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Muslim Flags through the years
The early Muslim community did not really have a symbol. During the time of the Prophet
Muhammad (peace be upon him), Islamic armies and caravans flew simple solid-
colored flags (generally black, green, or white) for identification purposes. In later
generations, the Muslim leaders continued to use a simple black, white, or green flag
with no markings, writings, or symbolism on it.
The Prophet used flags of different colors in different Ghazwat (campaigns commanded
by the Prophet himself) and Saraya (campaign commanded by any Sahabi). The major
flag of the Prophet was known as "Al- Uqaab", it was pure black with and without
symbol or marking. Its name and color was derived from Quraish's flag.
Other minor flags were known as Al-Raya, the most important flag among them was
white, others were red, yellow, and perhaps green and zebra-striped.
Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) Flag
Flags of Rashidun Khilafa with Sahada
An authentic statement about the Umayyad flag is not available; however perhaps they
used a white flag because this was also used by Umayyad’s of Spain later, this flag may
be a memory of their glorious empire.
The Abbasid Dynasty which succeeded them used a black flag. The Fatimid Dymasty of
caliphs, meanwhile, had green as their traditional colour, while the Hashemites used red.
Fatimid’s of north Africa Flag
Libya (solid green)
Sultanate of Rum (The Great Seljuk Empire)
Timur Lane Flag
Flag of Babur
Crescent moon and star
It wasn't until the Ottoman Empire that the crescent moon and star became affiliated
with the Muslim world. When the Turks conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, they
adopted the city's existing flag and symbol. Legend holds that the founder of the
Ottoman Empire, Osman, had a dream in which the crescent moon stretched from one
end of the earth to the other. Taking this as a good omen, he chose to keep the
crescent and make it the symbol of his dynasty. There is speculation that the five points
on the star represent the five pillars of Islam, but this is pure conjecture. The five points
were not standard on the Ottoman flags, and it is still not standard on flags used in the
Muslim world today.
The Crescent Moon and the Star
For hundreds of years, the Ottoman Empire ruled over the Muslim world. After centuries of
battle with Christian Europe, it is understandable how the symbols of this empire became
linked in people's minds with the faith of Islam as a whole.
Ottomans being Turks were using a crescent bearing flag. When Selim I resumed power
as the caliph, the Ottoman flag was red with a green circle and three yellow crescents.
Ottomans for the first time separate the religious flag and the national flag. The national
flag was red with crescent facing right, while the religious flag green with crescent facing
right. Later, a five-cornered star was added to symbolize the five pillars of Islam.
Later Flag of the Mughal Empire
The typical green flag with crescent and star became a standard Islamic flag and is used
till date, and it is very interesting that most of the people think that this flag has been
used by Muslims since the beginning. This crescent bearing flag has been used by
different Muslim empires and nations in the history especially those having Turkish origin.
This crescent flag with some variations is still in use by different Muslim entities, e.g.,
Algeria, Azerbaijan, Comoros, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Tunisia, Turkey,
Turkmenistan, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Uzbekistan, and Western Sahara.
Based on this history, many Muslims reject using the crescent moon as a symbol of Islam
especially Arab countries (Algeria and Tunisia being exceptions). The faith of Islam has
historically had no symbol, and many refuse to accept what is essentially an ancient
pagan icon. It is certainly not in uniform use among Muslims, but commonly seen in many
Non-Arab Muslim countries.
Script takes one of two forms, either the Shahadah or Allahu Akbar ("God is great"). Iraq
and Iran use both the pan-Arab colours (in the case of Iran slightly modified in shade and
excluding black) with the addition of Allahu Akbar—in recognizable form on Iraq's flag,
and stylised on Iran's. Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan use the Shahadah, a declaration of
faith: lā ilāha illā-llāh, wa muħammadan rasūlu-llāh in Arabic, translation "There is no
god but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet".
Afghanistan Saudi Arabia
Limitations on the use of Flags
Flags containing Allahu Akbar or Shahaadah are highly respected to due to the
association of core Islamic belief shared by all Muslims. Misuse of such flags can be
perceived as an attack on Islam regardless of nationality, whereas attacking a Muslim
country flag containing none of these phrases will not be seen as an attack on Islam
itself, but merely an attack on the country. Misuse of such a flag is understood to include
stepping on the flag, burning it, hanging it in a pub or club, and association of flag with
non-Islamic subjects, while the same treatment of a Muslim country's flag without the
Shahaadah or Allahu Akbar might be considered perfectly normal.
Flags are used as a badge on army, naval and government official uniforms as well as in
government or emergency vehicles. Such usage is impermissible, however, with a flag
bearing the Shahaadah or Allahu Akbar. This is in part because, in accordance to Islamic
teaching, it is not recommended that one use the toilet in the presence of such phrases
because they are extraction from Quran, the holy book which Muslims believe to be the
word of Allah (God) and there is no doubt.
In Islamic countries Muslims are required treat non-Muslim citizens with respect and
dignity. A non-Muslim in an Islamic country can not be expected to fly the flag of
Shahaadah or Allahu Akbar as he/she may not believe in these phrases. Hence, there is
no infringement of human rights. Therefore, non-Shahaadah or non-Allahu Akbar flags
may be more practical given the limitation above.
Representation of flags
Unlike the practice in most Western nations, flags are usually depicted in Islamic countries
with the staff to the right. This is analogous to the right-to-left form of Arabic script. This
can make for confusion when flag images are shown without an accompanying
flagstaff, as it may not be immediately obvious which way around the flag is being
In keeping with Islamic law, Muslim flags generally do not bear any representations of
real creatures, though some flags have animal depictions on them such as Egypt having
the Golden Eagle of Salahuddin al-Ayyubi (Saladin) that are used as supporters on the
Coats of Arms. These flags are not necessarily Islamic in their nature; rather they more
likely to derive from the Pan-Arabist movement. It is rare to find plants depicted on flags
of Muslim nations, even though this is permissible under Islamic guidelines. Some state
and royal flags of Saudi Arabia do, however, depict palm trees.
The Pan-Arab Flag
In 1911, at a meeting in Istanbul, it was decided that a modern flag to represent all Arabs
should include all four of these colours. Three years later, the Young Arab Society
decreed that a future independent Arab state should use a flag of these colours, and on
May 30, 1917 Sharif Hussein, leader of the Hejaz revolt replaced his plain red flag with
one horizontally striped in black, green, and white with a red triangular area at the hoist.
This was seen as the birth of the pan-Arab flag.
The Flag of the Arab Revolt
Since that time, many Arab nations, upon achieving independence or upon change of
political regime, have used a combination of these colours in a design reflecting the
Hejaz Revolt flag.
Current flags with Pan-Arab colors
Former flags with the Pan-Arab colors
Muslim Flags with Pan African Colors
The Pan-African flag, also referred to as the UNIA flag, Afro-American flag or Black
Liberation Flag, is a tri-color flag consisting of three equal horizontal bands colored red,
black and green. It was originally created as the official banner of the African Race by
the members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities
League (UNIA). They formally adopted it in article 39 of the Declaration of Rights of the
Negro Peoples of the World on August 13, 1920 during their month long convention held
in Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States. The three colors represent:
• red: the blood that unites all people of African ancestry, and shed for liberation;
• black: black people whose existence as a nation, though not a nation-state, is
affirmed by the existence of the flag; and
• green: the abundant natural wealth of Africa.
The flag later became an African nationalist symbol for the liberation of African people
everywhere. As an emblem of black pride, the flag became popular during the Black
Liberation movement of the 1960s.
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