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Pan-Arab Colours

Arab Revolt Flag, Arab Liberation Flag

Last modified: 2002-12-07 by santiago dotor
Keywords: pan-arab colours | arab revolt | hejaz | triangle: hoist (red) | arab liberation flag | arab nationalism | egypt | iraq | jordan | kuwait | palestine | sudan | syria | transjordan | united arab emirates | western sahara | yemen |
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[Arab Revolt Flag]
Arab Revolt Flag
by Filip Van Laenen, 3 November 1996

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Origin of the Pan-Arab Colours

From the PASSIA home page:

The Khawarij were the first Islamic group to emerge after the assassination of Caliph Uthman III, forming the first republican party in the early days of Islam. Their symbol was the red flag. Arab tribes who participated in the conquest of North Africa and Andalusia carried the red flag, which became the symbol of the Islamic rulers of Andalusia (756-1355).
In modern times, red symbolizes the Ashrafs [ie. Sharifians] of the Hijaz and the Hashemites, descendants of the Prophet.
Green: The Fatimid Dynasty (909-1171), North Africa
The Fatimid Dynasty was founded in Morocco by Abdullah Al-Mahdi, and went on rule all of North Africa. They took green as their color, to symbolize their allegiance to Ali, the Prophet's cousin, who was once wrapped in a green coverlet in place of the Prophet in order to thwart an assassination attempt.
White: The Umayyad Dynasty (661-750), Damascus
The Umayyads ruled for ninety years, taking white as their symbolic color as a reminder of the Prophet's first battle at Badr, and to distinguish themselves from the Abbasids, by using white, rather than black, as their color of mourning. Mu'awia Ibn Abi Sufian (661-750), founder of the Umayyad state, proclaimed himself Caliph of Jerusalem.
Black: The Prophet Mohammad (570-632)
In the seventh century, with the rise of Islam and subsequent liberation of Mecca, two flags - one white, one black - were carried. On the white flag was written, "There is no god but God (Allah) and Mohammad is the Prophet of God."
In pre-Islamic times, the black flag was a sign of revenge. It was the color of the headdress worn when leading troops into battle. Both black and white flags were placed in the mosque during Friday prayers.
The Abbasid Dynasty (750-1258), ruling from Baghdad, took black as a symbol of mourning for the assassination of relatives of the Prophet and in remembrance of the Battle of Karbala.

Quoted source: Mahdi Abdul Hadi, Evolution of the Arab Flag, Amman, February 1986

Arab Revolt Flag

From the PASSIA home page:

"Sharif Hussein designed the flag of the Arab Revolt on June 1916. The Palestinian people raised it as the flag of the Arab National movement in 1917. In 1947, the Arab Ba'ath Party interpreted the flag as a symbol of the liberation and unity of the Arab nation. The Palestinian people readopted the flag at the Palestinian conference in Gaza in 1948. The flag was recognized by the Arab League as the flag of the Palestinian people. It was further endorsed by the PLO, the representative of the Palestinians, at the Palestinian conference in Jerusalem in 1964."

Quoted source: Evolution of the Arab Flag, by Mahdi Abdul Hadi, Amman, Feb. 1986.

After the fall of Hejaz the colors were used by Husain's sons 'Abdulla (emir of the Transjordan) and Faisal (king of Iraq). Later on they became known as the Pan-Arab colors.

Harald Müller, 13 March 1996

The flag of Sharif Hussein of Hejaz, was a conscious union of the old Islamic dynasties, plus the red of Sharifian clan. The red also came to symbolise revolt against the Turks. Husain's 3 sons became kings of Jordan, Syria, and Iraq, hence the minor differentiations in the Sharifian flag. Hussein's original intent was for his flag to be identical in those 3 countries with the addition of one star for Jordan-Palestine, two stars for Iraq, and three stars for Syria. The Jordanian one is the only that has survived, and the Palestinians use the same flag without the star as a tie to their original territorial integrity. (Palestine and Transjordan were split in 1923 to clarify that a Jewish homeland did not apply to the latter.) In 1961 Kuwait switched from its red Gulf flag to a Sharifian variant.

T. F. Mills, April 1998

During World War I, Arabs in the Hejaz (the Red Sea coast of the Arabian peninsula) rose up against the Ottoman Sultan, with the help of the British, who were fighting the Ottomans at the time. The revolt was headed by the Hashemite dynasty of Mecca, and their banner was red, white, green, and red. Jordan is the last state left with a Hashemite ruling king, and thus its flag is closest to the original model. The colours are intended to correspond to the early Islamic dynasties of the first half of the middle ages; this is probably an "invented tradition," as the use of flags by such dynasties is anachronistic.

The Hashemite revolt was the Arab world's first embrace of European-style nationalism, but it was largely unsuccessful, mostly due to lack of Western support. The Arab-speaking areas of the old Ottoman empire were mostly divided up between France and England, though the British did install Hashemite princes as local rulers in the areas they controlled. Even in the Hejaz, the Hashemites were driven out by the Wahabi Saudi dynasty, which, then as now, was less concerned with Arab nationalism than in its doctrine of religious fundamentalism. Nevertheless the flag was remembered as associated with Arab nationalism, even if the Hashemite dynasty was not.

Joshua Fruhlinger, 11 January 1999

Arab Liberation Flag