Jump to content

Black Standard

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Black Standard

The Black Banner or Black Standard (Arabic: الراية السوداء, romanizedar-rāyat as-sawdāʾ, also known as راية العقاب (rāyat al-ʿuqāb, "banner of the eagle" or simply as ‏الراية‎, ar-rāyah, "the banner") is one of the flags flown by the Islamic prophet Muhammad according to Muslim tradition. It was historically used by Abu Muslim in his uprising leading to the Abbasid Revolution in 747 and is therefore associated with the Abbasid Caliphate in particular. It is also a symbol in Islamic eschatology (heralding the advent of the Mahdi) though this tradition is weak according to hadithic standards.[1]

The Black Banner, which is distinct from the ISIL flag, has been used by some militant groups since the 1990s, including some Chechen groups. Scholars have interpreted IS's use of a similar black flag as representing their claim to re-establishing a caliphate. Similar black flags have been used throughout Islamic history, including in Afghanistan during the early 20th century.[2]



Arab armies in the 7th century were using standards to identify themselves on the field of battle. Among these standards, the rāya was a square banner; not to be confused with the liwāʾ or ʿalam, an identifying mark like a red turban.[3][4]

Islamic tradition states that the Quraysh had a black liwāʾ and a white-and-black rāya.[5] It further states that Muhammad had an ʿalam in white nicknamed "the Young Eagle" (العقاب, al-ʿuqāb); and a rāya in black, said to be made from his wife Aisha's head-cloth.[6] This larger flag was known as the Eagle.[7]

The hadith reports Muhammad said that the advent of the Mahdi would be signalled by Black Standards proceeding from Khorasan and that it will be the flag of the army that will fight the Masih ad-Dajjal.[8][9][10] At the Battle of Siffin, according to tradition, Ali used the liwāʾ of the Prophet, which was white[3][4] while those who fought against him instead used black banners.[11]

Historical use


The Abbasid Revolution against the Umayyad Caliphate adopted black for its rāyaʾ for which their partisans were called the musawwids.[12] Their rivals chose other colours in reaction; among these, forces loyal to Marwan II adopted red.[13] The choice of black as the colour of the Abbasid Revolution was already motivated by the "black standards out of Khorasan" tradition associated with the Mahdi. The contrast of white vs. black as the Fatimid vs. Abbasid dynastic colour over time developed in white as the colour of Shia Islam and black as the colour of Sunni Islam.[14] After the revolution, Islamic apocalyptic circles admitted that the Abbasid banners would be black but asserted that the Mahdi's standard would be black and larger.[8][9][10] Anti-Abbasid circles cursed "the black banners from the East", "first and last".[15]

A black flag was used by the Hotak dynasty in the early 18th century, following Mirwais Hotak's Sunni rebellion against the Twelver Shi'i Safavid dynasty and later by the Emirate of Afghanistan under Abdur Rahman Khan (1880–1901).

On 21 July 1848, under orders from the Báb, the Bábí leader Mullá Husayn raised the Black Standard in Mashhad (in Iran's Khorasan Province) and began a march westwards. The mission was most likely proclamatory but possibly also to rescue another Bábí leader, Quddús, who was under house arrest in Sárí. After being rebuffed at the town of Barfurush, the group took up making defensive fortifications at the Shrine of Shaykh Tabarsi. It is reported the Black Standard flew above the Bábí fortress until the end of the Battle of Fort Tabarsi.[16][17] According to Denis MacEoin, the Babis under Boshru'i were on their mission of spreading Babism, "by preaching if possible, by force if necessary."[18]

As Arab nationalism developed in the early 20th century, the black within the Pan-Arab colors was chosen to represent the Abbasid dynastic color.[19]

The Ahmadiyya movement also employs black and white colours in its flag (Liwaa-i Ahmadiyya), first hoisted in 1939.[20] Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the fourth caliph of the Ahmadiyya Caliphate, explained the symbolism of the colours black and white in terms of the concept of revelation and prophethood.[21][22]

