Ismaili flag - It's Origin & Importance

I am glad to present this important monograph fortunately completed on the day of my birth. It affords brief history of the flag/banner with special reference to the flag of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, its origin in Islam and symbolic interpretation of its colours, incorporated with rare accessible photographs. Hitherto, no materials on the subject have been explored scholarly. In the following pages, a serious attempt has been made to gather within a convenient compass the information scattered.

I owe a debt of gratitude to my colleague, Mr. Zulfikar R. Meghani, Karachi for designing this monograph. It is beyond the province of my power to enumerate in words the invaluable assistance and kind cooperation of Mr. Nagib Tajdin, Montreal. His noble interest and encouragement in my study shall be remembered for ever.

Mumtaz Ali Tajddin Sadik Ali

B/17 Noor Apartments,
Webb Street, Garden East,
Karachi. (Pakistan).
April 28, 2000

Email Address :

1. Introduction

The Arabic word for the flag is alam (pl. a'lam), meaning singpost or flag. The terms liwa and raya are also used for the flag, banner or standard. In Persian, the word band and dirafsh, and in Turkish, the bayrak is used for the banner. And as flags serve to delineate a ruler's territory, it is not surprising that one of the Turkish terms for a certain administrative unit is sancak, i.e., flag.

It is simply a piece of flexible cloth, varying in size, colour and device, but most frequently oblong or square, borne on by one edge to a staff or to a halyard, or fastened to a trident pole; used as a standard, ensign or signal and also for decoration or display. It is tied normally to a staff at least on one side to be viewed from both sides. Among the forms of flags are standards, banners, ensigns, pennants or pendants, burgees and guidons.

The English word flag first occurred in 1569. The word evolved in different European languages, such as the Scandinavian as flagg or flagga, the Germany as flagge or flacke, the Danish as flag, the Dutch as vlag or vlagghe, etc. Whether the word originated in English or other European languages, it may plausibly be supposed to be an onomatopaeic formation, expressing the notion of something flapping in the wind.

The word banner also is seen in different forms in the European languages, such as it was banare or baniere in old French, banieira or bandieira in present French, bandera in Spanish, bandum or bannum in Latin, bandwa in Gothic, etc. Banners, which were essentially heraldic, go back to 1162 by Count Philip of Fanders. In the literal sense, now chiefly historical; in poetry or elevated prose, it is applied to the standard or flag in figurative expressions. In sum, the banner is a piece of stout taffeta, or other cloth, attached by one side to the upper part of a long pole or staff, and used as the standard.

The study of the history, types, and uses of flags is called vexillology; a flag historian is termed as a vexillogist, one who collects flags is a vexillophilist; and one who carries a flag is known as a vexillary. All of these words are rooted from vexillum, the Latin word for flag. There is no hard and fast rule governing the size of the flag. The width is usually greater than the depth. There is also no universally accepted code of flag law.

2. Early History

In its origin, and throughout its history until down to recent times, the banner, standard or flag executed primarily a religious purpose with an object to indicate something rather than to gather people together. The earliest known representation of Egyptian banners are those found on the votive tablet of Nar-Mer (4000-5000 B.C.) at Hierakonpolis; on this are represented four bearers, carrying poles with various emblems on the top of them. Artifacts indicate that as early as 4000 B.C., the Egyptian ships also utalized a standard. Similar standards are found in many of the ancient cultures of the Middle East. Among the Indo-Germanic peoples, the use of the flags goes back to very early times. The Athara Veda (v.xxi.12) speaks of the armies of the gods as suryaketu (sun-bannered) and the Mahabharata (x16, lxxxii.23) of the hero Meghasandhi as vanaraketana (monkey-bannered). In the Avesta (Yasna x.14) there is mention of the kine banner (gaus drafso).

The ensigns referred to in the Bible (Nu. 1:52, 2:2) were most probably of this type. The word degel (Nu. 21.9) perhaps corresponds more with the banner in the strict senses. Among the Phoenicians and Greek they were employed simply for signaling purposes in naval warfare. The Romans used at least six kinds of standard for their military and naval forces. Roman legions sometimes went into the battle behind the effigy of an eagle, wolf or bear borne at lance point. A more familiar form was the Roman cavalry flag, a square piece of cloth attached to a crossbar at the point of a spear. The Chinese were using silk flags as early as the 5th century B.C. This was so popular flag that after the fall of the Roman Empire, it was employed in Britain from the 8th century until as late as 1485.

