The Ottoman Model in Jarusalem

Bunu Paylaş

Prof. Dr. Ahmed Akgündüz
Rector of the Rotterdam Islamic University,
the Netherlands and
Chairman of the Ottoman Researches Foundation


The city which is called Al-Qudus by the Muslims, Jerusalem by today’s world, Al-Bayt Al-Muqaddas by the Arabs, Iliya by the ancient and Yirusalam or Orushalam by the Hebrews today attracts the eyes and curiosity of the world to itself. Let us know about the City of Jerusalem, where the adherents of all the religions lived in tranquility for about 450 years under the sovereignty of the Ottoman State, in light of the information given by the Ottoman resources:

Al-Qudus (Jerusalem), 62 km to the Mediterranean and 38 km to the Dead Sea, is situated on a high mountainous site, which was surrounded by a wall 13 meters high and 1 meter wide in the time of the Ottomans. It has got seven gates, two of which are closed, and three broad streets. During the reigning era of the Ottomans there used to be four large quarters in Jerusalem. In the northeast thereof was located the Muslim Quarter, where were found the Town Hall, Masjid Al-Aqsa and Sahra Al-Mukaddasa (the Holy Desert). In the northwest was the Christian Quarter, where were found the Cathedral called Kamama wherein it was believed by the Christians the sepulchre of Jesus Christ was found, as well as a great number of churches and monasteries. On the other hand, outside of the city wall were erected those private buildings and offices that belonged to the Russians and the other communities, which thus formed another quarter. Yet, in the southwest of Al-Qudus was the Armenian Quarter and in the southeast the Jewish Quarter. The population of the city was almost 43.000 towards the end of the Ottoman State and the half thereof was composed of Muslims, one-third of the Jews and the rest of the Christians of divers nationalities.

As Jerusalem was a sacred town for not only the Muslims but also the Christians and the Jews, it was visited by a colossal number of visitors from all over the world during the sovereignty of the Ottomans as has the case ever been; and only with the entrance fees levied from the visitors along with the tourism revenues obtained from them the City maintained its economy.

Although it is not known who Jerusalem had been founded by and when, it has from time immemorial been expressed that it is the very same city as the City of Salem of the Hebrews. Again it is known that the Canaanians, had captured this region and built a town called Yabus on the Hill of Sahyun, in the upper side of the City. When the Prophet David rose to the throne in 1049 B.C., they expelled the Canaanians out of Yabus and erected a citadel there. Later, the Prophet Sulaiman (Solomon) had constructed the celebrated temple called Al-Bayt Al-Mukaddas (the Sacred House) and the Palace, unique of its kind, thus having expanded Jerusalem, whenceforth the City began to be named Kadishah, which means Holy. Nevertheless the Asurids demolished Al-Bayt Al-Mukaddas when they captured Palestine, it was later mended. It is also known that Alexander the Great granted Banu Al-Israel (the Sons of Israel) with considerable privileges. With the thorough destruction of Qudus by the Romans in 70 A.C., the Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem was terminated. From then on, the Byzantine emperors began to repair and restore the City, which they named Ilia, and the temples therein in the name of Christianity.

The City that was conquered by the Khalif Omar in 16 A.H. (After Hegira), while all the religions were being revered, was made an exact City of Islam. The location of Al-Masjid Al-Aksa to replace the Old Temple and its Mihrab (the niche in the wall of a mosque indicating the direction of the Holy Kaaba) were determined and appointed by Omar personally. Thereafter, today’s grand mosque was built by Abdulmalik bin Marwan, an Omayyad khalif. Although the Crusaders transformed Masjid Al-Aksa into a church when they invaded Jerusalem, the City passed anew into the sovereignty of the Muslims by Salahaddin Al-Ayyubi in 1187 A.C. Though the foundation of the wall surrounding Jerusalem had been cast by the Crusaders, it was completed by Sulaiman the Legislator. Jerusalem was governed as a Center of Sanjak (subdivision of a province) affiliated to the State of Damascus for many years in the time of the Ottomans and was made the Independent Province of Jerusalem towards the end of the Ottoman State.


Like the other Muslim states, the Ottoman State – as they did in every affair – also acted within the frame of the codification they called ‘Shar Al-Sharif’ (Islamic Legislation) as regards to the non-Muslims who lived in the Muslims’ soil of the Muslims. According to the ‘Shar Al-Sharif’, viz. Islamic Canonical Laws, the non-Muslims who made peace with the Muslims and recognized the sovereignty of the Ottoman State were called ‘Dhimmis’, who – without any discrimination of their colors, languages or races – were treated in the same manner in compliance with the decrees of the ‘Shar Al-Sharif’. Although Muhammad the Conqueror had conquered Istanbul by sword, he – merely opining that act of pacification was better going to serve the welfare of the non-Muslim population of the City and also upon the requests of the priests and the rabbis who interceded – granted facilitations, as if Istanbul had been taken through peace. Abussud Effendi, the founder of the Ottoman legislation, explains the continuation of the churches and the synagogues with this delicate empathy and favorable treatment, which is also the case for such countries as Rumelia, Egypt, Palestine and the like.
Needless to mention, dhimmis (the non-Muslims who made peace with the Muslims and recognized the sovereignty of the Ottoman State) who lived in the Muslims’ lands had several dissimilar characteristics from them. Nonetheless, such variances were brought about by different religions. For instance, while the Muslims are liable for zakah (alms-taxes), which is a kind of devotion in Islam, the non-Muslims are not. On the other hand, they are to give jizyah, a sort of tax, Per capita once a year, which varies by their financial capacity and income. The needy, the unemployed, the religious functionaries, the aged and the sick are exempt from this tax. Again, the non-Muslims are not obliged to do the compulsory military service. Yet, in family law, heritage law and as regards with other legal issues related to their religions the legal decrees they believed were applied. Non-Muslims were allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia, however unless necessary they were not allowed to enter Masjid Al-Haram. As for clothing, the-non-Muslims were not permitted to imitate the Muslims. In the meantime, the lives, the property, the chastity and the honor of the non-Muslims – like the Muslims – were untouchable. The indigent non-Muslims benefit from the very same social rights as the Muslims do. With the exclusion of some exceptions, the would do state services and their graves and dead were revered. There was no inequity between the Muslims and the non-Muslims in any lawsuit. The most outstanding evidences to what we heretofore are the documents at the churches, synagogues, graves and archives in Istanbul as well as those court verdicts that convict Ahmad’s against Yorgi’s, Othman’s against Dimitri’s .

