and of several countries of the Middle East
(the Hejaz, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Iran, Yemen)
The official description of the flag of Jordan is that it symbolizes the Kingdom's roots in the Great Arab Revolt of 1916, as it is adapted from the revolt banner. The black, white and green bands represent the Arab Abbasid, Umayyad and Fatimid dynasties respectively, while the crimson triangle joining the bands represents the Hashemite dynasty. The seven-pointed Islamic star set in the centre of the crimson triangle represents the unity of Arab peoples in Jordan.
As a part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century, Jordan was one of several aspirant nations which adopted the Pan-Arab colours of black, red, white and green, all expressive of Arab nationalism; the green colour has additional symbolism, in that it is traditionally associated with Islam and its followers. In 1921 the green and white bands were transposed from their positions on the flag which had been used by the independence movement in the 1918 revolt against the Turks. In 1928 the official version of the flag saw the addition of a seven-pointed white star to the red triangle in the hoist. This has been interpreted as representing the first seven verses of the Koran, the basis of the Islamic religion, and the star is what distinguishes the Jordanian flag from that used by the Palestinian Arabs.
The Royal Standard of Jordan
Jordan's royal standard is quite unique, it has a small national flag in the centre, on a white oval, only the star in the triangle is replaced by an arched crown. The field is made up of rays in the state colours, black in each corner (like a St Andrew's cross) then white, green, white, red, white, repeats.
The royal coat of arms
"The crown symbolizes the system of monarchy. The sash upon which the crown is placed symbolizes the Hashemite throne. Its scarlet colour represents sacrifice, while the white inner background symbolizes purity. The two flags are the flags of the Great Arab Revolt. The eagle in the centre of the coat of arms symbolizes power, might and loftiness. The eagle is perched on the globe, and his wings touch the two flags of the Great Arab Revolt. The blue colour of the globe symbolizes the spread of Islam across the world.
The bronze shield in front of the globe represents the defence of truth and right in the world. The spears, swords, bows and arrows are traditional Arab weapons. Below the shield to the left are three branches of wheat, and to the right is a palm branch. Stretching down from between the wheat and palm branches is the highest Jordanian medal, the decorative order of al-Nahda. Above the al-Nahda medal are three phrases inscribed on a golden ribbon. In the middle: King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. To the right: Al-Hussein bin Talal bin Aoun (Aoun, one of the Hashemite patriarchs, was great great-grandfather of Sherif Hussein)."
The flag is evolved from the flag of the Arab Revolt, sometimes called the flag of the Hejaz. Sherif Hussein designed this as the flag of the Arab Revolt on June 1916. The Palestinian people raised it as the flag of the Arab National movement in 1917. In 1947 the Arab Ba'ath Party interpreted the flag as a symbol of the liberation and unity of the Arab nation. The Palestinian people readopted the flag at the Palestinian conference in Gaza in 1948 and the flag was recognized by the Arab League as the flag of the Palestinian people. It was further endorsed by the PLO, the representative of the Palestinians, at the Palestinian conference in Jerusalem in 1964.
In 1921 or thereabouts the white and green were swapped, making it like the modern Palestinian flag, which is directly derived from it. After the fall of Hejaz the colours were used by Hussein's sons Abdulla (emir of Transjordan) and Faisal (king of Iraq). Later on they became known as the Pan-Arab colours.
I give the official
explanation below, but I have also heard them described as
symbolizing "green for the Faith, white
for the peace which we yearn for, black for the land we hold, and
red for the courage with which we will defend all of these".
The Khawarij were the first Islamic group to emerge after the assassination of Caliph Othman III, forming the first republican party in the early days of Islam. Their symbol was the red flag. Arab tribes who participated in the conquest of North Africa and Andalusia carried the red flag, which became the symbol of the Islamic rulers of Andalusia (756-1355).
In modern times, red symbolizes the Ashrafs [ie. Sharifians] of the Hejaz and the Hashemites, descendants of the Prophet.
The Fatimid Dynasty was founded in Morocco by Abdullah Al-Mahdi, and went on rule all of North Africa. They took green as their colour, to symbolize their allegiance to Ali, the Prophet's cousin, who was once wrapped in a green coverlet in place of the Prophet in order to thwart an assassination attempt.
The Umayyads ruled for ninety years, taking white as their symbolic colour as a reminder of the Prophet's first battle at Badr, and to distinguish themselves from the Abbasids, by using white, rather than black, as their colour of mourning. Mu'awia Ibn Abi Sufian (661-750), founder of the Umayyad state, proclaimed himself Caliph of Jerusalem.
