The Razavi dome of the Imam Reza shrine in Iran now proudly flies a black flag outside the traditional month of Muharram, marking a significant departure from Islamic customs. This shrine, nestled within Mashhad’s sprawling Imam Reza mosque complex, holds immense importance for Twelver Shia Muslims and pilgrims worldwide.
The Significance of the Black Flag from Khorasan Hadith in Islam
The black flag in Islamic tradition holds a dynamic significance that transcends time and events. Initially, it represents a symbol of grief, mourning, and solidarity, signifying the collective sorrow of the Muslim community in the face of tragic events, such as recent occurrences in Gaza. However, this symbol has also been associated with a call for solidarity in seeking justice and, in some interpretations, even a plea for retribution.
Here’s what Wikipedia says about the black flag’s significance in Islamic tradition and the words attributed to Prophet Muhammad:
- The black flag’s symbolism in Islamic tradition is deeply rooted in prophetic sayings attributed to Muhammad. In these revered hadiths, it is foretold that “When the black flags come from Khorasan, go to them, even if you have to crawl on snow, for among them is the Khalifa from Allah, the Mahdi” (Abd al-‘Alim in al-Mahdi al-Muntazar).
- Nuaim Ibn Hammad’s words in Kitab Al-Fitan further expand on the subject, stating, “Surely black flags will appear from the Khorasan until the people (under the leadership of this flag) will tie their horses with the olive trees between Bait-e-Lahya and Harasta (names of places in Jerusalem).”
- Al-Barzanji’s prediction in Isha’ah li Ashrat Al-Sa’a continues the narrative, envisioning a nation that arises with black flags from the east. It is said that they will seek justice and replace the prevailing oppression and tyranny.
- Sunan Ibn Majah, hadith 4084, states, “Three will fight one another for your treasure, each one of them the son of a caliph, but none of them will gain it. Then, the black banners will come from the east and kill you unprecedentedly. When you see them, pledge your allegiance to them even if you have to crawl over the snow, for that is the caliph from Allah, Mahdi.”
Black Flag Sparks Heated Conversations and Debates Across Social Media
Jackson Hinkle tweeted, “The Black Flag has been raised over Razavi Shrine in Mashhad, Khorasan province, Iran. This is a call for war or vengeance.”
Meanwhile, Maajid Nawaz posted on social media, “A black flag is raised over Imam Reza shrine in Iran for the first time in history.”
He further mentions, “When the black flags come from Khorasan (Persia/Central Asia) go to them, even if you have to crawl on snow, among them is the Caliph of Allah, the Mahdi”
In faith and tradition, symbols hold profound and evolving meanings. Recently hoisted above the Imam Reza shrine in Iran, the black flag exemplifies this fluidity. While its initial significance remains rooted in grief, mourning, and solidarity with the victims of a tragedy, it has taken on a more dynamic role in some interpretations, illustrating the call for justice and even retribution.
The black flag’s ability to adapt and convey different messages over time speaks to the power of symbols in communicating complex emotions and sentiments.