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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.



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