We shall highlight this last point in details and analyze the following issues:
1. We shall make mention of the most consequential of the firmans of privileges (edicts of Sultans) of Omar the Khalif, and – based thereupon – of Salahaddin Ayyubi, – again in observance thereof – of Muhammad the Conqueror who had arranged the rights of the Christians in Jerusalem, of Sultan Selim the Excellent who had put Jerusalem under the sovereignty of the Ottomans, and ultimately the Ottoman sultans who followed them.
2. In light of these firmans of privileges the holy places and statuses of the Muslims, Christians and the Jews will be studied.
3. What kind of solution can be found in the case of Jerusalem in consideration of today’s conditions? Some proposals shall be submitted under the Ottoman Model.


First and above all, it should be noted that according to what the Ottomans called ‘Shar Al-Sharif’, that is the Islamic Legislation, in the lands where the Muslims were ruling – as Per the preferred view – the Christians were not allowed to build new churches, nor the Jews new synagogues or the Zoroastrians new houses of fire in villages or towns. On the other hand, they were allowed to maintain those already-existing ones and to restore the demolished ones on condition that they remained as they had been before.
When the Khalif Omar conquered Jerusalem in 15 A.H. by way of peace pursuant to this view, he accorded the same rights to the non-Muslims, which he also confirmed with a written document .
Of the Muslims, it is the Khalif Omar who first conquered Jerusalem by peaceful manners. When the Islamic troops under the command of Abu Ubaidah Ibn Al-Jarrah said to the townsfolk of Jerusalem, who were called Ahl Al-Ilia: “Either you will become Muslims, or you will agree to become citizens of the Muslim country”, after lengthy negotiations – upon the request of the natives of the country – the Khalif Omar, accompanied by Ali, came to take over Jerusalem. Although he asked the Patriarch to take himself to Al-Masjid Al-Dawud (the Mosque of the Prophet David), which is called Al-Sahra Al-Allah (the Desert of God), and to Al-Masjid Al-Sulaiman (the Mosque of the Prophet Solomon), viz. Al-Masjid Al-Aksa, when he was shown the Church of Kamamah and the Church of Sahyun, stating that those places did not correspond with the descriptions of the Prophet Muhammad, the Khalif Omar himself determined the very site of the old temple, videlicet Al-Masjid Al-Aksa, as well as Al-Mihrab (the place in the wall of a mosque showing the direction of Holy Kaabah. After having performed the Friday Congregation Prayer at this mosque, whose name is mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an and which is the third holiest mosque in the sight of the Muslims, he issued two firmans (edicts), one to all the dwellers of Jerusalem, and the other to only the Christian townsfolk. Of these firmans, the one that really interests us is that edict which establish the religious and conscientious liberty of the Christians. Yet we shall make mention of both:

1) The Treaty of Pacification issued by the Khalif Omar to all the townsfolk of Jerusalem reads as follows:
In the Name of Allah, the Most merciful, the Most Beneficent.

a) This treaty is a quarter awarded to the people of İlia from Omar, Ameer of the Muslims and the slave of Allah;
b) It is also a guarantee to their souls, properties, churches, cross, and all their individuals – both dwellers and nomads;
c) Their churches shall not be transformed into houses, nor shall they be demolished or shall they even partly be invaded. Nor shall the sacred goods therein be touched;
d) Their commodities shall be safe;
e) No one shall be oppressed owing to their religion, nor shall they be caused ought harm nor shall the Jews be settled in their lands;
f) In return whereof shall they give jizyah;
g) Whoever wishes to abandon his land shall be secure for his property and life until he has reached his destination. On the other hand, whoever wishes to remain in his soil shall be in safety and pay jizyah. Whoever so wishes may go with the Greek and whosoever so wishes may come back to his land;
h) Naught shall be demanded from them until they have acquired their harvest;
i) This is a Pact of Security by the Prophet of Allah, the khalifs and the believers to the people of Jerusalem so long as they pay jizyah.

Khalid bin Walid, Amr bin Aas, Abdurrahman bin Awf and Muawiyah bin Abu Sufyan .

2) The firman (edict) written in Cufic script by the Khalif Omar, wherein he specifically mentioned the rights and freedoms of the non-Muslim townsfolk of Jerusalem and which later served as a source of inspiration for the Ottoman Sultans is in the Ottoman Archives. A copy of this firman which was taken to the presence of Muhammad the Conqueror at one time was copied out. We shall publish the original of this copied out edict of the Khalif Omar. It is openly expressed that this firman was written on 20th Rabi-al-Awwal (third month of the Arabic calendar) in 15 A.H., the witnesses whereof are different.

The Copy of the Firman (Edict) of the Khalif Omar bin Hattab

1) Praise be to Allah, for He has blessed us with the Religion of Islam; honored with Faith; shown us His Mercy with His Prophet Muhammad; has guided us to hidayah (the Right Way) from dalalah (wrongdoing); has brought us together after the dissension and united our hearts; made us victorious over our foes; granted us these places; suffered us to be brethren who love one another. O the slaves of Allah! Glorify Allah for all these bounties of Him.