According to "American Educator" (New York, 1973, 7th vol., p. 131), "Flags in the modern sense probably originated in either the Orient or the Middle East. More certain is the tradition that the Saracens (the Muslims) introduced true flags, including attachment to the Europeans during the Crusades." It may also be noted that the fastening of the cloth directly to the lance is recorded as an Arab peculiarity. In Europe there was usually no device on the cloth or, if there was one, it was purely ornamental.

3. Pre-Islamic period

Warfare in pre-Islamic Arabia was waged regularly for a certain part of each year as an ordinary part of the routine of tribal life, the ostensible motive being the desire for plunder or revenge. In the Meccan oligarchy the clan of Abdul Dar of Qoraish enjoyed the privilege of holding the tribal standard. Before the advent of Islam, the Qoraish waged a war on another tribe; they received from the hands of Qassi (d. 480) the liwa, a piece of white cloth, which Qassi himself had attached to a lance. In those days, the banner of war, offensive or defensive was hoisted in the dar al-nadwah (council chamber); this was the chief prerogative of Qassi. The dar al-nadwah was a kind of town hall on the north of Kaba in Mecca. It was a gathering place of the nobles (mala), built by Qassi, the ancestor of the Qoraish. It is also known that the champions who offered themselves for single combat wore distinctive signs on their armour, but nothing more specific is known of these signs or emblems. The Arab poets enjoyed to compare the flowers of the garden with the flags of different tribes, and also composed couplets to dignify the banners. For instance, S.M. Husain quotes Dajajah bin Abd al-Qais al-Tamimi in "Early Arabic Odes" Delhi, 1938, p. 161) as saying in a poem that:-

And when we found that the water of Munabid
was (our) safety, we did not tremble and we did
not foresake one another.
But we all came under the shade of our banner (7-8)

In Arabs, the principal offices in connection with the Kaba were five altogether, viz. sicaya and rifada (the exclusive privilege of supply of water and food to the pilgrims), kiyada (the command of the army), hijaba (the guardianship of Kaba), nadwa (the right of presidency of the council), and siva (the right of becoming standard bearer). Soon after the death of Abd Munaf, a family strife arose among his sons, on which account the offices were divided. Hashim (d. 510) was invested with the charge of sicaya and rifada, while the descendants of Abdul Dar retained the offices of kiyada, hijaba, nadwa and siva.

4. Islamic period

The Islamic state of Medina continued the old Arab custom. In this context, the sources mention two synonyms, i.e., liwa (flag) and rayah (standard). It was liwa (pl alwiyah) which was ordinarily used in all expeditions; but ruyat (pl. of rayah) were used in all the battles. The Islamic armies under the Prophet was drawn from various tribes. Each unit consisted of a tribe, usually fighting under its own chief. Each tribe had its own tribal banner borne aloft by its bravest champion.

This office or military post retained its tribal character through out the period of the Prophet. Nevertheless, the Prophet representing the central authority, had his own banner, black or mostly green in colour. Reuben Levy writes in "The Social Structure of Islam" (Cambridge, 1962, pp. 434-5) that, "Flags had another significance in Muslim warfare. Each tribe had its own and regarded it as the ralling centre in battle, for near it was the commander." When the Prophet ordered an expedition in Medina, no call was made aloud or any trumpet was blown, but he planted his green banner in the mosque to rally the Muslims under it.

Statistics show that the military organisation in the period of the Prophet took its due course to develop. He appointed a number of military officiers and functionaries as and when the strategic and military demands of the time required. With the passage of time, he appointed the officers and functionaries included the commanders of the expeditions (umara' al-saraya), wing-officers (umara' al-maimanah), scouts (tali'ah), spies (uyun), guides (dalil), officers to look after booty and the prisoners of war (ashab al-maghanim wa al-asara), officers for weapons and horses (ashab al-silah wa al-faras), body-guards (ashab al-haras), and the standard-bearers (sahib al-liwa wa al-rayah) etc. Amar bin Yasir relates that the Prophet always liked that every person should fight under the banner of his own unit of forces.

