Symbols of Islam

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Allah means God in Arabic
A typical presentation of the star and crescent.

Islamic symbols express an identification with Islam, or a particular tradition within Islam. They are also used to evoke feelings, or to stand for certain Islamic beliefs and ideas. Some symbols, such as the green colour, have been associated with Islam for a long time and in many areas; others are of more limited duration and extent. Muslim art often uses such symbols to represent complex ideas (see Iconography and Islamic calligraphy). Islamic architecture may also incorporate such symbols in the decoration of religious edifices such as mosques, khanqahs, and dargahs. The Quran does not specify any symbols or colors for Islam; these Islamic symbols are results of the understandings and imaginations of Muslim artists, politicians, and thinkers.

Symbols[edit]

Main article: Green in Islam

The colour green has a special place in Islam. It is used in the decoration of mosques, the bindings of Qur'ans, the silken covers for the graves of Sufi saints, and in the flags of various Muslim countries. Green has been associated with Islam for many centuries. The colour green was the colour used by Muhammad’s tribe on their flags[citation needed]. According to Muslims the colour green symbolizes nature and life.[citation needed] In the Qur'an (Surah 76:21), it is said that the inhabitants of paradise will wear green garments of fine silk. The colour green has been considered especially Islamic for centuries. Crusaders avoided using any green in their coats of arms, so that they could not possibly be mistaken for their Muslim opponents in the heat of battle.

Star and Crescent[edit]

Further information: Crescent and Star and crescent

The crescent was not a symbol used for Islam by Muhammad, as Islam is against appointing "holy symbols" (so that during the early centuries of Islam, Muslim authorities simply did not want any geometric symbols to be used to symbolize Islam, in the way that the cross symbolizes Christianity, the Star of David a commonly occurring symbol of Judaism and Jews, etc.). This is why early Islamic coins were covered with Arabic writing, but contained no other visual symbols.

Some proponents of the crescent symbol cite verses in the Quran as their basis.[Quran 2:189]

Despite this mixed history, many Islamic nations and charities use the crescent symbol on their flags or logos e.g. Pakistan, The Red Crescent, etc.

Note that in the case of an astronomical crescent, such as the moon observed in the sky, the outer arc will be 180° (a half-circle as previously mentioned), while the Islamic crescent symbol (Arabic هلال hilāl) is generally shown with an outer arc significantly greater than 180° (as seen in the illustrations here).

The crescent is also used as a heraldic symbol. However, this usage is not affiliated in any way with Islam. The roots of the Slavic crescent can be traced to the old Slavic pagan beliefs. In English and Canadian heraldry a crescent is the cadence mark of a second son.

A typical presentation of the star and crescent.
Flag of the First Saudi State from 1744 to 1818.
Flag of the Second Saudi State from 1902 to 1921.

The "Ay-yıldız" star and crescent has long been used by the Turks as a symbol. The Göktürks used the "Ay-yıldız" star and crescent figure on their coins. One 1500-year-old coin includes three crescent moon figures and a star near a person.[1]

The crescent was the symbol of the Sassanid Empire of Persia (Iran) and is prominently displayed on the crowns of its rulers.[2] It was also a symbol of the Ottoman Empire.

"Ay-yıldız" (Star and crescent on Ottoman stamp

The crescent and star have long been used in pre-Islamic South Arabia as a symbol and in their coinage.[3] The oldest representations of flags with the crescent are on 14th-century navigational charts, or portolanos, and manuscript of a Franciscan friar. There are discrepancies between these sources as far as the colours of fields or crescents are concerned. However, an account of flags from the Middle East and North Africa by the author of Libro de Conoscimento confirms the widespread use of the crescent of flags in that region. These include: the flags of the kings of Damascus and Lucha (yellow with a white crescent); Cairo (white with a blue crescent);Mahdia; in Tunisia (white with a purple crescent); Tunis (white with a black crescent); and Buda (white with a red crescent). Some of the 14th- and 15th-century porolanos show the flag of Tunis as red with one or two crescents, which is presented on several portolanos as a symbol of the Ottoman Empire. From 16th to the 18th centuries this flag is usually shown with three white crescents; in 1793 the number of crescents was reduced to one and an eight-pointed star was later added on, when the rule of the Ottoman Empire ended, Turkey was the only Muslim state regarded as a world power at the time. Its flag was known from West Africa to the Far East, and helped to popularize the crescent and star among the Muslim populations of many countries of Asia and Africa. Muhammad Ali, who became Pasha of Egypt in 1805, introduced the first national flag of Egypt, red with three white crescents, each accompanied by a white star. This flag, in turn, influenced the design of the first flag of independent Egypt, which was green with a white crescent and three white stars to symbolize the peaceful co-existence of Muslims, Christians and Jews. During the past two centuries the crescent and star has featured on the flags of other Muslim countries.

Other colours[edit]

  • The Umayyads fought under green and gold banners.
  • The Abbasids chose black (blue) and fought under black banners.
  • The Fatimids used a green standard, as well as white with gold inlay.
  • Various countries on the Persian Gulf have chosen red flags

These four Pan-Arab colors, white, black, green and red, dominate the flags of Arab states.[4][5]

The first Islamic flag used by Muhammad was black and white and said "Laa ilaaha ilaa Allah Muhammad Rasool Alaah" (translation: "(There is) no god except God, Muhammad (is a) Messenger (of) God"). The "state flag" or the flag used by the commander of the army in battle was white with black writing whereas the general battle flag used by everyone except the commander was black with white writing.

The color white is often believed to symbolize purity and peace. Many Muslims wear the color white when they attend Friday prayers. The color black is considered the color of mourning in Western and Mediterranean countries; however, it is considered a color of modesty in Islam. It is often worn by Shi'ite Muslims, who mourn the death of Husayn ibn Ali, killed at the Battle of Karbala. It is the color of the chador worn by devout Iranian Shi'ite women and of the cloaks worn by the ayatollahs, the Shi'a clergy. In many Shi'a countries, a black turban is worn only by male sayids, men who descend from Muhammad through his daughter Fatimah and his son-in-law Ali. In Sunni tradition, Prophet Muhammad wore a white kufi (head cap) with a black amaana (turban).

While the color red has no special significance in Islam, it is commonly used on the flags of Muslim countries. Also, the Red Crescent is the Muslim equivalent of the Red Cross. Many Muslims would disagree with this statement e.g. The historical majority have always been influenced by the "Sufis", whether Sunni or Shia. The Prophet's grandchildren Hasan & Hussain are traditionally associated with the colours green & red, from the prophecy about the manner of their deaths I.e. poisoning & by weapons.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Babayar, Gaybullah. The Catalogue of the Coins of Turkic Qaghanate. 1st ed., 244 pages, Ankara, TIKA, 2007.
  2. ^ Michael G. Morony, Iraq After the Muslim Conquest, Gorgias Press LLC, 2005. pp 39–40. Excerpt: Yazdegerd I (399–420) was the monarch represented with a crescent moon on the front of his crown.
  3. ^ Tombs and Moon Temple of Hureidah, Gertrude Caton Thompson, p.76
  4. ^ Islamic flags
  5. ^ Saudi Aramco World : Flags of the Arab World