-Goudia family (who were added to the original arrangement in the time of Saladin, the Muslim conqueror who seized the holy city from the Crusaders in 1187).[2][3][4][5] This arrangement emerged during the days of the second Sunni caliph Umar Ibn al-Khattab, who hoped to avoid clashes among rival Christian sects for control over the church.[citation needed] Although symbolic, the arrangement has provided the stability the Christians of the city needed, and is a symbol of tolerance and inter-religious harmony,[citation needed] and gave the Nussaiba family a visible role in Christian activities in Jerusalem, which include pilgrimages and visits by Western Christians.

Family roots[edit]

Ancestors of the family arrived in Jerusalem with the arrival of Islam in AD 637. They included two companions of Muhammad — Abdullah bin Nussaiba and Mu'adh bin Jabal, and many other of Muhammad's companions and maternal uncles, descendants of Salma from Banu Najjar, a clan of the Khazraj, the wife of Hashim, forefather of the Hashemite Family and mother of its renowned leader Abdul Muttalib, grandfather of Muhammed. The Nussaiba family is a clan of the Khazraj tribe of Medina, known in Islam as al-Ansar, for their support and protection of Muhammed during his exile from Mecca.[6]

Nussaiba and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre[edit]

When the prayer time came, the Archbishop of Jerusalem, Sophronius, invited the Caliph Umar, to pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christianity's holiest site. Umar refused to do so, fearing that future Muslim generations would claim the church as their own and turn it into a mosque. Umar instead prayed a few yards away from the church where a mosque is built now. The Mosque of Umar still stands next to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as a reminder of the strong Muslim-Christian bond in the Holy Land. Upon entering Jerusalem, Umar signed with the Christians of Jerusalem what became known as the "Covenant of Umar". It guaranteed protection for the Christians to live and worship freely and also protection for the Christian places of worship in exchange for the Christian surrender before the Arab Muslim army.

One of the great ancestors of the Nussaiba family was Ubada Ibn Al-Samet who settled in Jerusalem in the 7th century in the wake of the conquest of Jerusalem, and who was appointed as a governor by Umar. The keys of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre were placed in the custody of the family and is so until today.

The ancient records and manuscripts kept by the various Christian denominations in their monasteries all record the Nussaiba family’s relationship and that of their ancestral forefathers from the Bani Ghanim al-Khazraj to the Holy Sepulchre, at least since the time of Saladin more than 800 years ago, specifically since 1192, when Sultan Saladin and King Richard the Lionheart concluded an agreement allowing western Christian pilgrims to visit the Holy Sepulchre under certain stipulations. Saladin entrusted the custody of the doors of the Holy Sepulchre to the leading and most renowned Shaikh Ghanim ben Ali ben Hussein al-Ansari al-Khazrajy, the Jerusalemite, and all matters pertaining to it. Ghanim had been born in Burin village near Nablus in AH 562, where his family had taken refuge after the crusader conquest of Jerusalem in (1087)[7]

Notable members[edit]

Notable members of the family have included:


  1. ^ "Green investors and right-wing sceptics clash on the meaning of scripture". The Economist. 1 November 2017.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Nina Strochlic, Christian Monks Square Off at One of Jerusalem’s Holiest Sites, Daily Beast, 07.04.2013
  4. ^ Oren Liebermann, Two Muslim families entrusted with care of holy Christian site for centuries, CNN, March 27, 2016.
  5. ^ Opening the Doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,
  6. ^ Welcome to and - Home of the Nussaiba Family
  7. ^
  8. ^ Bashar Nuseibeh
  9. ^ The Webpage of Sari Nusseibeh

Further reading[edit]

  • Fischbach, Michael R. "Nuseibeh Family." In Encyclopedia of the Palestinians, edited by Philip Mattar. New York: Facts on File, 2000.
  • Heller, Mark, and Nusseibeh, Sari. No Trumpets, No Drums: A Two-State Settlement of the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict. New York: Hill and Wang, 1991.
  • Muslih, Muhammad Y. The Origins of Palestinian Nationalism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.