Ibn Abbas narrates that the colour of the Prophet's flag was green and of standard white. During the battle of Badr, three different banners however were used; the bigger one was in the hands of Ali bin Abu Talib, containing the symbol of an eagle (ukab), representing the force of the Muhajirin. In this connection, Nasir Khusaro (1003-1088) writes in his couplets (vide "Nasir-i Khusraw Forty Poems from the Divan" tr. By P.L. Wilson and Gholam Reza Aavani, Tehran, 1977, p. 121) that:-

Who slept in Prophet's bed, while the Messenger fled
from his enemies in the migration? to whom the Prophet
gave the banner at the battle of Badr when all others
quailed? the lion, the warrior,
whom God has made all heroes to love?

While the one leading the Ansar was assigned to Sa'd bin Mu'adh. Waqidi (d.822) writes in "Kitab al-Maghazi" (London, 1966, p. 226) that the white banner was given to Musab bin Umayr of the clan of Abdul Dar. He carried the Prophet's white banner in Badr and Uhud in memory of the old privilege of the clan of Abdul Dar. The Prophet however executed overall as a supreme commander in the battle. On the other hand, the Meccans likewise had three banners, one of which was born by Talha bin Abi Talha, the other by Abu Ghazyr bin Umayr, and the third by Nassar bin Harith, all of whom were the descendants of Abdul Dar.

In the battle of Uhud, the Meccans mobilized all their powers and resources and came out to avenge the deaths of their men fallen in the battle of Badr. The Meccans filled the battlefield with the victims of fighting and the banner of the Muslims fell from the hands of Musab bin Umayr when he died bravely. The Prophet called Ali to take over as a standard-bearer. In one hand, he held the banner, and in the other that favious sword Dhulfikar. Thus, Ali took over the banner which went up unfurled in his hand during the fighting which had reached its climax by that time.

Tabari (d. 923) writes in "Tarikh al-Rusul wa al-Muluk" (Cairo, 1960, 2nd vol., p. 402) that when the Prophet sent his first expedition under the command of his uncle, Hamza towards Sif al-Bahr at the western coast in 629 with 30 soldiers, he also sent one standard-bearer with him. Tabari (2nd vol., p. 402) further writes that, "The importance of the symbol may be gauged from the prominence given to the names of those who bore the Prophet's banner and that of the Ansar at the battle of Badr, also of the standard-bearers in other later engagements. The phrase used for sending out an expedition is to bind on a banner, and the granting of a banner was regarded as the sign of conferring command."

In the battle of Khaibar in 629, the Prophet declared a day before an operation, "Tomorrow, I will hand over the banner of Islamic army to such a person who is an impetuous warrior and not an absconder; he befriends God and His Apostle and is also befriended by them. God is sure to grant victory on his hands." Every one of the Prophet's Companions was anxious to be signalised on the morrow as the friend of God and His Prophet. They passed the night in great anxiety as to which one would prove to be the blessed one. Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas narrates, "I knelt down opposite to the Prophet, and then rose, hoping to obtain the banner." The Prophet however asked, "Where is Ali bin Abu Talib? Bring him here." In short, Ali had been given the charge to lead the assault. The green Islamic banner which the Prophet had planted before his camp besides the tree where it lay through the night, heavy with dew, flew limpidly. The Prophet pulled the banner out from the ground, raised it, and after shaking it three times, he confided it into the right hand of Ali, saying, "Take this standard and march on with it until God grant you victory." Hubab al-Munzir and Sa'd bin Ubaidah also followed Ali with another banners. For the first time, three distinct banners were used instead of the small pennants hitherto sported in battle.

Jabir bin Abdullah narrates that the Holy Prophet entered in Mecca with white flags at the head of the army. "Islamic Shi'ite Encyclopaedia" (Beirut, 1970, 2nd vol., p. 127) writes that on that memorable day, the banner of Islam was carried by the Ansar leader, Sa'd bin Abadah at the head of the army. No sooner did he see the outskirts of Mecca than his mind was flooded with the memories of the Qoraish hostality towards the Prophet and his followers. He cried out in emotion, "This day is the day of massacre. Today it is permitted to kill in the Kaba." When the Companions heard this cry, they became terrified and hurried to the Prophet and related to him the words of Sa'd. The Prophet called Ali and said, "Go to Sa'd immediately and take the banner from him. You should be the first one to enter Mecca." Tabari (2nd vol., p. 445) writes that, "The utterance of Sa'd bin Abadah was defeating the objective of the Prophet, who intended to hoist Islamic banner in Mecca without bloodshed, therefore, he immediately removed Sa'd and designated Ali as his standard-bearer." This errand was the entry of Mecca with modesty, peace and humble attitude of the Muslims without massacre.