Jihadist black flag


See also





  1. ^ David Cook (2002). Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic. Darwin Press. p. 197. ISBN 9780878501427. from Majlisi,
  2. ^ David Wroe; James Massola (December 16, 2014). "Flag being held by Lindt Chocolat Cafe hostages is not an Islamic State flag". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2015-03-03. the black banner which was used in the 1990s
  3. ^ a b Hinds 1996, pp. 97–142.
  4. ^ a b Hinds 1996, pp. 104–106.
  5. ^ Hinds 1996, p. 133.
  6. ^ Nicolle 1993, p. 6.
  7. ^ Hinds 1996, p. 108.
  8. ^ a b Cook 2002, p. 153.
  9. ^ a b Cook 2002, p. 125.
  10. ^ a b Cook 2002, p. 206.
  11. ^ Hinds 1996, p. 109.
  12. ^ Tabari (1995), Jane McAuliffe (ed.), Abbāsid Authority Affirmed, vol. 28, SUNY, p. 124
  13. ^ Patricia Crone (2012). The Nativist Prophets of Early Islam. p. 122. As remembered in pro-Umayyad apocalyptic: p. 125}
  14. ^ "The proselytes of the ʿAbbasid revolution took full advantage of the eschatological expectations raised by black banners in their campaign to undermine the Umayyad dynasty from within. Even after the ʿAbbasids had triumphed over the Umayyads in 750, they continued to deploy black as their dynastic colour; not only the banners but the headdresses and garments of the ʿAbbasid caliphs were black [...] The ubiquitous black created a striking contrast with the banners and dynastic color of the Umayyads, which had been white [...] The Ismaili Shiʿite counter-caliphate founded by the Fatimids took white as its dynastic color, creating a visual contrast to the ʿAbbasid enemy [...] white became the Shiʿite color, in deliberate opposition to the black of the ʿAbbasid 'establishment'." Jane Hathaway, A Tale of Two Factions: Myth, Memory, and Identity in Ottoman Egypt and Yemen, 2012, pp. 97f.
  15. ^ Patricia Crone (2012). The Nativist Prophets of Early Islam. p. 243.
  16. ^ Smith, Peter (2000). A Concise Encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oneworld Publications, Oxford. ISBN 1-85168-184-1.
  17. ^ Momen, Moojan (May 1983). "The Social Basis of the Babi Upheavals in Iran (1848–53): A Preliminary Analysis". International Journal of Middle East Studies. 15 (2). Cambridge University Press: 157–183. doi:10.1017/s0020743800052260. JSTOR 162988. S2CID 162465531.
  18. ^ MacEoin, Dennis (2008). The Messiah of Shiraz: Studies in Early and Middle Babism. Brill. p. 484. ISBN 978-90-474-4307-0.
  19. ^ Edmund Midura, "Flags of the Arab World", in Saudi Aramco World, March/April 1978, pp. 4–9
  20. ^ "A Brief History of Ahmadiyya Movement In Islam". Alislam.org. 1939-12-28. Archived from the original on 2016-08-21. Retrieved 2016-03-23.
  21. ^ "Question: Why do Muslims use black flags if the color black is associated with death and mourning?". Askislam.org. 1984-10-22. Retrieved 2016-03-23.
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-06-30. Retrieved 2015-06-27. Black absorbs total light, [it] does not emit an iota of light, so from looking heavenly-wards black indicates that we absorb entire light from heaven, and white reflects total light without being dishonest about it, so a Messenger has two aspects. One of receiving things from Allah, in that respect he's nabi [prophet], whatever he receives he completely, totally absorbs, and when he speaks to the others he reflects the entire light without being dishonest or stingy about it, so that reflection makes it white. So reception that is a complete reception without leaving anything out and reflection that is a complete reflection without leaving anything out, they are witnessed only in two colours: black and white. So both have been employed in Islam as flags.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Works cited