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Like announced, I'll start a thread on the symbolism of the (in)famous black & white banner in #Islam. This comprehensive thread will explore its historical origins and cover a list of its contemporary users from a neutral #academic point of view. Not for the faint of heart. 😄
As a political leader & head of a growing religious community, the #prophet Muḥammad used to fly a banner (liwāʾ) and a flag (rāya). The difference? According to the #dictionary, a banner is "a long piece of cloth" while a flag is "a piece of cloth that represents a group."
The Companion Ibn al-ʿArabī was quoted in Fatḥ al-Bārī (6/147) as saying: "A banner is what is tied to the side of a spear to rally around, while a flag is that which is planted and left to be waved by the wind."
The banner (liwāʾ) of the #prophet was plain white. Al-Tirmidhī narrated in his Sunan - Book of Jihād on authority of Jābir that the prophet Muḥammad "entered Mekka with his white banner." The conquest of Mekka occurred in 630 AD and marked a decisive #Muslim victory.
Ibn Abī Shayba narrated in his Muṣnaf on authority of ʿAmra bint ʿAbd al-Raḥmān that she said: "The banner of God's Messenger ṣallā Allāh ʿaleyhi wa sallam was white." It should be mentioned that both this narration and the one mentioned above are regarded as authentic.
The flag of the prophet, and thus the earliest #Muslim community was a black square cloth. Al-Tirmidhī narrated in his Sunan - Book of Jihād on authority of Ibn ʿAbbās that he said: "The flag of #God's Messenger ṣallā Allāh ʿaleyhi wa sallam was black and his banner was white."
Al-Nasāʾī narrated in his Sunan al-Kubrā on the authority of Yūnus ibn ʿUbayd that he said: "Muḥammad ibn al-Qāsim sent me to al-Barāʾ ibn ʿĀzib to ask him about the flag of God's Messenger ṣallā Allāh ʿaleyhi wa sallam. He told me it was a black 'namira' square."
ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Kattānī mentions the term 'namira' in his book Niẓām al-ḥukūma al-nabawiyya (1/266), explaining it with regard to the flag as a black wool or velvet cloth with some white threads or white spots present.
We learn from the historical texts on the prophet's flag that this black, square flag was nicknamed "al-ʿUqāb", which can be translated as young eagle. Eagles native to the Ḥijāz region, like the Golden #Eagle or Verreaux's Eagle are indeed of a rather dark color.
In a narration with a strong chain but one weak narrator due to his old age, Ibn ʿAbbās said: "The flag of God's Messenger ṣallā Allāh ʿaleyhi wa sallam was black and his banner white, written on it: Lā Ilāha Illā Allāh”. This was mentioned by al-Ṭabarānī in his Awsaṭ.
It is important that we focus on a collection of narrations claimed to date back to the prophet Muḥammad on the black flags from Central-Asia (Khorāsān). These narrations are popularly iterated among certain #Muslim circles, and involve the return of the Mehdī.
These are several narrations, but they all report on black flags raised in the East, effectively heralding the arrival of the Mehdī and his army of faithful believers. It's safe to say that none of these narrations is authentic or trustworthy. They range from weak to very weak.
It's noteworthy that these narrations could've been further reinforced by #Abbasid propagandists. During the Abbasid Revolution of 747-750 AD, Abū Muslim al-Khorāsānī led thousands of soldiers from Central-Asia against the #Umayyads. These narrations could then come in handy.
This brings us seamlessly to the #Abbasids, who were famous for brandishing the black banner. According to Abbasid narrations, the black flag was given Abū al-‘Abbās in a dream by the prophet Muḥammad. Abū al-‘Abbās, nicknamed al-Saffāḥ, was the first Abbasid #caliph.
In their revolution against the #Umayyads, the Abbasids made grateful use of the above-mentioned messianic narration. With a few exceptions, the Abbasids kept using the black flag as their personal attribute. Above text: "The Shaping of 'Abbasid Rule" (1980) by Jacob Lassner.
After the Abbasids, the black flag generally fell into disuse. The #Mamluks used their yellow flags, and the #Ottomans used a myriad of flags with different symbols, as featured in my other threads. Only with the resurgence of Islamic activism in the 20th c., the flag reappeared.
One of the earliest examples is the flag of the Ikhwān, including the one used during their 1927-1929 revolt against 'Abd al-'Azīz Āl Sa'ūd and his #British allies. This was a black flag with a white shahāda and sword on it. This was a major symbol for their puritan intentions.
The Ikhwān served as a Bedouin army for the nascent Third #Saudi State, helping to establish it as a kingdom in the Peninsula. Influenced by the teachings of the 18th c. scholar Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb however, they turned against 'Abd al-'Azīz but were eventually defeated.
