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.
Muslims 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.
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
What is the Church of the Holy Sepulture all about? What do the (Greek Orthodox) Christians hold so dear? What does it mean to them? What Biblical references do they find for all this?
How should we, as Muslims view this, considering we Muslims do hold the very keys to access this place, quite possibly the most holy, for Christian worship?
Read . . (and look at the photos too - LOL):
Church of Holy Sepulchre (outside)
A general view of the structure is seen from the bell tower of the Redeemer church, on the east side of the Holy Sepulcher.
The larger dome is located over the Rotunda, the round hall where the tomb of Jesus is located.
The smaller dome on its right is located over the Catholicon hall.
Photo #2 (large) Church of Holy Sepulchre (inner walls)
Christianity's most holiest churches, in Jerusalem on the site of Golgotha. Christians believe Jesus was buried here.
Photo #3 (small) Church of Holy Sepulchre (inner walls)
Christianity's most holiest churches, in Jerusalem on the site of Golgotha. Christians believe Jesus was buried here.
Photo #4 Gate to Smaller Churches
After passing the gate, there is a gate opening to a yard just before the church.
On both sides of the yard are other, smaller churches. The entrance to the Holy Sepulchre is located on the north side of the yard.
Photo #5 Chapel - Inside 4th Century (Constantine) Walls
Chapel inside 4th century Constantine Church walls. A fire damaged the alter and surrounding walls. Jewish tombs from 1st century are located on south side of chapel, supposed to contain bodies of Joseph of Arimathea and Nikodemus, the men responsible for taking down and burying body of the one on the cross. (mentioned in Luke 23: 50-56)
Photo #6 Chapel of Thieves and Jesus, peace be upon him
View looking toward the chapel at the end of the north walls. According to Orthodox Christian beliefs, Jesus along with two thieves were kept in here before the crucifixion.
Photo #7 Smaller Chapel and Alter
Just outside the entrance to the Prison of Jesus is a smaller chapel with an alter. Under the altar, behind a glass window, are two holes in the floor. According to tradition, these holes are the imprints of the feet of Jesus.
Visitors and pilgrims leave notes inside the window.
Photo #8 Prison of Jesus, peace be upon him
Inside the inner room is the chapel that according to church traditions is the place of the prison of Jesus.
Photo #9 Greek Orthodox Calvary (place of Golgotha [skull])
An orthodox priest watches as Christians vista the place they believe Jesus, peace be upon him, was put on a cross.
Photo #10 Archway Staircase to Golgotha
Arched stairway on south side of church, leading to Golgotha (skull) the site supposed to be where crucifixion took place.
*Photo #11 Chapel of ADAM, peace be upon him
Orthodox Christians believe Adam, peace be upon him, the very first man created by God, is buried at the site of the cross.
Chapel of Adam, on the east side of church has the Golgotha (skull) rock, located behind a window. According to some beliefs a crack in the rock was caused by an earthquake during the crucifixion.
[Matthew 27:51] "Jesus, when he had cried again.. and the earth did quake, and the rocks split".
The same crack is also seen on the floor over the chapel.
Question Concerning Muslims Dealing With Christians About Worship
- 1. Should Muslims Be Responsible for Christians Access to Worship of Jesus (p)?
- 2. Can Muslims Even Enter Into Such Places?
- 3. What Do Muslims Believe About Birth, Life, Death & Resurrection of Jesus, peace be upon him?
- 4. Can Muslims Interfere With Other People's Faith & Practices (worship)?
- 5. What Are Limits for Muslims Concerning Calling to Worship of One God WITHOUT Partners?
- 6. What Are the References for Muslims Beliefs Compared to References for Christian Beliefs?
- 7. How Can Muslims Best Convey the Message of Islam and Peace?
- 8. What Do Muslims Believe About God (Allah)?
- 10. What About Crusades Versus Jihad?
- 11. How to Deal With HARSH QUESTIONS (attacks) Against Islam?
#1 Muslims should not seek to promote other religions nor facilitate ease for false worship of any kind. The reason Muslims maintain the key to the Church of the Holy Sepulture is because Christian tribes were fighting each other of the priviledge to hold and maintain the key the Church. It was during the time of Salahudin Al Ayubi (Kurdish) who freed the Holy land back for the Muslims after the Crusades who decided in favor of having a Muslim family responsible for the muftah (key) to the Church.
