#1 Muslims Hold Key to Holiest Christian Church

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Why Do Muslims Hold the Key
To Christians Most Sacred Church?

key old
Is It Halal?

JERUSALEM — Church of Holy Sepulchre Controlled by Muslims Since 900 Years.

Muslims Hold Keys to 'Jesus Church' in Jerusalem (Church of the Holy Sepulchre)

Every Christian knows the holiest places in Christendom are in Jerusalem.
Some Christians know the most holy of all churches is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
But how many Christians know the keys opening the only door for the highest of Christian rituals -- are entrusted to the Muslims?!

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was erected in 325 A.D. — (after Catholic Domination at the Council of Nicea, in Turkey)

— It is believed to located over the site Christians consider Jesus, peace be upon him, to be buried and later rose from the dead.


But it is the Muslims who control the key that opens and closes the only door to this holiest of Christian sites.

In fact, it’s two Muslims: one man from the Joudeh family and another man from the Nuseibeh family, two Jerusalem Palestinian clans who have been the custodians of the entrance to the Holy Sepulchre since the 12th century, C.E.

Every morning, at 4:30 AM, Adeeb Joudeh travels from his apartment outside the walls of Old City (Jerusalem) to bring the cast-iron key to the church, just as his father and his grandfathers did before his time.

After he arrives, he hands over the key — looking like a 12-inch (30-centimeter) long iron wedge — to Wajeeh Nuseibeh, who knocks at the gate to call the priests and the pilgrims who spend the night praying inside. From inside the church, a wooden ladder is passed through a porthole to help him unlock the upper part of the enormous door.

key oldMuslims Insured the Holy Sepulture Remains a Christian Church - But Why?

No one controls the main entrance - The Key has been with the Muslims since 1192. It was at that time Saladin Al Ayyubi (Kurdish) assigned responsibility to the Muslim Nuseibeh family.
The Joudeh Al-Goudia family were entrusted as the custodians to the keys of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by the Ottomans a few hundred years later, and both families now share together in this esponsibility. This arrangement persists even into modern times.

Then, he unlocks the lower one before handing the precious key back to Joudeh. The ritual is reversed every evening at 7:30, after hundreds of tourists and pilgrims have left the church.

During holidays, such as Holy Week, which culminates Sunday with the Christian Easter, the elaborate opening and closing ceremonies take place several times a day.

Why the elaborate ritual? As often happens in Jerusalem, a city holy to several peoples and religions, there are different versions to explain why two Muslim families hold the key to the holiest site in Christendom.

“After the Muslim conquest in 637, the Caliph Omar guaranteed the Archbishop Sophronius that the Christian places of worship would be protected and so entrusted the custodianship to the Nuseibehs, a family who originated in Medina and had had relations with the Prophet Muhammad,” said Nuseibeh, a retired 63-year old electrician, while waiting in a nearby cafe to carry out his duties at the Holy Sepulchre.

"It happened again in 1187, after Saladin ended the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. He chose our family again to look after the peace between the different Eastern and Western Christian confessions, which were at odds over control of the Sepulchre," he said with a gentle smile, sitting next to his son, Obadah.

To this day, coexistence among the several Christian churches sharing the Holy Sepulchre is a delicate one. Catholic, Greek, Armenian, Coptic, Syriac, and Ethiopian Orthodox monks have resorted to fists more than once to defend their respective denomination’s rights and privileges in the church, as defined in an decree by the Ottoman Empire, known as the Status Quo of 1853.

Such impious brawls between clergy proved Saladin’s prescience 1,000 years ago, when the sultan sealed the second front gate of the church and entrusted control of the remaining entrance to neutral custodians.

The Nuseibehs claim that the Joudehs entered this story only in the 16th century, after the Ottoman Turks gained control of Palestine and decided to charge a second family with the responsibility of guarding the key.

“Yes, we share the responsibility with the Joudehs, and sometimes we argue, as happens in a family,” Nuseibeh said.

Each Maundy Thursday since the end of the 19th century, the two Muslim families give the key to the Holy Sepulchre to the local Franciscan friars, for as long as it takes to walk to the church in a procession and to open the door after the morning liturgies. When those are completed, the friars return the key to the families.

This ceremony, which confirms in practice the validity of the Muslim families’ custodianship, is repeated with the Greek and Armenian communities, on Orthodox Good Friday and Holy Saturday, respectively.

“Right now, I have in my hands the keys to Christendom’s heart. This is a very important moment for us,” said the Rev. Artemio Vitores, the Spanish Franciscan who is the vicar Custodian of the Holy Land, during the Maundy Thursday procession.

