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Shi'ite Religious Flags (Iraq)

Last modified: 2005-08-06 by joe mcmillan
Keywords: islam | shi'a | shi'ite | kerbala |
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Religious Flags at Kerbala

Spanish Television mentioned yesterday that shortly before the outbreak of the war, a team of theirs working in Iraq had made a long report on the Shi'ite holy city of Kerbala (currently under siege), where the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Husayn is buried. The Shrine of Imam Husayn, a large and highly decorated mosque was shown, flying a large, plain red flag from the top of the highest dome. No other flags were visible over the Shrine. However, another page on Kerbala [no longer on-line] shows a white flag with a black inscription that appears to be a Shahada (Muslim creed), and the caption, "Long live the banner of Islam which was saved by the holy blood of the Martyrs in Kerbala."
Santiago Dotor, 3 April 2003

Lots of green, red, black, blue and white flags on the Shi'ite march to Karbala.
Francisco Santos, 21 April 2003

Other Shi'ite Religious Flags

An incident in Baghdad reported in the Washington Post of August 14, 2003, ("Flag Is Flash Point In A Baghdad Slum: Perceived Insult Ignites Anti-U.S. Unrest," by Anthony Shadid, p. 11) has some interesting information on religious flags displayed by Iraqi Shi'ites. The August 13 incident arose when a U.S. military helicopter knocked down a flag that Shi'ites had placed on a transmission tower in Sadr City (formerly Saddam City), the huge, Shi'ite populated slum in Baghdad. US commanders have apologized for the incident, which led to the killing of one Iraqi. The article mentions the following flags:

  • "... black flag that fluttered atop the tower, inscribed in white letters with the name of one of Shiite Islam's most revered figures."
  • "... this is our faith. This flag, it represents our faith."
  • "Footage of the incident aired by the satellite news channel Al- Arabiya clearly showed a helicopter hovering for several seconds near the flag, which bore an inscription of a 9th Century descendant of the prophet Muhammad known as the Mahdi."
  • "Within hours, youths had climbed the transmission tower, bedecking it in red, green, white and black flags, colors symbolic of suffering and martyrdom and resonant in Shiite Islam. Most bore the inscription of the Mahdi, and youths waved the flags past sunset."
Comment: The Mahdi ("guided one") in this context is Muhammad al- Muntazar (meaning "the Expected One"), the 12th and last of the imams recognized by mainstream Shi'a Islam. He is also referred to the "hidden imam" and the "lord of the age." An eleventh generation descendant of the prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima and her husband Ali, Muhammad al-Muntazar is said to have disappeared in A.D. 878 into the cave above which the great mosque of Samarra now stands. Shi'a faithful believe he is still hiding in the cave and will return in the final days to restore true Islam and spread the faith to the entire world. It is not clear from the news report exactly what the inscription on the flag said, whether just the name or one or more of the Mahdi's titles as well.
Joseph McMillan, 15 August 2003