2) This is the written Treaty of Omar bin Hattab, which he has given to Safranbos, the Honorable Patriarch of the Christians, on Tur Al-Zeytun (Mount Olive) in Jerusalem, and which has been arranged in such manner as to be inclusive of all the ra’ayah (all those groups, Muslim or non-Muslim, other than the military elite, occupied with economic activities and thus liable for taxes) as well as priests and patriarchs.

3) All the priests – wherever and in whatsoever conditions they are – shall be secure from us, the Muslims. The security of all the non-Muslims shall be observed as long as they abide by the conditions of the Contract of Dhimmah (duty of tribute and obedience owed to the State by a non-Muslim subject). We the Muslims of the present time and those to come after us in the future are liable to protect them. This will last so long as their obedience continues.

4) As this promise of security and protection is valid for their own selves, it is also valid for their churches, monasteries as well as all their sacred places either within or without the city walls.

5) The sacred places are as follows: The Church of Kamamah, the Big Church in Bayt Al-Lahm, the place of birth of Jeasus Christ; the cave with three entrances one leading to the direction of Kaaba, one leading to the north and one to the west.

6) All the Christian congregations other than those in Jerusalem, in other words the Abyssinian Christians, European visitors, Copts, Syrian Christians, Armenians, Jacobites, Maroons and similar nations are totally subject to the Patriarch, who is presented to them.

7) For the Prophet Muhammad awarded protection and security to the above-mentioned patriarchs and priests with his blessed seal. Accordingly, we the Muslims shall treat them well for the sake of the Prophet Muhammad, who treated them well.

8) These patriarchs and priests shall be exempt from jizyah (Islamic poll-tax imposed upon non-Muslim male adults) and similar liabilities both at sea and on land. Nothing shall be demanded from them for their frequenting the Church of Kamamah and the other holy places. However, those visitors who visit the Church of Kamamah, which is in the hands of the Christians, will pay 11/3 dirhams to the Patriarch.

9) All the Muslims, either male or female, either the Sultan or a judge or a provincial governor, either rich or poor, shall adhere to these our decrees.

10) This very firman (edict) has been given to the Christian chiefs in the presence of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, viz. Abdullah, Uthman bin Affan, Sa’d bin Zaid, Abdurrahman bin Awf and the other companions of the Prophet Muhammad.

11) Let the decrees declared in this very written firman be observed, abided by and remain in their hands.
20th Rabi Al-Awwal (the third month of the Arabic Calendar).

12) Whoever from among the believers has read this very edict of ours and opposes it now or ever until the Doomsday will have breached the Pact of Allah and rebelled His Beloved Prophet Muhammad.’

As will be understood from the context of the above-captioned firman, the decrees thereof have also been based upon the hadiths (traditions) of the Prophet Muhammad .

The Copy of the Firman (Edict) of Omar bin Hattab
(Prime Ministerial Ottoman Archives, Books of Churches, Book of Kamamah, No: 8)



As is known, the first target of the Crusades was to take Jerusalem from the Muslims. As a matter of fact, they accomplished their goal and the allied Crusaders, France being in the first rank, invaded the whole land of Palestine including Jerusalem. Nureddin Al-Shahid and Salahaddin Ayyubi, the founders of Ayyubi State, who resisted this not only routed the Crusaders but re-conquered Jerusalem on 20th September 1187 as well. Although Salahaddin Al-Ayyubi intended to tear down the Church of Kamamah in the first place, he – upon warnings – concluded a treaty of pacification with the Christians in doing which he took as basis the Declaration of Rights of the Khalif Omar, which we have heretofore made mention of, and agreed as follows:

1) The Church of Kamamah shall remain in the hands of the Christians as Per the edict of the Khalif Omar;

2) The Patriarch’s Chamber upstairs shall be transformed into a Masjid (Al-Masjid Al-Salahuddin);

3) The Church worships at the Church Kamamah shall be commenced after having advised the Muslims thereof. On other days, its doors shall be kept closed and a Muslim bawwab (doorkeeper) .

The Treaty of Salahaddin Al-Ayyubi (The Archives of the Armenian Patriarchy in Jerusalem)


Muhammad the Conqueror, who conquered Istanbul in 1453, promoted the Ottoman State to the Sole Super Power of the world like the United States of America of our time. As he issued an edict wherein he secured the rights and freedoms of the non-Muslims who lived in Istanbul, when the Christians in Jerusalem submitted to him the decrees undersigned by the blessed hand of the Prophet Muhammad and the aforesaid firman (edict) of the Khalif Omar written in Cufic script, he likewise issued an edict of rights and freedoms on behalf of the Christians in Jerusalem, which we are hereby publishing the very first time, the original whereof is found in the Patriarchy of the Greek Christians in Jerusalem and a copy of which is in the Ottoman Archives. The person who came to Muhammad the Conqueror to collect it is Atnasiyos, Patriarch of the Greek Christians.