In no way was (and is) the black and white flag limited to Islamic revival activism, with which it is currently mainly associated. Beautiful pictures of a 1900 Nebī Mūsā ceremony in #Palestine show #Muslims brandishing ("holy") black and white flags during the procession.
The Nebī Mūsā ceremony was a pilgrimage to the supposed grave of the #prophet Moses, said to been buried there. This was accompanied by celebration and a procession. The black and white flags were seen as the colors of the prophet Muḥammad, and thus played an important role.
The black & white flag is also adopted by the Aḥmadiyya community, who attach great importance to its eschatological meaning with regard to the return of the Mehdī, as mentioned above. Indeed, they believe their founder, Ghulām Aḥmad was appointed by God as Mehdī and #Messiah.
One of the major proponents of the black and white banner on a global scale is Ḥizb al-Taḥrīr, a non-violent political organization calling for the establishment of an #Islamic caliphate. Found in 1953 by the Palestinian Taqī al-Dīn al-Nabahānī, it has spread over the world.
The flag the organization & its adherents among others use is black with a white, stylized shahāda or its inverted version. For the movement, the colors black and white unequivocally represent the #Islamic state & the rule of sharīʿa, a goal they invest all their energy in.
I recreated the flag used by Doku Umarov and his militia during the North Caucasus Insurgency. Although other flags are used, this one stands out as it doesn't feature the shahāda but rather the takbīr. Umarov (d. 2014) led the Caucasus Emirate against #Russia and its proxies.
This flag might be a remnant of a previously used banner by the Caucasian Front (dissolved in 2007). That flag featured the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria flag with a black & white takbīr added in the center. This takbīr & sword combo became characteristic for the Chechen jihād.
Just like al-Ṭabarānī in his Awsaṭ, Ibn Ḥajar comments in his Fatḥ al-Bārī on the above mentioned narration of Ibn 'Abbās. And just like al-Ṭabarānī he mentions that it is said that something in black might've been written on the prophet's white banner.
The fact that this is mentioned by two well-known Muslim scholars and connects to an existing narration, leads me to belief that, although not necessarily standardized, there were instances of writing appearing on the earliest #Muslim banners (and flags).
From the ashes of the #Iraqi Insurgency against the US-led coalition, a new flag design appeared. It proved to be so popular that it soon spread across the entire #Muslim world. This flag design combined a black banner with a white shahāda and Seal of Muḥammad.
In 2005, Muslim militants calling themselves the Sarāyā al-Mujāhidīn fī al-ʿIrāq published a picture of a supposed US soldier taken hostage. The group was a rather small one with limited operations, but its banner, which I recreated, was to become the precursor of another flag...
The Jamāʿa al-Tawḥīd wal-Jihād (led by al-Zarqāwī) was very active during the 2003-2004 #Iraq insurgency stage, taking several hostages. They posed in front of a black banner with a white disc and shahāda, the disc surrounded by the group's name. Below picture date from 2004.
Both these flags feature an empty, white disc, representing the Seal of Muḥammad (check out my thread on that symbol). This was to remain a popular design in #Iraq, be it in white or in yellow, until 2007-2008, when "Muḥammad Rasūl Allāh" was written on the white disc.
Indeed, a flag was found by a #US officer in #Iraq's Diyala Province in 2008, said to belong to the Islamic State of Iraq, a local branch of al-Qāʿida originated from the above mentioned JTJ. Their flag differed barely from the previous ones, being made out of existing elements.
This flag also appears on some of their videos, but not before 2008. This flag would be used by many militant #Muslim groups, from AQAP, AQIM and al-Shabāb to smaller groups like Jund Anṣār Allāh and Jund al-Shām. Subsequently, it was adopted by IS(IS) in 2014.
Anṣār al-Islām is an #Iraqi insurgency group established in Iraqi #Kurdistan in 2001 and active during the war in Iraq against the American-led forces. They also took part in the #Syrian Civil War. Though many announced allegiance to ISIS in 2014, a part remained independent.
*Sees black and white banner*
"This is an ISIS DAESH flag!"

Hey. This is Steve. Steve thinks all black and white banners are Daesh. Don't be like Steve. Read below post.

So @CalibreObscura posted some pictures of the #Gaza-based militant group Jaysh al-Islām. They interestingly enough use vertically hoisted flags, effectively rotating the shahāda so it's still being read horizontally. I recreated their flag, which consists of several symbols.
Their flag shows an open muṣḥaf (Quran book) flanked by a scimitar with a world globe on the background. The white banner of the prophet Muḥammad flies above it all. The group was formed in 2006 and strives to fight their #Zionist enemies and to establish sharīʿa rule.
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