In pre-Islamic times, the black flag was a sign of revenge. It was the colour of the headdress worn when leading troops into battle. Both black and white flags were placed in the mosque during Friday prayers.
(Source: Evolution of the Arab Flag, by Mahdi Abdul Hadi, Amman, February 1986)
The flag of Sherif Hussein of Hejaz, was a conscious union of the old Islamic dynasties, plus the red of Sharifian clan. The red also came to symbolise revolt against the Turks. Hussein's sons became kings of Jordan, Syria, and Iraq, hence the minor differentiations in the Sharifian flag. Hussein's original intent was for his flag to be identical in those 3 countries with the addition of one star for Jordan-Palestine, two stars for Iraq, and three stars for Syria. The Jordanian one is the only that has survived, and the Palestinians use the same flag without the star as a tie to their original territorial integrity (Palestine and Transjordan were split in 1923) to clarify that a Jewish homeland did not apply to the latter. In 1961 Kuwait switched from its red Gulf flag to a Sharifian variant.
The Hashemite revolt was the Arab world's first embrace of European-style nationalism, but it was largely unsuccessful, mostly due to lack of Western support. The Arab-speaking areas of the old Ottoman empire were mostly divided up between France and England, though the British did install Hashemite princes as local rulers in the areas they controlled. Even in the Hejaz, the Hashemites were driven out by the Wahabi Saudi dynasty, which, then as now, was less concerned with Arab nationalism than in its doctrine of religious fundamentalism. Nevertheless the flag was remembered as associated with Arab nationalism, even if the Hashemite dynasty was not.
The flag of Palestine
The Palestinian flag represents all Palestinian Arab aspirations regardless of party. It belongs to the Arab Revolt grouping of Arab flags and is a deliberate copy of the Jordanian flag (minus the star), which presumably represents the historical link to 1920-23 when Palestine and Transjordan were one territory. The flag was adopted in 1964 at the creation of the PNC and PLO. It was definitely in use by 1974 when the Arab League declared the PLO the sole representative of all Palestinians and the UN granted the PLO observer status.
The flag of Syria
As you can see the Syrian flag is also based on the Hejaz flag, differenced by two stars and no red triangle.
The flag of Iraq
The Iraqi flag is also based on the flag of the Hejaz and the Pan Arab colours. The flag was adopted 31 July 1963. The takbir ["Allah Akbar" - "God is great"] in Arabic script in green was added during the Gulf War, 13 January 1991.
The hoist of the Iraqi flag should be at the viewer's right, as is the case for Saudi Arabia, another flag featuring Arabic writings (which read from right to left).
The flag of Lebanon
According to the constitutional law of 7 December 1943, the three colours of the flag should be red, white and green. The tree is the cedar traditionally connected with Lebanon. In the 18th century the Maronite Christians used a white flag with the cedar tree, with reference to the Bible (Ps 92:12, 'the righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon'). Later, when Lebanon was under French mandate, the French tricolour was used with a cedar tree in the middle. There is a reference in W. Smith's 1980 book to the colours: 'The red and white colours are those associated, respectively, with the Kayssites and Yemenites, opposing clans that divided Lebanese society between 634 and 1711.'
The flag of Egypt
The first national flag of modern Egypt was established by a Royal Decree in 1923 when Egypt gained conditional independence from Great Britain in 1922. The colour was green with a white crescent and three stars in the middle.
In 1958, a Presidential Decree established a new flag for the United Arab Republic which comprised a merger of Syria and Egypt. The new flag had three colours: red, white with 2 green stars and black. The flag was rectangular in shape and the width was one-third of its length.
In 1972, the Law was amended to change the flag. The stars were removed from the flag and replaced by a golden hawk and later in 1984, the hawk was replaced by a golden eagle, or the eagle of Salah ad Din, the Ayubbid Sultan who ruled Egypt and Syria in the 12th Century, and who is better known in the west as Saladin of the Crusades.
The flag of Iran
The colours of the Iranian flag are traditional, probably dating from at least the 18th century and they can be interpreted as representing the Islamic religion (green), peace (white), and courage (red). The were first designed in tricolour form in 1907. The flag's centrepiece formerly comprised a lion with a sword standing before a rising sun, with a crown above, but all traditional flags and banners were abolished after the abdication of the shah in 1979. Note that this flag is flown "right to left" ie with the flagpole on the right.
The flag of Yemen
The present flag and coat of arms were adopted 22 May 1990. Yemen was formed on 22 May 1990 by the union of North Yemen and South Yemen.
This page is very largely based on the information given on "FOTW Flags Of The World website at http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/ I hope you don't mind my using it here!
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