The Firman of Muhammad the Conqueror as regards to the Sacred Places in Jerusalem:

1) Let it be duly abided by. May whoever annuls this blessed imperial decree meet the curse of Allah!;

2) When we conquered Istanbul with the permission of Allah and the spiritual assistance of the Prophet Muhammad, shahs and kings from different parts of the world sent envoys to congratulate us on the conquest. In the meantime, Atnasiyos, the Patriarch of the Greek Christians in Jerusalem, came to me of his own account and submitted to me the Prophet Muhammad’s decree undersigned by his blessed hand, the firman of the Khalif Omar written in Cufic script as well as those imperial edicts of the former sultans, and requested that all the places of worship and voluntary pilgrimage within and without Holy Jerusalem, chiefly the Church of Kamamah remain in their control;

3) Thereupon I decreed that – as has been earlier granted as a favor – the Church of Kamamah and all the places of worship and places of voluntary pilgrimage, which are situated within Jerusalem, Mar Ya’kub, which is a Georgian Monastery, the monasteries and churches outside of Jerusalem, the Big Church in Bayt Al-Lahm, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, and the cave and three gates of the Church remain in their control;

4) Let all the patriarchs, priests and their assistants of the Christians in Jerusalem be exempt from baj (market or transit dues taken on goods for sale Per container), kharaj (a combined land-peasant tax levied from a non-Muslim possessor of state-owned agricultural land) and the other extrajudicial and Islamic taxes;

5) All these rights and freedoms have also been awarded by my firman (edict) as they were granted by the Prophet Muhammad, the Khalif Omar and the former sultans. May all the walis (provincial governors) and the statesmen under my sovereignty adhere to this and may they not disturb anyone;

6) Whoever of khalifs, viziers, savants or of the People of the Prophet Muhammad, (i.e. Muslims) ever opposes hereafter the Prophet Muhammad’s decree undersigned by his blessed hand, the Khalif Omar’s firman written in Cufic script, or the firmans of the other sultans aro my firman for money’s or somebody’s sake may be struck with the malediction of Allah and His Prophet Muhammad;

7) Let this be thus known! Let them trust and comply with the Sultan’s Monogram! 15th Shawwal (10th month of Arabic Calendar) 862/1458 .

In his firman (edict) Muhammad the Conqueror makes mention of every single sacred place of import in Jerusalem. Let us now give the firman in its original form in the Ottoman Turkish:

The most noble decree of Muhammad the Conqueror he granted with his Imperial Rescript:

1) Mucebince amel oluna; her kim hatt-ı hümayun-ı sa’adet-makrunu fesh ederse, Allah’ın la’netine uğrasun.

2) Sebeb-i tahrir-i tevkî`-i refî`-i hümâyûn, vâcib’üt-tastîr-i yarliğ-i belîğ-i hümâyûn –Nassarahullahu Te`âlâ ilâ-i yub`asûn- oldur ki;

3) Bi iznillahi Te’âlâ Hazret-i Resûl hurmetiyle Makam-ı Kostantınıyye feth u fütûh oldukda etrâf ve eknâfdan şahlar ve krallar Âsitâne-i Sa`âdetime elçiler gelüb feth u fütûhı arz edüb bu kerre Kudüs-i Şerif’de olan Rumların Patriği Atnasiyos (?) nam râhib rızalarıyla gelüb Âsitâne-i Sa`âdetime yüz sürüb ve Hazret-i Resûl-i Ekrem Hazretlerinin (Sallalahu aleyhi ve sellem) mübarek eliyle ve pençesiyle imzalu olan hatt-ı hümâyûnları ve Hazret-i Ömer bin Hattab Hazretlerinin (Radiyallahu Te`âlâ anh) verdüği Hatt-ı Kufi ile ve selâtîn-i mâziyeden hatt-ı hümâyûnları ibraz edüb ve ricâ eyledi. Ol minval üzere Kudüs-i Şerif içerüsün ve taşrasunda namazların ve ziyaretlerin kel-evvel Hazret-i Resûl-i Ekrem Hazretlerinin (Sallalahu aleyhi ve sellem) ve Hazret-i Ömer bin Hattab Hazretlerinin (Radiyallahu Te`âlâ anh) ve selâtîn-i mâziyeden sadaka ve ihsan olunan hatt-ı hümâyûnları mûcebince zabt ve tasarruf eyleyeler.

4) İmdi kadimden ferman ve sadaka olunub bi aynihi içerüde olan Kamame ile cemî` namazgahları ve ziyaretleriyle ve Gürci Manastırı olan Mar Yakub ve Kudüs-i Şerif taşrasında olan manastırlar ve kiliseler ve Hazret-i İsa (Aleyhisselam) Hazretlerinin doğduğı Beytüllahm Kilisey-i Kübrâ ve Mağara ve Kilisede olan üç kapu miftahlarıyla şimal ve kıble ve garbî tarafından içinde olan cemî`-i millet-i Nasrâniyye Kudüs-i Şerif Patrikleri, yamakları bu vefk üzere eşyaları bâc ve harâcdan ve kakırlardan ve sâir tekâlif-i örfiyyeden kadîmden sadaka ve ihsan ve ferman olunan bi aynihî küllîsinden mu`âf ve müsellem olmak içün rice eyledükleri ecilden; imdi kadîmden Hazret-i Resûl-i Ekrem Hazretlerinin (Sallalahu aleyhi ve sellem) ve Hazret-i Ömer bin Hattab Hazretlerinin (Radiyallahu Te`âlâ anh) ve selâtîn-i mâziyeden sadaka ve ihsan ve ferman olunan hatt-ı hümâyûnları mûcebince, cenâb-ı celâletim dahi sadaka ve ihsân ve fermân-ı âlî-şânım olmuşdur.

5) Tasarrufumda ve hükmümde olan memleketler eğer deryadan ve karadan hâkim`ül-vakt olanlar Kudüs-i Şerif Patriği ve ruhbanları mezbûrlara himâyet ve sıyânet ve âhardan kimesne rencide eylemeyeler.

