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Flag of the Islamic Khilafah

Last modified: 2006-06-24 by rob raeside
Keywords: islam | khilafah | shahada |
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image by Juan Manuel Gabino

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[Islamic Khilafah] by Glenn Stevens, 15 November 2000

Here is an image of the flags (there are two) of the Islamic Khilafah (state). One is the flag of jihad, and the other is the flag of the state.
Glenn Stevens, 15 November 2000

The image shows two flags bearing an Arabic inscription (which I believe is the Shahada), on one flag black on white, on the other white on black. What is the "Islamic Khilafah (state)" supposed to be? By saying "One is the flag of jihad, and the other is the flag of the state" he appears to identify one as the war flag and the other as state flag.
Santiago Dotor, 15 November 2000

Yes it contains the shehadeh (creed of Islam). The Islamic Khilafah was the state which existed from the time of prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) until 1924, when it was dismantled by Mustafa Kemal. It is more well known in English texts as "Caliphate", but the actual Arabic term is Khilafah. One was carried into battle, and the other was reserved for state purposes.
Glenn Stevens, 16 November 2000

Hitti (History of the Arabs, 1943) writes: 'Succession to Muhammad (khilafah) meant succession to the sovereignty of the state.'

The concise encyclopaedia of Arabic civilization, by Ronart, 1959: 'Abu-Bakr, Uthman and Ali, the so-called Khulafa'al-Rashidun (The well-directed Caliphs, 632-661) conceived the caliphate (al-khilafah) as a spiritual, political and military leadership.'

What does the flag of the caliphate mean today? It is probably connected with the Khilafat-movement, which wanted to restore the Ottoman Empire after the first world war (1919-1924).
Jarig Bakker, 16 November 2000

The "khalifate" refers to the succession of temporal rulers after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him), and is associated with the "Sunni" Islamic community. The khalif was technically the ruler of the Islamic world, and all other Islamic governments were supposed to be beholden unto his position. This is not how it worked out in real life, however, and the khalifs were often puppets of other regimes, especially once the invasions from central Asia began in earnest. The Shi'i have followed different successions of authority called Imamates, who (in brief) derive their power from a religious context, namely that they are direct descendants of 'Ali. The "true" khalifate lasted through the end of the Abbassid Empire when (in the 1270's, Gregorian, I believe) Hulegu Khan levelled Baghdad and had the last khalif rolled in a rug and trampled to death by honored mounted cavalrymen. The Ottomans originally referred to themselves as "sultans" and only a few hundred years into their dynastic succession did they begin also to call themselves khalifs.
So, it is unlikely those flags were "ottoman revivalist." More likely, they were flags possibly flown by the Abbasid (or previous) khalifate. The Prophet (pbuh) himself was said to have carried a black flag into battle, perhaps with the Shahaddah on it (as seen still on the Saudi, Iraqi, Iranian, and other flags), and to have flown a green standard at other times (per: for instance, Libyan and Saudi flags). I believe that the Abbassids were said to have similarly flown a black flag with a white Shahadda, as depicted.
As for the flag of "jihad," I am not certain what this could really mean beyond the obvious; but I'm unaware of any staple flag for the Holy War!
Osman Malik Khan, 22 January 2001

I have found in several "hard Islamic" websites the symbol of a white Taliban flag crossed with its inverted colour version (probably identified as Al-Qaeda flag): black background with shahada in white. I do not know if this flag is recognised by Al-Qaeda; but it is normally flying in pro-Al-Qaeda sites.
Santiago Tazon, 17 November 2001

This black flag with the Shahada in white on it is the RAYAH, the flag of the Jihad in Islam. Not the banner of single group claiming for Jihad but the banner of the Jihad. The flag is Black and the Shahada always remains in white. Every Muslim fighting in Jihad will hold this flag. You can find the Rayah over the shoulders of Muslim fighters in Chechnya, sometimes in the street of Palestine, in Bosnia was very used by the "Black Swans" group of the Muslim Bosnian Army.
Gontzal Royo, 8 April 2003


Osman Malik Khan noted "the Ottomans originally referred to themselves as "sultans" and only a few hundred years into their dynastic succession did they begin also to call themselves khalifs."
The term "Sultan" is also an Arabic word (not Turkish as many people think) and is used interchangeably in the Hadith with Khaleefah (and also with Imam), to mean leader of the worldwide Islamic community. Linguistically, "Sultan" is the Arabic word for "Authority", so it can mean any general authority, or specifically, the authority in charge of the Muslim community.
The Uthmaniyya (Ottomans) were given the bay'ah (pledge of allegiance) by the Muslim community in 1520 C.E when they finally conquered the Hejaz (Makkah and Madinah) and took custody of the two holy Mosques.

Glenn Stevens, 22 January 2002