A flag is such an honoured and valued symbol of a nation that despite being lifeless it is so high in status that every member of the nation bows his head in respect. When this flag is established or unfurled national anthems and slogans start echoing around with full pomp and glory. If battalions pass by it without saluting its glory and majesty it is disrespect to its awe and splendour. Bravery and valour are nurtured under the shade of this symbol. Though lifeless in itself, it is still a symbol for every child, youth and elderly person of the nation who is willing to sacrifice his life for its honour.
From the beginning of creation this earth has always been a center for evil and corruption. Since times immemorial, by going through those signs which aide in documenting history of human civilisation, or those symbols which illuminate the progress of human society, we find that this world was divided into various nations and communities and every nation crafted its own culture. In order to identify with that culture, each of those nations created their own unique flag. Slogans of unity were given under the shade of the flag. Upon hearing the name of the flag and based on its shape and form, we are able to recognize the cultural progress of the nation.
Keeping the flags of various nations and communities aside, let us now draw your attention to the Islamic flag. Before we proceed to take a look at it from a historical perspective, it is important to understand the literary and terminological meaning of a flag. We also have to be aware of its past in order to understand the importance and significance of the Islamic Flag.
In Arabic the words, ‘Ra’yah’, ‘Liwaa’, ‘Alam’ etc. are terms used for flag. The author of Majma al-Bahrain has explained the terms ‘Ra’yah’ and ‘Liwaa’ thus: “Ra’yah means a big flag and Liwaa is other than this. Ra’yah is owned by a warrior and war is fought based on it and towards it is the end of the war as well.”
[Majma al-Bahrain, vol. 1, p. 199]
In the history of mankind the first flag was made by Hazrat Ibrahim (peace be upon him) as has been narrated by Imam Jafar Sadiq (peace be upon him):
“The first person who made a flag was Hazrat Ibrahim (peace be upon him).”
[Tehzeeb al-Ahkaam, vol. 1, p. 170]
History has witnessed two types of battles – either truth against falsehood or falsehood against falsehood. Never has a war been fought between two rightful groups. There could be misunderstanding based on certain mistakes but these would never lead to war. The innate human nature always dislikes war, disputes, arguments and fights and based on this same principle it does not refrain from temporary extremism in order to break the back of crime and corruption.
Nevertheless, people prepared their own flags in order to distinguish themselves from other groups and every flag is considered to be a manifestation of the opinions of its bearer.
Among all flags, the flag of truth is only with the divine proof, which indicates towards the falsehood of all other flags apart from itself. Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Talib (peace be upon them) beautifully describes:
“The flag of truth and guidance is with us, one who goes ahead of it will be deviated, one who forsakes it will become extinct, and the one who holds fast unto it receives guidance.”
[Behaar al-Anwaar, vol. 34, p. 262]
This flag of truth does not suit any hand but that of the divine proof. If an undeserving person tries to catch hold of it, this flag exhibits his incapability and becomes a source of disgrace for him. The words of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) clearly resonate this in a distinct tone:
“Tomorrow I shall hand over the flag to a man whom Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him and his progeny) love and he also loves Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him and his progeny) equally. He is neither coward nor will he flee the battlefield and Allah will grant victory through his hands.”
[Kitaab Sulaym, vol. 2, p. 641]
Being a flag bearer is specific for Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) in this world and the hereafter and this is what Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) announced:
“(O Ali) You are my flag bearer and my standard bearer in this world and in the hereafter”.
[Amaali al-Tusi, p. 550]
This standard had always been with Ameerul Momineen (peace be upon him). After him it reached Imam Hasan and Imam Husain (peace be upon them). In the battle of Karbala Imam Husain (peace be upon him) placed this standard in the hands of the Qamar-e-Bani Hashim, the author of the history of loyalty and the possessor of its universal status Hazrat Abul Fazl al-Abbas (peace be upon him). So much so that Imam Husain (peace be upon him) gathered his small army in Karbala and handed over the flag to Hazrat Abul Fazl al-Abbas (peace be upon him). Be it a person of my insignificant stature or even a great scholar, none can elucidate the grandeur and majesty of that flag. For its celestial and universal superiority, it is sufficient to state that when both the hands of the flag bearer Hazrat Abbas (peace be upon him) were severed, he still held tight the water bag of Janabe Sakina (peace be upon her) between his chest and kept the flag furling high. When the time of his martyrdom arrived, it was his last will that his body should not be taken back to the tents. The divine personality of Imam Husain (peace be upon him), while fulfilling this last will of his beloved brother left the blessed body of Hazrat Abbas (peace be upon him) in the battlefield and took this flag back to the tents.