6) Ve eğer Hazret-i Resûl-i Ekrem Hazretlerinin (Sallalahu aleyhi ve sellem) sadaka ve ihsan olunan mübarek pençesiyle imzalu olan hattı ve Hazret-i Ömer bin Hattab Hazretlerinin (Radiyallahu Te`âlâ anh) verdüği Kufi ile hattı ve selâtîn-i mâziyeden sadaka ve ihsan olunan hatt-ı hümâyûnları ve el-ân sadaka ve ihsan olun hatt-ı hümâyûn-ı sa`âdet-makrûnı ve fermân-ı âlî-şânı alub bundan sonra gelen halifeler ve vüzerây-ı izâmdan ve ulemâdan ve ehl-i örfden ve kapu kullardan ve sâir Ümmet-i Muhammed’den akçe içün veyahud hâtır içün feshine murâd ederler ise, Allah’ın ve Hazret-i Resûlün hışmına uğrasun.

7) Şöyle bileler, alâmet-i şerife i`timâd ve inkıyâd kılalar. Tahrîren fî evâsıt-ı Şehr-i Şevvâl’il-Mükerrem li seneti isneyn ve sittîn ve semâne-mi`ete. Sene 862
Bi Makam-ı Kostantınıyye” .

The most noble decree of Muhammad the Conqueror he granted with his Imperial Rescript (Prime Ministerial Ottoman Archives, Books of Churches, Book of Kamamah, No: 8).


We are here to emphasize once again that – for it is regarded the fountainhead and the center of Christianity – Jerusalem accommodated in certain years patriarchies and bishoprics of divers schools of Christianity. Further, within Jerusalem and in the vicinity thereof were some sacred places attributed to Jesus Christ and such places and buildings as pertain to Mother Mary and some other Christian saints. Even after the region entered into the sovereignty of Islam, the Christian communities and those sacred places and buildings continued in existence. The maintenance, protection and use of places of worship were handed to Christian communities of divers schools. After Jerusalem had passed to the administration of the Ottoman State, the Sultans issued various firmans (edicts) to publicize the rights and privileges of the Patriarchy and the Christian community

This conduct was likewise repeated by Sultan Selim the Excellent when he conquered Jerusalem in 923(A.H.)/1517(A.C.): Lest the rights of the non-Muslims should be overlooked he proclaimed a written firman, which is of great significance from the aspects of not only securing the rights of the non-Muslims against infringements but also advising them of their rights, thus preventing them from transgression thereof. This firman, which was penned by the then qadi (judge) of Qudus Al-Sharif (Holy Jerusalem), Muhammad, was copied out by Sarkiz Karakoç, who was an Armenian as well, from the original copy thereof which is found at the State Archives of the Armenian Patriarchy in Jerusalem . It is also found in the Book of Churches at the Prime Ministerial Ottoman Archives.

The date of the Ottoman sultan’s visit to Jerusalem is almost exact. Having left Damascus Sultan Salim the Excellent came to the Manor of Jaljuliyah on 27th December 1516, where he received the news of the victory of Khan Yusuf. They reached Ramlah the following day, at which place they stayed between 28th to 30th December. The army troops remained in Ramlah and on 31st December the Sultan set out for Jerusalem accompanied by some statesmen and soldiers, who were composed of Yunus Pasha, Husam Pasha, Hafidh Muhammad, Hasan Can, Mullah Idris (Idris of Bitlis), Beylerbeys (governor generals), Secretaries of the Council of State, Nishanjis (officers whose duty was to inscribe the Sultan’s imperial monogram over all imperial letters-patent), Silahdar Aghas (sword-bearer of the Sultan) and their Katibs (Scribes), Qadhaskers (chief military judges), Right and Left Ulufajiyan (paid soldiers), Right and Left Gharibs (member of a certain cavalry unit), 1000 Tufakchi Janissaries (guards at the Imperial Palace) and 500 Sipahis (cavalry soldiers) .

According to the firman (edict) the subject could be outlined as follows: Sultan Salim the Excellent came to Al-Bayt Al-Maqdis in Jerusalem on 25th Safar (second month of the Arabic Lunar Calendar) 923 (A.H.)/1517 (A.C.). In the company of the other priest, the Armenian Patriarch, Sarkiz, went to the Sultan to ask him to grant them favors, in which regard they requested him to let them keep on under their control the churches and places of worship, which had from ancient times under their administration as well as to renew the treaty the Khalif Omar and Salahaddin Ayyubi had granted to them. Thereupon, it was decided that the Armenian priests would continue to be authorized to hold under their control – as they had been doing – Kamamah, the Cave of Al-Bayt Al-Lahm, where Jesus Christ had been born, the keys of the gate in the north, the two candle-sticks and their candles at the gate of Kamamah inside, Big Churches, Mar Yaqub, the Churches of Dayr-uz-Zaytun and Habs-ul-Masih and the foundations thereof, vineyards, gardens, the nations of Abyssinia, Copt and Assyria, which were of the same religion, and their produces and in similar affairs. Again, as per the aforementioned treaty nobody would interfere with them. Let may children, viziers, the pious, qadis (judges), beylerbeys (gornors general), governors of sanjaks (subdivisions of a province), vaivodes (kind of governor or mayor), subashis (polici superintendents), and the like act by this.

While he was in the Sahara of Jerusalem, Sultan Salim the Excellent awarded similar firmans (edicts) to both the Armenian people and the Armenian Patriarch Atalya. While as basis to the text do we take that edict given to the Armenian Patriarch, as the text in Ottoman Turkish shall we take the firman given to the Greek Christians, which is found in the Ottoman Archives.

Herebelow is the original text of the document in Ottoman Turkish:

“1. Emr-i Şerifim mûcebince her kim bir gayrı şekle giderse ve bozarsa, Allah Te`âlânın kılıncına uğrasun.