In 629, the Prophet mustered a force of 3000 men at the command of Zaid bin Harith for the Mauta expedition against Shurahbil bin Amir, the Ghassanid governor in Syria. During the thick of the battle, the Muslims found themselves in presence of a force several times more numerous than themselves. Zaid bin Harith seizing the banner, led the charge of the Muslims, plunging into the midst of the enemy ranks until he fell transfixed by their spears. Seeing him fall from his horse, Jafar Taiyar rushed timely to grab the banner from the dying Zaid, and raised it aloft to command the Muslim force. The enemies closed in on the heroic Jafar, who was soon covered with wounds. Fighting at close quarters, Jafar was struck from the side at first on his right hand by the enemies. As the bleeding hand, hung to the flimsy muscles, he took the sword in his left hand, pressing the banner to the saddle. Then the left hand was cut off and as his sword fell, Jafar took the banner from the saddle with the stumps of his bleeding hands. When both his hands were cut off gripping the banner, he still stood firm holding the staff between his two stumps, until the enemies struck him a mortal blow. As Jafar fell from the horse in that blood soaked field of Mauta, Abdullah bin Rawaha immediately took the banner from the slain man. Abdullah bin Rawaha also met death in the encounter. Khalid bin Walid assumed control on that juncture. He took the banner and methodically withdrew from the field with the Muslim force and returned to Medina.

It was the common practice that the signal for the attack was given by the waving of the flags or by trumpet blast or both. Baladhuri writes in "Futuh al-Buldan" (ed. M.J. de Goeje, Leyden, 1866, p. 303) that during the battle of Nihawand, Noman bin Muqaran, the amil said, "I noticed that when the Prophet failed to give battle in the morning he would wait until the sun set and the wind blew." He added: "I shall now shake the banner I carry three times. At the first shake let each man perform his ablutions and satisfy his natural wants; at the second each attend to his sword and prepare himself. When the third shake comes, charge; and let no man heed his neighbour."

According to Waqidi (p. 995), the Prophet appointed Abu Bakr over the camp (askar) and conferred upon him his greatest standard (liwa'hu al'azam) just before the army set out for Tabuk, which was the last campaign commanded by the Prophet in 630 A.D.

In sum, during the eight years of fighting, there had been almost 101 expeditions (sariyah, pl. sarayah) and battles (ghazwah, pl. ghazawat), in which 27 were commanded himself by the Prophet, and remaining 74 were led by other persons he nominated. The Prophet is reported to have appointed about 86 standard-bearers (sahib al-liwa wal-rayah) in Medina from among 9 Arabian tribes during the expeditions and battles. The most important from among the Qoraish was Ali, who was assigned the banners as many as ten times. The other standard-bearers were Zubayr bin Awwam of Asad, Hamza bin Abd al-Muttalib of Hashim, Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas of Zuhrarh, Musab bin Umayr of Abdul Dar, Abu Bakr of Taym and Umar bin Khattab of Adi. From among the Khazraj tribe, the famous standard- bearers were Sa'd bin Ubaidah, Hubab al-Munzir, Zaid bin Thabit and Umarah bin Hazm. Among the Aws tribe were Sa'd bin Mu'az and Usayd bin al-Huzayr, etc.

According to "The Social Structure of Islam" (London, 1957, p. 3), "Before his death in A.D. 632, Muhammad had gathered to his banner most of the inhabitants of Arabia. The exceptions were Jews and a few Christians and Magians, whom he permitted to remain in their own faith provided they recognised his political overlordship by the payment of a poll-tax."

The original standard of the Prophet

The original standard of the Prophet
One rare banner preserved in the Topkapi Saray Museum at Istanbul, called as-Sinjaqu 'sh-Sharif, is said to be a most sacred emblem. It is the original standard of the Prophet. It is made of four layers of silk, the top-most of which is green, those below being composed of cloth, embroidered with gold. Its entire length is twelve feet.