Had this standard not been lifeless and if we were to request it to unravel its excellences, most certainly this flag would have started narrating its lofty merits and virtues thus:
I am the one who shall now successively pass on from the hands of Imam Sajjaad (peace be upon him) unto the hands of Imam Hasan Askari (peace be upon him) while bearing all the difficulties and tribulations in protecting the religion, propagating the Prophetic teachings. It will now be an honour for me to reach those blessed hands in the city of Saamarra, who shall unfurl me in the whole world. Glad tidings about him have been given by the beloved of Allah, the greatest Messenger Muhammad Mustafa (peace be upon him and his progeny) thus:
“After me shall be my twelve successors, the last of whom shall be the promised Mahdi, the Qaem (peace be upon him). And only he shall fill this world with justice and equity like it would be fraught with injustice and tyranny.” He is none other than Imam-e-Zamana (may Allah hasten his reappearance) whose hands own this flag.
Peculiarities of the Flag of Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance)
It is narrated from Imam Jafar Sadiq (peace be upon him): “It is the standard of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) which Jibraeel (peace be upon him) brought in the battle of Badr… by Allah, this flag is neither of fiber, nor cotton, nor silk… it is a flag made out of the leaves of Paradise, which Holy prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) unfurled in the battle of Badr. Then he rolled it up and handed over to Ali (peace be upon him). Since then it was always with Ali (peace be upon him) and he unfurled it in the battle of Jamal, and Allah made him victorious in it. Then it was folded and kept aside and now it is with us. None shall unfurl it now until the Qaem (may Allah hasten his reappearance) rises. Thus, when he rises he shall unfurl it. When he would unfurl it, none shall remain in the east and the west except that he shall join him. Its awe shall always be at a distance of one month ahead of it, behind it, on its right and on its left…”
[Behaar al-Anwaar, vol. 52, p. 360]
Hazrat Imam Jafar Sadiq (peace be upon him) says: “When he (Imam-e-Zamana) would take along this standard against anyone, Allah shall disgrace that person. When he (may Allah hasten his reappearance) shall unfurl it, hearts of the believers shall become as strong as iron.”
[Kaamil al-Ziyaaraat, p. 120, H. 5]
Muhammad Ibn Muslim says that I came in the presence of Imam Muhammad Baqir (peace be upon him) and wanted to inquire from him about the Qaem of Aale Muhammad (peace be upon them). Imam (peace be upon him) began the discussion by informing me: “O Muhammad Ibn Muslim! Indeed in the Qaem of Aale Muhammad (peace be upon them) possesses the similarity of five Prophets… the similarity that he shares with our grandfather Muhammad Mustafa (peace be upon him and his progeny) is that he shall rise with a sword. He shall kill the enemies of Allah and His Messenger. He will kill the oppressors, tyrants and the rebellious ones. He shall be assisted through the means of sword and awe and his flag shall never be overpowered.”
[Kamaaluddin, vol. 1, p. 327, H. 7]
The inscription on the Flag of Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance)
It is mentioned in traditions that the inscription on the flag of Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance) shall be:
“Allegiance is for Allah, Mighty and Majesty”.
[Kamaaluddin, vol. 2, p. 654, H. 22]
Allamah Majlisi (may Allah have mercy upon him) has narrated from the book of Fazl Ibn Shaazaan that the standard of Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance) shall bear the inscription:
“Listen and abide”.
[Behaar al-Anwaar, vol. 52, p. 305, H. 77]
The Flag of Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him) vis-à-vis Flags of the rebellious
Hatred of the innate human nature towards evil acts in every era gave rise to revolutionary movements against the oppressive and tyrant rulers. But more often than not, because of ignoring the divine proofs, it was observed that proponents of these revolutionary movements and those who raised slogans against oppression and tyranny, after having successfully come to power, themselves began adopting those very oppressive measures against which they protested some time back. We have the example of the movement of Bani Abbas against Bani Umayyah. When Mansoor al-Dawaaneqi (the accursed), sat in front of the royal table spread, he uttered: “This is the table for which we waged a war. Until yesterday, it was with Bani Umayyah and now it is with us.” This was the culmination of revolts that commenced with Abdullah Ibn Zubair waging a war against Yazid, the accursed, in the name of avenging the blood of Imam Husain (peace be upon him).
Hazrat Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) foretold in one of his traditions: “Every flag that shall be raised before the rising of Qaem (may Allah hasten his reappearance), its bearer shall be deviated (Taghoot). Instead of Allah, Mighty and Majestic be He, this person shall be worshiped.”
[Al-Kaafi, vol. 8, p. 295, H. 452]
Finally, it is relevant to bring the discussion of one flag that has been furling in the memory of the awaited Imam since 14 centuries. The heat within the hearts of those who await his reappearance, has always kept it upright and that it is the red flag which is restlessly waving on the dome of Imam Husain (peace be upon him). It is an Arab custom that when someone’s blood has not been avenged, a red flag is affixed on his grave. Imam Husain (peace be upon him) discussed about Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him) among his companions in the night of Aashurah. It is Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance) who shall avenge the blood of Imam Husain (peace be upon him) and this standard over the grave of Imam Husain (peace be upon him) is incessantly calling out, “Hasten Hasten”.
We plead to Allah with hands outstretched, that may this red flag unfurl alongside the standard of Hazrat Wali-e-Asr (may Allah hasten his reappearance). May Allah hasten the reappearance of Hazrat Wali-e-Asr and include us among his helpers and supporters. Aameen! O Lord of the worlds!