2. Nişan-ı Şerif-i Alişân-ı Sâmî-i Sultâni Ve Tuğrây-i Garrâyı Cihan Sitân-i Hâkân-î bil- Avn”ir-Rabbânî ve”l-men”ni”s-Sübhânî hükmü oldur ki ;

3. avnillâhi Teâlâ ve Resûlihi, Kudüs-i Şerif”e gelüb mâh-i Safer-ül Hayr”ın 25. gününde feth-i bab olunub Ermeni tâifesine patrik olan Serkiz nâm râhib cümle ruhbân ile maa reâyâ ve berâyâ gelüb atâ ve in”âmımdan ricâ ve temennâ kılmışlardır. Kadimen meşrûtaları olub uhdelerinde olan kenise ve manastır ve sâir ziyâretleri ve içerüde ve taşrada vâki kenise ve ma”bedhâneleri kadimden zabt ve tasarruf edegeldikleri minval üzre Ermeni tâifesine patrik olanlar zabt ve tasarruf eyleyeler.

4. Hazret-i Omer (R.A.} Hazretlerinin olan Ahidnâme-i Hümayun ve merhûm melik Selâhaddin zamanından beri verilen evâmir-i şerifeler mûcebince zabt ve tasarruflarında olan Kamame ve Beytüllahım mağara ve şimal tarafındaki kapu ve kenise-i kübrâları, Mar-Ya”kub ve Deyr”üz Zeytun ve Habs”ül-Mesih ve Nablüs ve keniselerine tâbi” hemmilletleri olan Habeş ve Kıbtî ve Süryanî milletleri, Mar Ya”kub keniselerinde mütemekkin olan Ermeni patrikleri tarafından zabt ve tasarruf olunup âher milelden min ba”d bir ferd müdâhele etdirilmemek babında bu Nişân-ı Hümâyûn-ı saâdet-makrûnımı verdim.

5. buyurdum ki; mûcebince amel olunup, zikrolunan Kenise-i Kübraları, Mar Yakub”da mütemekkin olan Ermeni Patrikleri içerüde ve taşrada vâki olan keniseleri ve manastırlar ve sâir ziyâretgâhları ve kendülerine tabi milletleri ve yamakları olan Habeş ve Kıbtî ve Süryâni milletleri âyinleri üzre zabt ve tasarruf eyleyüp vâki olan umurlarına ve azl ve nasb ve sâir vakıflarına müteallik hususlarına ve mürd olan metropolid ve piskopos ve ruhban ve papaz ve yamaklarının ve sâir Ermeni tâiesi patriklerinin zabt ve tasarruflarında olan kenise ve manastır ve ma”bed ve sâir ziyaretlerinin ve kendülere tâbi hem milletlerine ve yamaklarına âher milelden min ba”d bir ferd müdâhele eylemeyüb ve Kamame ortasında vâki olan türbesi ve Kudüs-i Şerif taşrasında Meryem Ana Makberesi ve Hazret-i İsa (A.S.) doğduğu Beytüllahm mağara ve şimal tarafında olan kapunun miftahı ve içerüde Kamame kapısında iki şamdan ve kandilleri ve türbe kapısında ve içerisinde olan kandilleri ve yaktıkları şem ve buhurları ve kamame içinde âyinleri üzre nâr-ı şem’ zuhurunda kendülere tâbi olan hem milletleriyle türbe dâhiline girüb ve havalisinde devr etmeleri ve kapu içerüsinün zir ü bâlâsı ve iki penceresi ve içerüde olan ma”bed ve ziyâretleri ve su kuyusu ve Kamame havlusunda vâki Mar Yuhanna Kenisesi ve taşrasında Mar-Yakub kurbünde vâki Habs”ül Mesih ve sâir manastırları ve makberelikleri ve medfenleri ve Beytüllahın mağara kurbünde olan odaları ve misâfirhâneleri ve bağ ve bağçe ve zeytünlükleri ve bilcümle zikrolunan kenise ve manastır ve ma”bed ve ziyâretgâhları ve kendülerine tâbi hem milletleri ve sâir emlâk ve tevâbi-i kadimeleri tayin olunduğu üzre Ermeni tâifesi ve patrikleri zabt ve tasarruf eyleyüb ve keniselerine ziyârete gelen Ermeni taifesi zemzem tabir olunur su üzerine ve panayırlarına ve sâir ma”bed ve ziyaretlerine vardıklarında ehl-i örf tâifesinden ve âherden min ba”d bir ferd dahl ve taarruz eylemeyüp ba”del-yevm vech-i meşrûh üzre verilen Nişân-ı Hümâyûn-ı saadet-makrûnum mûcebince amel olunub âher milletten bir ferdi müdâhele ettirmeyüb ol-babda evlâd-ı emcâdımdan veyahud vüzerây-i izâmımdan ve sulehây-ı kirâmımdan ve kadılardan ve beğlerbeği ve sancak beği ve mîr-i mîrân ve voyvodaları ve beytülmal ve kassâm adamları ve subaşıları ve zuamâ ve erbâb-ı tımar ve mutasarrıfın-i emvâl ve sâir kapum kullarımdan ve gayriden muhassalâ vazî’ ve refî’ ve kebirden hiçbir ferd-i efrâd-ı âferideden kâne men kân vechen min”el-vücûh ve sebeben mine”l-esbâb dahl ve taarruz kılmayub tebdil ve tağyir eylemeyeler. Her kim dahl ve taarruz ve tebdîl ve tağyir eder ise, indellâhil-Melik-il-Mu’în zümre-i mücrimîn ve a”dâd-ı âsiminden ma”dûd olalar.

6. Şöyle bileler, hükm-i kişver-ktişâ ve tuğrây-ı garrây-ı âlem-ârâ ile mücellâ ve müzeyyen görenler mazmûn-ı meymûnın muhakkak ve fahvây-i hümâyunun musaddak bilüb alâmet-i şerife itimad kılalar.
Kütibe fi sene selâsin ve işrîne ve tis”amie Sahray-ı Kudüs-i Şerif” .