Ali bin Abu Talib had assigned the duty of the standard-bearer to his another son, Ibn al-Hanafiya (642-700) during the battle of Camel in 656 A.D. It is related that he hesitated at first to bear his father's banner, but his father said to him, "Do you have doubts concerning an army commanded by me?" These words firmly decided him, and he took charge of the standard. While giving the banner to Ibn al-Hanafiya, his father is further reported to have said that, "Mountain may move from their position, but you should not move from yours. Press your teeth. Lend your head to God. Fix your feet in the ground. Have your eye on the remotest foe and close your eyes (to their numerical majority). And keep sure that succour is but from God, the glorified." (vide "Nahjul Balagha", Qum, 1981, sermon no. 11, p. 78). Ibn Khallikan (d. 1282) writes in his "Wafayat al-A'yan" (Paris, 1838, 2nd vol., p. 576) that once he was asked how it happened that his father exopsed him to danger and thrust him into difficulties, while he never risked his other sons, Hasan and Hussain. To this he replied, "Hasan and Hussain are his two eyes, and I am his hands, and protect his eyes with his hands."

Aisha advocated march on Basra in 656 to muster her force against Ali. When it was informed, Ali bin Abu Talib set out with his force. When he pitched his camp at Rabaza, near Basra, a contingent of Ansars appeared foremost. Its banner was held by Abu Ayub Ansari. Then another contingent came in sight to join Ali. Its banner was borne by Abu Qatada bin Rabyee. The next contingent appeared, whose banner was in the hand of Qais bin Sa'd bin Idadah. Then again followed a contingent of the Companions of the Prophet, whose standard-bearer was Qathm bin Abbas. After passing of a few contingents, a huge multitude of the young combatants was seen, wherein there was such a large number of spears that they were overlapping and flags of numerous colours were flying. Among them a big and lofty banner was seen with distinctive features.

One should think of the admonitions and encouragement that Ali bin Abu Talib gave his soldiers on the day of Siffin in 657 A.D. According to Tabari (1st vol., p. 3290) and Ibn Athir (d. 1233)in "Kamil fi al-Tarikh" (Beirut, 1965, 3rd vol., p. 150) that Ali said in one of his speeches that:-

Straighten out your lines like a strongly constructed building.
Place the armed men in front, and those who are unarmed in the rear.
Keep (something) wrapped around the tips of the spears. This preserves the sharpness of points.
Keep the eyes down. This keeps the soul more concentrated and gives great peace to the heart.
Do not hold your flags inclined and do not remove them. Place them in the hands only of those among you who are brave.

While examining the sermon no. 122 of "Nahjul Balagha" (p. 214), it appears that Ali bin Abu Talib also imparted his soldiers further in these words:- "Do not let your banner bend down, nor leave it alone. Do not give it to any one except the brave and the defenders of honour among you, because they alone endure befalling of troubles, they surround the banners and encircle them from both their sides, their rear and their front."
In the battle of Siffin, Malik Ashtar was in command of the horsemen and Ammar bin Yasir of the foot soldiers of Kufa, while Suhail bin Hunif commanded the horsemen and Qais bin Sa'd was the commander of the foot soldiers of Basra. Hashim bin Utba, among them, was the standard-bearer. Hashim bin Utba fell in the encounter, and was killed by Harith bin Munzir, therefore, the banner of the contingents was taken over by his son, Abdullah. On other side, the standard-bearer of the Syrian army led by Muawiya was Abul A'awar.

Abbas (645-680), the step-brother of Imam Hussain (661-680)was charged the duty of the standard-bearer in the battle of Karbala, who became also known as Abbas Alambardar (Abbas, the standard-bearer). It is recounted that he had the banner of the Prophet, which was borne by Ali bin Abu Talib during the assault of Khaibar, and since then the green banner became the heir'loom in the progeny of Ali bin Abu Talib.

Abbas bore the banner for one day on the tenth and last day of the battle of Karbala. He proceeded towards river Euphrates to bring some water for his niece, Sakina. He took the flying banner in one hand, in the second a spear and the water-bag on the shoulder. He penetrated the lines of the enemies and jumped into the river alongwith his horse and filled the water-bag. Suddenly, an enemy hurled a blow from behind with which his right hand was cut. He immediately caught the spear in his left hand, and the banner he pressed in the armpit, and set the water-bag aright. A tyrant made a thrust at him and separated his second hand. On that juncture, Abbas held the spear and the water-bag in his front teeth with the banner pressing in armpit wherefrom his hand was cut down. In sum, Abbas sacrificed his life in the battle by defending the prestige of green banner of Islam. The tradition further has it that Imam Hussain brought the banner back to his tent. Later on, it was plundered in the booty and sent to Yazid in Damascus. When the family of Imam Hussain left Damascus for Medina after a year, the sacred banner was handed over to Bashir bin Noman, who held it and entered Medina with Imam's family.

