Last modified: 2003-12-05 by ivan sache
Keywords: zulfikar | dhu'l-fakar | sultan | selim i | barbarossa | sword | error | scissors | morocco | magen david |
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According to the Islamic tradition, the sword called Zulfikar belonged to Ali, the first caliph after the death of Muhammed. Zulfikar is one of the oldest symbols in the Islam and according to Shiites its existance goes back to Adam, who carried it out of Eden down to the Earth. The tradition says that the sword once belonged to Muhammed too, who gave it to Ali before his death.
The Ottomans adopted the symbolism of Zulfikar, that gradually became one of the main symbols of the Janissaries. It was not only an icon used in the war flags, but was also sculpted as a part of their tombs.
Baris Kilicbay, 20 August 1999
I have tracked down the following information in the academically
impeccable Encyclopedia of Islam - New Edition (1965), Vol. 2,
It bears out the important role of the sword in Islamic symbolism. Following is a summary, not direct quotation. My comments are in square brackets.
Joseph McMillan, 26 August 1999
Erroneous interpretation of the Zulfikar sword as scissors
The Zulfikar sword shown on flags was commonly misinterpreted by mediaeval European painters (and flag authorities) as (tailor's) scissors.
Zeljko Heimer, 20 August 1999
Such flags with scissors can be found on several old flag charts.
It is reported on Dutch flag charts as Moorse vlag (Moorish
flag); later it became 'Moroccan flag'. An example of the mistake is
on Bellin's chart (1756) [bel56],
reproduced on the cover of Sierksma's book
The potential link to Morocco is that the Alaouite dynasty that has ruled Morocco for the last several centuries claims legitimacy on the basis of descent from Ali and hence would be expected to make use of Alid iconography. Whether they in fact did so may require further verification.
Jarig Bakker & Joseph McMillan, 26 August 1999
Another example of an erroneous interpretation of the Zulfikar sword can be seen on the flag of the Great Admiral of the Porte, shown on a XIXth century Dutch atlas.
Ivan Sache, 13 July 2002
Khayreddin Pasha, a.k.a. Barbarossa, was a Greek converted to Islam. He was corsair in the Mediterranean Sea and warlord of Algiers. Sultan Selim I "hired" him in 1519 with the title of beylerbey (Province Governor) of Algiers. In 1533, Suleiman the Magnificent asked him to reorganize the Ottoman Navy and gave him the title of Kapudan Pasha (Great Admiral). Barbarossa supervised the shipyards in Galata, where a powerful Navy was created. In 1534, he seized Tunis, Corfu and the other islands of the Aegean Sea. In 1538, he defeated the joint fleets of Charles I of Spain, Venice and the Pope. Barbarossa died in 1546, short after the siege of Nice with the French Navy. Nice then belonged to Savoy, and François I, King of France, was allied with Suleiman against Charles I.
Source: T. Bittar. Soliman - L'empire magnifique. Découvertes Gallimard, 1994.
Ivan Sache, 17 October 2001
Barbarossa's standard is shown in the Naval Museum of Istanbul and on the Museum website, with the following information:
Caption of the flag image is: Commander in Chief (1534-1546) Hizir Hayreddin (Barbarossa) Pasha's Standard.
Below the image are attached the following comments:
According to the legend, Hizir Hayreddin (Barbarossa) Pasha' s standard was made either during his life time or fifty years after his death. It was hung on the Sarcophagus in his mausoleum and stayed there until it was turned over to Topkapi Palace Museum. It was finally brought to the Naval Museum on February 19, 1976.
Explanation of the Symbols on the Standard:
Barbarossa and the Ottoman Navy were trading with the Jewish merchants during their reign in the Mediterranean and conquest. The provisional supplies were brought from Jewish merchants too. The purpose of the use of this star is to stress the Ottoman reign and protection over regions of Jewish population.
The flag daties from the period of Soliman the Magnificent. Soliman the Magnificent attached a lot of importance to his name which means Salomon.Some historians claim that his mother or his wife was of Jewish origin.It was Salomon who repaired the city walls of Jerusalem and built a fortress there.True, the Star of David is part of Islamic culture. But the exclusive use of it by Soliman can be explained with the above factors.
* On the upper middle left of the flag there should be a white hand figure like a hamsa, which is obliterated from this picture for some unknown reason. The flag is in light emerald green color with white characters.
Denis Ojalvo, 1 November 2000 & 17 October 2001
Photography by Baris Kilicbay
The red sandjak of the Ottoman sultan Selim I represents again Zulfikar. This flag carried to Egypt by Selim I (1466-1520) can be seen in the Topkapi Museum. During the XVIth and the XVIIth centuries the Zulfikar flags were widespread in Ottoman army and numerous red Zulfikar flags left in the battles in Europe are shown in museums and one can even see a red, triangular Zulfikar flag in the Doge Palace in Venice.
Baris Kilicbay, 20 August 1999