Copy of the Firman (Edict) of Rights and Freedoms Sultan Salim the Excellent had given to the Patriarch of the Greek Christians in Jerusalem (Ottoman Archives, Book of Churches, No: 8; for the copy awarded to the Armenians, see Ottoman Archives ‘The Classification of Kamil Kepeci, The Item of Bishops’ Muqataa – a farming out of public revenue – Subject to the Item of Financial Matters’ No: 2539, page: 2)


The tradition beginning with the Khalif Omar and continuing with Salahaddin Ayyubi to quote each and every sacred place in Jerusalem through firmans and to determine the rights and freedoms of the non-Muslims who resided in the city lasted until the City was recaptured from the Ottoman State. Nonetheless, we shall here have cited only those firmans (edicts) proclaimed by Muhammad the Conqueror and Salim the Excellent, making mere mention of the others, for we do not wish to further elongate our article.

However, we ought hereby to state that, with the exclusion of the temporary interventions by France and Russia, Jerusalem experienced an epoch of utter peace and tranquillity under the sovereignty of the Ottoman State. Ottoman State offered perfect counsel as regards to the sacred places in the region to such countries as France who attempted to interfere in the affairs of Jerusalem on the pretext of the guardianship of the Christians. In this case, if – just as the Ottoman State did – no matter by whom the City is ruled – it is taken into consideration that Jerusalem is the common capital of all the three religions and provided also that all the holy places and the places of worship pertaining to all the religions in the region are held in due esteem and reverence, peace and tranquillity shall certainly have been reestablished just as it was accomplished during the reigning era of the Ottomans. By virtue of the significance of the question, we would like to introduce the holy places and the places of worship pertaining to every religion on basis of the information revealed by the firmans.


Jerusalem has been under the sovereignty of the Muslims for about 1400 years, with the sole exceptions of the short intervening period during the Crusades and the temporary cases at the time of the fall of the Ottoman State. And at present we are experiencing the third exceptional interim, which has been brought about by Israel with its invasion of Jerusalem. It is particularly a matter of wonder by whichever criteria the holy places had been divided during the ruling era of the Ottoman State for 450 years that no serious disorders or conflicts broke out. To answer this question accurately, we are to put forth brief descriptions of the sacred places and the places of worship in Jerusalem.


Those sacred places that had been alluded to in the firmans of the Ottoman Sultans and the Khalif Omar are actually the sacred places and the places of worship of the Christians. For the sovereignty of the Hebrews over the territory terminated in 70 (A.C.), which, towards the end of the VII. Century passed to the Muslims.

Upon France’s demand in 1850’s, the Ottoman State instituted a Commission of History, who listed the Christians’ sacred places within and in the vicinity of Jerusalem as follows:

1) The Church of Kamamah: It is another name for the Church of Kiyama which had been erected by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine circa 326 (A.C.) on the site claimed to be the tomb of Jesus Christ. This building, which is the place of pilgrimage not only for the Christians but the Jews as well, is also called Bab-ul-Kamamah. Kamamah is a term used by Muslim historians. It was re-mended during the Crusades from 1130 (A.C.) to 1149 (A.C.). Christians from all over the world of all nations, French, English, Greek, Georgian, Abyssinian, etc. were all allowed to visit here freely. The Church of Kamamah is a place of worship regarded holy by all the Christian sects. Some of the legal decrees related to the issue are as follows:


25. Seven coins of florins are taken from visiting Franks, viz. Europeans. And at Bab Al-Kamamah (the Outermost-Gate of Kamamah) fifty akchas (small silver coins) are demanded from them as Rasm Al-Kal’a (fortress-toll) and at the Gate of Kamamah forty-five akchas as toll. The mentioned taxes are levied on the visiting unbelievers who come from the European countries;

26. And three Kayitbay gold coins are collected from Greek travelers, and the same from the visitors from the Orient.

27. And two kayitbay gold coins are imposed on the visitors from Aleppo and Damascus, and one Kayitbay gold coin on Egyptian travelers;

28. And twenty-five akchas are charged on the unbelievers who come from Salt, Ajlun and Ramlah. And four akchas are collected from the unbelievers coming from Jerusalem and Halil Al-Rahman (may the Greetings of Allah be upon him);

29. And from the unbelievers who pay a visit on Christian festivals are taken one akcha at three places. And from the European merchants who have come from Damascus are collected two and a half gold coins apart from the aforementioned established taxes. And nothing is demanded from the unbelievers from Georgia and Abyssinia. And one akcha is taken from the European travelers per week.

2) The Grand Dome of the Church of Kamamah Small Dome
The Grand Dome of the Church of Kamamah and the Small Dome on the place known as the Tomb of Jesus Christ: Similar to the Church of Kamamah, they are the common sacred places held in high esteem by all the Christian sects.

3) The Arch composed of Seven Parts called Sitt Al-Maryam
This is also a common place that pertains to all the Christian sects.

4) The Arch made up of Four Parts under Jaljalah:
Half of them belong to the Greek Christians while half to the Latin.

5) The Sahara around Hajar Al-Mughtasal: This is a common region as well.

6) The Tomb of Mary and the Adjacent Yard:
Like the Church of Kamamah this is a common holy place for all the Christian congregations.

7) The Grand Church at the Village of Bayt Al-Lahm:
Inside this grand church is found the cave called Al-Maghara Al-Mahd renowned as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Further, the keys of the gates of this cave in the directions of the Qiblah (the direction to which Muslims must turn for prayer), north and south are esteemed as holy by all the Christian communities. This place was the cause of grave conflicts among the Greek Christians, the Latin and the Armenians. This cave, which we can call the ‘Cave of Cradle’, is today open for visit to all the groups. The keys of the gates were at times handed to the Latin and at times to Greek Christians.

8) The Gardens composed of two lots adjacent to the Frank Monastery:
They are the gardens at Bayt Al-Lahm.