The banner remained inactive in Medina with Imam Zayn al-Abidin (680-713), who remained aloof from the politics. Meanwhile, a storm of grief and anger raged in every heart in the Muslim world because of the tragical event of Karbala. It stirred religious and moral sentiments among the Muslims. For seeking vengeance for the blood of Imam Hussain, numerous movements sprouted out in Kufa. Among them, the movement of Mukhtar Thaqafi (622-687) against the Umayyads was prominent. He mustered a large force and turned to Imam Zayn al-Abidin, showing his loyalty and offered the Imam to take command of his movement. The Imam refused and declared him publicly to be a liar who was trying to exploit the cause of Ahl-al-Bait for his own interests. Mukhtar also failed to obtain the green banner possessed by the Imam, since it was aslo a next potential instrument to advance his propaganda in procuring large support of the Muslims. It is also said that Suleman Surad (d. 684), the head of the another movement in Kufa, called Tawwabun (penitents) also tried in vain to have that banner for making his movement effectual against the Umayyads.

The green was a favourite colour of the Holy Prophet, and so was his banner. The tragic event of Karbala however infused a new fervour and the red colour symbolizing sacrifice for the cause of religion, also began to be used. Henceforward, the flag played an important role in Islam. The sayf and kalam were the terms denoting a military standard and alam became a religious flag. In Egypt, the word liwa was used for the small banner, and rayah for big one.

We may pause here for a while to note a key point that the Abbasids used the black colour, therefore, they were also known as al-musawwidah (the black ones), and their black standard became so famous that, in T'ang dynasty (618-907) of China, the Abbasids empire was also known as the "Black Robe Arabs" (Hei-i Ta-shih). Abul Faraj Ispahani writes in "Kitab al-Aghani" (3rd vol., p. 1012) that, "Black, during the rule of caliph Mansur, had become the colour prescribed for the officials serving the Abbasid regime. Black remained in fashion until caliph Mamun, who ordered in 815 that green should become the official colour. This sudden change was of brief duration, black coming once more after one year."

The Alids who were against the Abbasids assumed the white colour, and were known as al-mubayyidah (the white ones). The Khurramiyya adoped red colour, known as Muhammira or Surkh Jamagan (wearers of red).

5. Fatimid period

Imam Radi Abdullah (840-881) had sent his dais in all directions from Syria to propagate Ismailism. The most acclaimed among them was Ibn Hawshab (d. 914), who was sent to Yamen in 880. He made a large conversion and established an Ismaili rule. He took possession of a stronghold on a hillock and made it his headquarters. We have rich historical evidences that he hoisted the green banner at his headquarters, bearing the Koranic verse on it. The Ismaili mission reached the apex of its influence in Yamen from where Ibn Hawshab dispatched many dais to the farthest corners. Meanwhile, Abu Abdullah al-Shi'i (d. 911) had also embraced Ismailism, whom the Imam sent to Yamen for further training. Later on, he was sent to Maghrib in 892. He conquered almost whole Maghrib and routed the Aghlabid rule of 112 years. He captured Raqada and made it his headquarters on March 25, 909. He started the Fatimid khutba and struck coins. He hoisted most significantly the Fatimid banner. Ibn Hammad (d. 1230) writes in "Akhbar al-Muluk Bani Ubayd wa Siyaratihim" (Paris, 1927, pp. 7-8) that Abu Abdullah also got his slogans inscribed on banners, weapons, trapping and seals. The banner had an inscription of the Koranic verse: "Soon shall the hosts be routed, and they shall turn their backs." (54:45).

The Fatimids adopted green as the colour of their standard. According to "American Educator" (New York, 1973, 7th vol., p. 131), "Green is frequently found in Arab flags because this colour was taken by the Fatimite dynasty, which ruled most of north Africa." It is also mentioned in "The New Encyclopaedia Britannica" (15th ed., 4th vol., p. 812) that, "Green was the colour of the Fatimid dynasty and eventually it became the colour of Islam."

