Islam has no one flag that represents the religion, but rather a series of flags that are used with an array of colors and designs. Because colors are associated with symbolism, the ones used may be equated with the earthly elements. Further, the symbols used on flags typically have representational meaning in Islam, such as the use of the crescent moon. Combinations of colors and symbols result in flags being divided into one of three categories: unicolored flags, colors used by pan-Arabian nations and crescent flags.
Star and Moon
While the crescent moon is not an official symbol of Islam, it is widely used within the religion--dating back to the start of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century. The crescent moon signals the start of a new month in the Islamic calendar and is used on the flags of many Islamic countries such as Pakistan, Turkey and Algeria. The addition of a star close to the hook of the crescent moon is used to represent concentration, openness, victory, divinity and sovereignty.
Islamic flags that feature either red, blue, yellow or green as its only color or as a solid background color correspond with earthly elements. Red equates with fire; blue, water; green represents the earth and yellow, the air. One reason for using elemental colors on Islamic flags is that when Muslims pray their daily prayers, they touch their heads to the ground as a physical reminder of their connection to the world. Some countries that use only earthly colors in their flags include Mauritania, Guinea and Gambia.
Flags of early Arab nations featured flags that were solid colors, such as the white flag of Umayyad Dynasty (A.D. 929-1031) and the green flag of the Fatmids (A.D. 909-1171) so as to be easily identifiable. Modern Islamic flags underwent a change, and in 1911 countries began to incorporate red into their flags, signifying the importance of dynasties like Abbasids and Hashemites. Today, pan-Arab countries that feature red in their flags include Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Tunisia.
Flag of Jihad
Black flags were used as early as Muhammad in the seventh century as a way of identifying the core of the army during war. Today, Muslim extremists use a solid black flag to represent themselves and call the flag either the Black Banner or the Black Standard. Jihadists such as the Taliban and al-Qaida use the black flag with the addition of white script called the shahada, an Arabic phrase that states there is only one God with only one messenger, Muhammad.
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