"For centuries, Christian pilgrims were denied entry to the church, or had to pay huge sums to pray on the Sepulchre,” he said, all while holding the key.

At the head of the procession, Vitores was flanked on one side by Wajeeh Nusseibeh, his son Obadah and two cousins, all of whom were equally compensated by the friars for their services with the symbolic sum of $60.

On Vitores’ other side were Adeeb Joudeh, wearing an impeccable dark gray suit, and his 19-year-old son Jawad.

keys ancient1

For about 20 minutes, Joudeh ceded control of the only existing key to the Holy Sepulchre. While there is another key, it is broken and no longer used. The functioning key is normally kept in a small office attached to the church and is guarded by an employee of the Joudeh family.

"This key has seen Saladin and every generation of my family since 1187. To me, it’s an honor to be in charge of the holiest of Christian places,” Joudeh said, while walking the cobblestoned alley leading to the Holy Sepulchre.

He insisted on showing on his smartphone what he claimed are 165 official decrees confirming the Joudeh family’s role as custodian of the church over the centuries.

"My ancestor who was given the keys was a sheik, a highly respected person, who was not supposed to perform physical labor, such as climbing the ladder to open the gate,” Joudeh explained. “That’s why the Nuseibehs were called in to perform this duty. Unfortunately, they feel still ashamed of being just the doorkeepers."

At the end of the procession, the key was welcomed by cheerful pilgrims waiting in front of the church.

For a few minutes, everybody stared at the solemn opening of the gate before rushing in.

Moments later, Adeeb Joudeh walked home with his son, as did Wajeeh Nuseibeh.

They will come back here, time and again, at the gate of the Holy Sepulchre: two Muslims, coming in peace to bear the key to the heart of Christianity.

You Type - We Print
(after review)


#10 victoria stefan 2013-04-14 00:51
Skheih Yusuf jazaak Allah kheiran jazaa and all who are working with you may we have a french translation of the islamic news?
#9 Samah Saad 2013-04-06 02:49
Asalam Alikom Shiekh Yusuf my name is Samah from Egypt ,really iam so proud to know that a great Shiekh like you converted Islam after he was a priest and choose the right path may Allah show any astray the right way and make our final destination the great paradise " Al Jannah" Ameen,please pray for me ya Shiekh i need your prayers & supplications ask Allah to heal me and to have his satisfaction, you are a blessed man and iam sure Allah will accept your prayers. thanks
#8 shuaib muazzam 2013-04-05 08:10
although i could not the whole story but what i got was good enough....MA SHA ALLAH.......... ....
#7 Yusuf Estes 2013-04-04 22:57
Salam alaykum, we are excited for this new 3 part article to be on our website (FREE) and you can turn it into a "Book".
Look at top of the page - ICON for PDF file (in the bar right after my name). Click and let it do all the work - PRESTO A FREE BOOKLET
#6 a.a. 2013-04-04 01:56
wat leds to haram is hamarm
opne the odors to the kafr to the wrishiop of jesus is harmam peroid
dshirk beg time!
#5 Yusuf Estes 2013-04-04 01:53
Dear A.A._Salam alaykum,_Thank you for your comments and we do pray to Allah to Guide all of us, ameen._Salahude en al Ayyubi was probably one of the greatest Muslims of his time and he is the one who initiated this idea in the first place._The problem was several Christians were fighting over who would be the ones to open the door and Salahudeen solved the problem by having Muslims do it for them and keep the key safe and the lives of the people safe too._Could we consider it a good thing to be neighbors and keep the peace for everyone? _You are free to comment back if you like, inshallah. We are open to hear more on this topic.
#4 a.a. 2013-04-04 00:31
muslims have to do nithing of karfirs period.
they cant give kthe keys to dthem as this to be shirk 2
them don get to abed dors to them n them nothng doing to theats the kurfr
haram harm!
#3 Muhammad Sirajuddin 2013-04-02 14:39
A good food for thought for Christians and is certainly something that they must diligently ponder upon, only to realize that Jesus was indeed a Muslim, a Prophet, spreading only the message of almighty Allah.
#2 Yusuf Estes 2013-04-02 09:23
That is one powerful story - And shows how things can be if we apply our true Islam and be patient with others, especially Christians.
Let's work together on getting this message out to the people, inshallah.
#1 Abdul 2013-04-02 08:47
asalamu alaikum,

wow I didn't know the muslims are the holders of the keys to jesus(pbuh) church.

ma salama

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