Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi
عبدالغنی بن اسماعیل النابلسی Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi
19 March 1641
|Died||5 March 1731 (aged 89)|
|Known for||Muslim Scholar, Sufi|
Shaykh 'Abd al-Ghani ibn Isma′il al-Nabulsi (an-Nabalusi) (19 March 1641 – 5 March 1731), was an eminent Sunni Muslim scholar, poet, and author on works about Sufism, ethnography and agriculture.
Abd al-Ghani's family descended from the Banu Jama'a, which traditionally provided qadis (chief judges) for the Shafi'i fiqh (school of Islamic law) of Sunni Islam for the Mamluk rulers of Syria and Egypt. The Banu Jama'a hailed from Hama before settling in Jerusalem in the 13th century. One of its principal branches remained in Jerusalem, providing the preachers for the al-Aqsa Mosque, while another principal branch relocated to Cairo, the Mamluk capital, under Badr al-Din Muhammad Ibn Jama'a in 1291 after being appointed by Sultan al-Ashraf Khalil as qadi al-qudat (head judge of the sultanate) and shaykh al-shuyukh (head of the Sufi brotherhoods). Badr al-Din died in 1333 and his direct descendants died out in the 15th century. Abd al-Ghani's family descended from Badr al-Din's younger brother Abd al-Rahman, who had remained in Jerusalem. Shortly after the conquest of Mamluk Syria by the Ottoman Empire in 1516, part of Abd al-Rahman's family moved briefly to Nablus then permanently to Damascus, which attracted numerous people from Palestine in the 16th century. The family became known as "al-Nabulsi" after their short stay in Nablus.
The great-grandfather of Abd al-Ghani, Ismai'il al-Nabulsi, was a Shafi'i jurist, the Shafi'i mufti of Damascus and a teacher of the fiqh at the Umayyad Mosque and four madrasas in the city. One of the madrasas, the Darwishiyya Madrasa, was built by the governor Darwish Pasha and endowed specifically for Isma'il and his descendants to teach the Shafi'i fiqh. Isma'il taught there Turkish, Persian and Arabic students, and was fluent in each of the languages. He grew wealthy, owning several villages and farms and gaining connections to the imperial government in Constantinople. He was the founder of the Nabulsi family's wealth and a mausoleum was built for him by Darwish Pasha in the Bab al-Saghir cemetery. Abd al-Ghani's grandfather and namesake inherited wealth from his mother Hanifa bint al-Shihabi Ahmad and owned shops and residences in the Salihiyya neighborhood. He was not known for his scholarship and is remembered by Abd al-Ghani as a generous man.
Abd al-Ghani was born in Damascus in 1641. His father, Isma'il, was a jurist, but switched to the Hanafi fiqh, which was the Sunni Muslim school of Ottoman high officialdom. He was a contributor to Arabic literature, wrote on legal matters, taught at the Umayyad Mosque and Damascene madrasas and occupied the post of qadi in Sidon for a certain period. He supervised Abd al-Ghani's early education, but died in 1653, when Abd al-Ghani was 12 years old. Before the age of 20 he was teaching and giving formal legal opinions (fatwa). He joined both the mystical orders Qadiriyya and Naqshbandi, and spent seven years in isolation in his house studying the mystics on their expression of divine experiences. He taught in the Umawi Mosque in Damascus and the Salihiyya Madrasa, becoming renowned throughout the region as an accomplished Islamic scholar. He travelled extensively, seeing Istanbul (1664), Lebanon (1688), Jerusalem (1689), Palestine (1689), Egypt (1693), Arabia (1693), and Tripoli (1700).
He died and was buried in Damascus in 1731 at 90 years of age.
He left over 200 written works. His views on religious tolerance towards other religions were developed under the inspiration of the works of the 13th century Sufi master, Ibn Arabi. He made two visits to Palestine, in 1690, and 1693–4, visiting Christian and Jewish sites, as well as sacred Muslim shrines, and he enjoyed there the hospitality of local Christian monks. Subjects he wrote about include Sufism, Rihla, agriculture, and poetry. He also wrote ethnographic works based on his travels to Tripoli, Egypt, Jerusalem, Lebanon and other areas of the Middle East.