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Husayn Pasha

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  • Country of residence: Palestine
  • Gender: Male
  • Age: 0
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Husayn Pasha ibn Hasan Ridwan (died 1663) was the Ottoman governor of the Gaza Province, which stretched from Jaffa and Ramla in the north, Bayt Jibrin to the east and Rafah in the south, with Gaza as its capital. His reign extended from the 1650s until his death in 1663. He also administered the districts of Nablus and Jerusalem and served as the amir al-hajj. Husayn's rule was marked by a period of prosperity that temporarily established Gaza as the unofficial capital of Palestine. Notably, he maintained amiable relations with the Bedouin tribes of the Negev, the local Christian populations and the French consul in Jerusalem. In 1663 Husayn was imprisoned by the Ottoman central authorities and was killed in his Istanbul prison cell.


While Ottoman biographer Muhibbi paints Arab Hasan Pasha as a reckless "spendthrift and hedonist," Husayn was described as the "paragon of perfection." Muhibbi claimed Husayn was handsome, noble and cultured and "a man of deeds whose reputation preceded him." Although Husayn was illiterate, he memorized several books of Arabic poetry and prose. He was further described as a "resolute leader" in war and politics.

Husayn had a number of children, including adopted ones who were related to him. His son Ibrahim was killed in combat in 1661. He adopted his late sister's son Farrukh whose deceased father, Ali ibn Muhammad Farrukh, had been a leading amir himself. Husayn's daughter Shaqra Khatun was married to the amir Assaf Pasha. Husayn had 85 siblings, most notable among them was Husayn's successor as governor, Musa Pasha.

According to historian Theodore Dowling, Husayn's serai, known as Qasr al-Basha, was lavishly furnished and stood in the middle of a garden. One of the servant families were the Frangi who were of Greek Catholic origin, but converted to Islam. Assalan Frangi was Husayn's office secretary.


Achievements and Awards

Ruler of central Palestine:

In the mid-17th century Husayn served as governor of Jerusalem and Nablus. From around 1510, his family, the Ridwan dynasty, had administered much of Palestine and parts of Lebanon and Syria on behalf of their Ottoman superiors based in Istanbul and Damascus. Husayn Pasha was also appointed the additional role of amir al-hajj. This position entitled him the responsibility of protecting the annual hajj pilgrimage caravan from attack or looting while traversing the desert route to Mecca in the Hejaz.

Governorship of Gaza:

Husayn inherited the governorship of Gaza from his father 'Arab Hasan Pasha following his death in the 1650s. Prior to the assumption of this post, Gaza was in an impoverished economic state and the Ridwan family was greatly indebted. In 1656, the Ottoman central authorities, wary of Husayn's overarching influence in Palestine, attempted to implicate Husayn in a corruption scandal regarding unclear cash and property transactions in a Nablus-based meeting between himself, his brother-in-law Assaf Pasha, a group of notables from Jabal Nablus and an Ottoman official from Istanbul, Ismail Pasha. According to testimonies from that time, a group of village chiefs from Jabaliya apparently affected by the Nablus deal went to Damascus to complain to the authorities against Ismail Pasha, but were then advised by Ottoman authorities there to file the complaint against Husayn to undermine his credibility.

To restore Gaza's failing commerce sector, Husayn obtained a large loan from the French consul in Jerusalem, Chevalier D'Arvieux. When pressed to pay in 1659, Husayn made strenuous efforts to produce the funds and promptly paid back D'Arvieux in a meeting in the town of Ramla. D'Arvieux then proceeded to lavish fine robes and cloth to show his gratitude to Husayn.

Husayn maintained a positive reputation among the Bedouin tribes who largely dominated the desert areas surrounding Gaza. This relationship resulted in drastic fall in the previously routine armed conflict between the nomadic Bedouin and the settled population of Gaza and the nearby towns. According to Ottoman-era biographer Muhibbi, Husayn was able to force the Bedouin tribes into submission and cooperation. The Arab tribal chiefs reportedly visited his court in Gaza to pay their respects. According to historian Martin Abraham Meyer, Husayn's influence over the Bedouin was "marked" and they ended their plundering campaigns against the city, allowing its economic growth to be unhindered.

Notably a more qualified governor than his predecessor, Husayn was able to restore the Ridwan family's wealth and Gaza entered into a period of prosperity. The status of the city was elevated to such a state, that by 1660 it was regarded as the capital of Palestine. Husayn's rule over Gaza was considered benign, and according to Meyer "all things prospered under his rule." Economic activity at the time was principally agricultural and focused on cereal grains. While industry was primitive, Gaza became a central manufacturer of soap and wine. Husayn was well known throughout Palestine for his many charities and hospitality.

In addition to the majority Muslim population, there existed large communities of Jews and Christians who thrived under Husayn's administration. Husayn maintained friendly relations with the various Christian communities in Palestine as well as the French missionaries. Unusual at the time for a Muslim ruler, he allowed local Christians to build a church near the Great Mosque of Gaza, repair already existing churches throughout the province and construct hospices.

He appointed his son Ibrahim as governor of Jerusalem and later on handed over to him his post as governor of Gaza, the Ridwan dynasty's stronghold, to Ibrahim as well. He retained his job as governor of Nablus and continued to annually lead the hajj pilgrims from Damascus to Mecca. Husayn reassigned himself as governor of Gaza in 1661 when Ibrahim was killed in an Ottoman-ordered punitive expedition against the Druze rebels in Lebanon.

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