Muslims should always hold their trusts and keep their words and help in keeping others from killing each other.
It is not the Muslims who provide the place nor the practices going on there in Jerusalem. Rather, the role being played by the Muslims in on of honor and dignity and demonstrating for Muslims for centuries the limits of religious tolerance.
#2 Muslims may enter churches, as was demonstrated by the early Muslims, but not to participate in any acts of worship outside Islam.
#3 Muslims believe in the miracle of imaculat conception (miracle creation of Jesus in the womb of Mary by the prediction of the Holy Spirit, the Angel Gabriel [Ar. Ruh Qudus or Sacred Soul]). Jesus, peace be upon him, led a life full of miracles according to the Quran and teachings of Muhammad, peace be upon him. He cured the sick, healed the crippled, gave sight to the blind and even brought the dead back to life - All by the PERMISSION of Almighty God, Allah.
The Quran denies the idea of Jesus being crucified and dying on the cross and that something else took place at that time, about which many people still argue.
Important NOTE: Musilms believe Jesus will return in the Last Days - Alive and he will destroy the false Christ (Adajjal) and will lead all believers to victory. He will come back with two angels from Heaven and will land in Damascus, Syria at a mosque in time for the prayers.
#4. Muslims should always be ready to promote the worship of the One God, in love, peace and harmony with the rest of the community. If asked or the opportunity presents itself in a constructive way, Muslims should be quick to bring the truth and proof about what Islam is teaching us. However, we must not allow other faiths to take our children, sisters and brothers away from the correct worship to Allah.
#5. Muslims must call to the ultimate Rights of Allah, without exceeding the rights of others to reject, refuse or otherwise ignore, the call to worship our Lord and to obey His messenger. At the same time, it is the right of others to choose for themselves what they want to believe and what they want (or who they want) to worship. This is the right given to them by Allah, as is mentioned in the Quran, chapter 2, verse 256 -"Let there be no compulsion in religion".
#6. Having the proper knowledge and understanding while being able to properly speak the language has always been at the heart of giving the proper dawah (call to Islam). Seeking the teachers and presenters who are the most affective in spreading the true message of peaceful submission to Almighty God (Islam means: surrender, submission, obey, sincere and peace all at the same time).
#7. Christians rely on Bibles translated from various manuscripts in different languages, all dated much after the life of Jesus, peace be upon him, and none of these are exactly the same, even sometimes giving opposite means from one to the other. None of the actual authors are known, nor are the first of those to pass on the messages. Textual readings seem to imply these are written by certain people, but true biblical scholars claim this is simply not true.
References: www.911bible.com - www.bibleIslam.com
Muslims on the other hand, can rely with assurance on the transmission of the oral and written texts of both the Quran and the hadith of the prophet, peace be upon him. For 1,400 years all of this has been faithfully preserved in both oral memory and in written format. Some Qurans of the time of the companions of the prophet, peace be upon him, still exist today in museums throughout the world.
References: www.AllahsQuran.com - www.ProphetOfIslam.com
#9. What About Crusades Vs. Jihad?
We have all heard the expression, "Islam spread by the sword". However, it can easily be verified by reading a few examples from the encyclopedia concerning the Crusades and the infamous Inquisition exactly what was spread at the point of the sword. Additionally, it can be proven by the texts of the religions themselves:
The Protestant Bible (66 Books) and the Catholic Bible (73 Books, and the Orthodox bible (78 Books) all contain over 200 occurances of the word "sword", while the Quran in the Arabic language does not contain one single word for the word SAIF (Ar. 'sword') or any of the others 13 words in Arabic for various types of swords.
References: Holy Bible, Holy Quran, www.AboutJihad.com
#10. How to Deal With HARSH QUESTIONS (attacks) Against Islam?
Reference: www.SearchForIslam.com and type in the word "harsh"
Then use this same website for any questions concerning: Islam, God, Allah, Bible, Muhammad, chat rooms, online sharing of Islam.
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