The Naqib al-Ashraf revolt (also known as the Naqib al-Ashraf uprising) was a popular uprising in Jerusalem against the Ottoman authorities between May 1703 and October 1705. It was led by the city’s naqib al-ashraf (local head of the order of Muhammad‘s descendants), Muhammad ibn Mustafa al-Husayni al-Wafa’i, and the rebels consisted of townspeople, peasants from nearby villages, local Bedouins, and religious notables (ulama). For over two years the rebels engaged in virtual self-rule in the city. However, divisions emerged within rebel ranks, and following an Ottoman siege, the rebel camp led by al-Husayni fled the city and were later captured and executed.
In the mid-17th century, the Sublime Porte (Ottoman imperial government) launched a centralization effort in the empire’s provinces guided by the policies of the KöprülüGrand Viziers. In Palestine, these policies manifested in the gradual elimination of local hereditary dynasties, namely the Ridwans, Farrukhs and Turabays. These families traditionally provided the governors for the sanjaks (districts) of Jerusalem, Gaza, Lajjun and Nablus. They generally maintained close alliances with the notables of Palestine’s major towns and with the Bedouin tribes.
Towards the end of the 17th century, the local governors had been replaced by Ottoman officials who discontinued the local relationships their predecessors had cultivated. Under the new governors, the exploitation of the local population by Janissaries, timariots (fief holders) and subashis continued unabated. The governors could not bring order to the Jerusalem Sanjak, with the main roads from Jerusalem to Jaffa and from Nablus to Hebron facing frequent assaults by Bedouin tribesmen and instability remaining rampant in the countryside and major towns such as Hebron. Many peasants left their villages to avoid heavy taxation by the governors or exploitation by junior officials. The dignitaries of Jerusalem often served as mediators of disputes in the district in place of government officials. The dignitaries’ loss of privileges previously enjoyed under the local governors brought them closer with the lower, dispossessed classes due to their shared frustrations with the changing order. Moreover, acts by the Janissaries, namely the desecration of mosques and religious sites, including the Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) in Jerusalem, further incensed the population.
In 1701 Mehmed Pasha Kurd Bayram was appointed governor of the Jerusalem, Gaza and Nablus sanjaks. During his term, he launched repeated punitive expeditions against the peasantry and Bedouin tribesmen for rebelling against his authority, refusing to pay his increased taxes (Mehmed Pasha doubled the tax rate after entering into office) or, in the specific case of the Bedouin, for taking over local highways and imposing tolls on travelers. The campaigns were often brutal. In 1702, his campaign against the Bedouin and peasants in the Gaza and Jerusalem sanjaks resulted in 200 deaths among the Bedouin and peasants. In early 1703, he besieged the fortress town of Bayt Jibrin where rebels from the vicinity had barricaded themselves. Several villages were destroyed before Mehmed Pasha gained control of the town. Following the siege, the ulama of Jerusalem requested that Mehmed Pasha ease his stringent taxation policies and militarism, but their requests were ignored.