9) The Cisterns located on the site named Tahun Al-Atik.

10) The Building said to be the Tomb of Jesus Christ.

11) The Cave called ‘Al-Maghara Al-Ruat’ and the surrounding Field.

12) Al-Hagar Al-Mughtasal: A building regarded holy by all the Christians.

13) Al-Maghara Al-Mahd: This is the cave wherein Jesus Christ was born. The church built upon this cave is named the Grand Church.

14) The Church of Mar Yuhanna in the Yard of Kamamah; the Church of Mar Yakub outside; the Monastery of Habs Al-Messiah nearby; the Monastery called Al-Dayr Al-Zaytun; the Georgian Monastery and the like sacred places of worship.
These are only several outstanding holy places. There, surely, exist others.


As a matter of fact, the title above is incorrect, for – with some exceptions – most of the places considered as holy by the Christians and the Jews are sacred for Muslims as well. Besides, there are such places as are esteemed holy only by Muslims. Because Jerusalem has been ruled by Muslims for 1400 years and most of the sacred places pertaining to the former religions are also regarded holy by them and Jerusalem had been the first qiblah for Muslims as well as by virtue of similar reasons our space here does not suffice to make mention of all the sacred places that pertain to Muslims in Jerusalem. All the same, we shall quote the most significant ones:

1) Al-Masjid Al-Aksa: It is the mosque which was built on the site of the former place of worship of the Prophet Sulaiman (Solomon), which is also mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an. In fact, it is located in the Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem. Also, it is the third mosque mentioned by the Prophet Muhammad in his tradition: “One has to travel for three masjids (mosques)”.

2) Al-Bayt Al-Haram: It includes the district and the premises therein between Al-Qubbah Al-Sahra and Al-Masjid Al-Aksa.

3) Al-Qubbah Al-Sahra: It is the dome built over a rock called Sahra Al-Allah or Hagar Al-Sahra in the vicinity of Al-Bayt Al-Haram. It was later transformed into a mosque, under which is found a cave where were found such holy relics as the footprints of Archangel Jibril Al-Ameen (Gabriel) and the Prophet Muhammad, the banners of the Prophet Muhammad and the Khalif Omar, the shield of Hamzah, a companion and an uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, the gold nails hammered in by the Prophet Muhammad, etc. It is usually – and mistakenly – known as Al-Masjid Al-Omar. Visitors circumambulate Al-Hagar Al-Sahra.

4) Al-Dahma Al-Mutabarrikah: It is place which is said to be the site of the tombs of the Prophets Ishaq (Isaac), Ya’kub (Jacob), and Yusuf (Joseph) and even some 200 prophets.

5) Al-Rumman Al-Dawud (Prophet David): It is said to be the place where the Prophets Dawud (David) and Ilyas (Elias) would worship. It is seen when entering Al-Qubbah Al-Sahra.

6) In short, each and every single place like the Well of the Prophet Joseph, the Tomb of the Prophet David, and similar places that pertain to prophets are also held in high esteem by Muslims, to which are to be added those mosques, masjids (small mosques), madrasas (Islamic schools) and zawiyahs (cell of a recluse) which had been constructed during 1400 years.


As the Jews had lost their sovereignty in Jerusalem as after 70 (A.C.), no mention has been made in history as regards to their holy places other than their alleging that the Wailing Wall and such places as they deem holy are unique and exclusive to the Jews.


After the latest clashes and the diplomatic endeavors that have been carried on for many years with no outcome is obviously comprehended that it is out of the question to find any solution to the Problem of Jerusalem thereby. If lesson is derived from history, there certainly exist ways out of the crisis of Jerusalem. Our proposal is to return those days of peace and tranquillity by setting forth, with some additions, from the Ottoman Model that had been successfully practiced for 450 years, wherefore:

1) It is impossible to transfer Jerusalem to the unique sovereignty of the Jews. If the states of the world are really contemplating this, they certainly are preparing the Doom’s Day. For the Problem of Jerusalem shall continue until there remains only one Muslim in the world as the Affair of Jerusalem is a matter of faith for Muslims.

2) Jerusalem has been an important land of places of worship for Christians ever since 70 (A.C.). This being the case, it is infeasible to seek a remedy to the Crisis of Jerusalem disregarding the Christian world.

3) The Jews, on the other hand, consider it a religious task to appropriate Jerusalem calling it so-called Al-Ardh Al-Maw’ud (the Promised Land).

4) The three points heretofore being into account will it be clearly perceived that ‘Jerusalem is a religious prerequisite either for all the three religions or none’. Accordingly, after the Ottoman Modal, this city is to become the Holy Common Capital of all the three religions.

5) For this reason, Jerusalem ought to be transferred temporarily to the United Nations and the United Nations must appoint a Governor General to Jerusalem from Muslims, Christians and Jews alternately and by turns. If this model does not work, then a citizen of an impartial country could be assigned for this task. Or the City should be governed by Jewish and Palestinian governors alternatively.

6) As the Ottoman State did, the Muslim, Christian and Jewish Quarters ought to be separated. As a matter of fact, the holy places of worship of each religion do not interpenetrate. Only, the Jews’ Wailing Wall and Muslims’ Masjid Al-Aksa have to be established on sound bases.

7) As was the case in the Ottoman State, total freedom is to be granted to those places of worship and sacred places esteemed holy by each religion as well as their religious beliefs.

8) Jerusalem should quit being the capital of Israel.

9) In brief, the Ottoman Model is to be applied in Jerusalem in that the United Nations’ Sovereignty will replace the Ottoman Sovereignty so that the old peaceful days should be brought back.

10) Otherwise, it should not be forgotten that the end of the world shall be caused by the Crisis of Jerusalem.

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