Makrizi (d. 1442) writes in "al-Khitat" (Cairo, 1959, 1st vol., p. 23) that, "During the Caliphate of the Fatimids, a separate department of making banners for different occasions had been erected, known as khazinat al-bunud (store of banners). The word bunud (pl. of band) was used for banner or flag. These banners were used during battles and festive occasions, wherein the Koranic verses were written. The total cost of the department was 80,000 dinars per year." The chief banner was known as "liwa'i hamd" which had been used by Ali bin Abu Talib in the battles, and was the favourite banner of the Fatimid Imams. One of the emblems of royal authority was the outfit (alah), the display of banners and flags.

The Fatimids divided their armies into smaller units. This arrangment was called "the battle order" (ta'biyah). In front of the Commander stood one army with its own battle lines, its own general and flag. It was called "the advance guard". Then, to the right of the place where the Commander was, stood another army, called "the right flank". The army on left side was called "the left flank". Then, there was another army behind the whole armies, called "the rear guard"(saqa). Separate from them and in front of the centre went the vanguard (jalishiya) with its own commander and flag.

Addressing to the people of Egypt, Hasan Husni Abd al-Wahhab writes in "Tarikh al-Adab al-Tunisi" (Tunis, 1968, p. 83) that Imam Qaim (934-946) said in his poem that:-

their banner is my grandfather's
their call my father's
and their belief is mine, near and far.

Ibn Hammad (d. 1230) writes in "Akhbar al-Muluk Bani Ubayd wa Siyaratihim" (Paris, 1927, p. 57) that Imam Mansur (946-952) returned to the capital in triumph soon after the final defeat of Abu Yazid in 948. He was met in Kairwan by the notables mounted on fine horses and carrying drums and green flags.

When the Fatimid general Jawhar made his successful footing on the soil of Egypt on July 4, 969 as a conqueror, he sent his representative ahead in the city with a white flag. Stanley Lane Poole writes in "History of Egypt" (London, 1914, p. 102) that, "Jawhar, like his master, always disposed to a politic leniency, renewed his former promises, and granted a complete amnesty to all who submitted. A herald bearing a white flag rode through the streets of Fustat, proclaiming the amnesty and forbiding pillage and on August 5, the Fatimid army, with full pomp of drums and banners, entered the capital."

Jawdhar al-Azizi (d. 974) writes in "Sirat al-Ustadh Jawdhar" (p. 83) that when Imam Muizz (952-975) ascended in 952, he delivered a sermon in his inaugural appearance that he and his people would be allowed to visit the tomb of the Prophet in Medina, to mount his minbar, to visit his house, to accomplish the pilgrimage to Mecca, and to stand with banners unfurled at the illustrious sacred places.

In 977, when Imam al-Aziz (975-996) set out to conquer Syria, the outfit (alah) of the Fatimids was composed of 500 banners and 500 trumpets. It was a grand procession in front of the Fatimid army when marching towards the enemies. B.J. Beshir writes in "Fatimid Military Organisation" (Der Islam 55, 1978, pp. 51-2) that, "Spies and guerillas were to be sent in front of the army; when the army encamped, trenches were dug. Before marching, standards, flags and emblems were flown."

Jaylam bin Shayban founded a Fatimid vassal state in Sind with its base at Multan before 968. He is reported to have introduced the Fatimid coins, and recited the Fatimid khutba. He reported to Imam Muizz in Cairo, how he succeeded to establish the Fatimid vassal state. The Imam replied him in 968. The letter of the Imam is cited in "Uyun'l Akhbar" (6th vol., p. 219). In the concluding paragraph of the letter, the Imam said, "We have sent you some of our banners, which you can unfurl in case of need. Whenever they are unfurled over the heads of the believers, God increases their glory by the banners and hails them with His assistance; on the other hand, when they are unfurled over the heads of the unbelievers, the banners humiliate their pride and overwhelm them by the power of God, Who is our Benefactor." (The letter written on Sunday, the 19th of Ramzan, of the year 354/or 968).

Thus, the Fatimid green flag began to be flown in Sind. The Ismaili state however survived until 1005, when Mehmud of Ghazna invaded Multan. In 1010, Mehmud once again spurred his horses towards Multan and launched a terrible massacre and demolished the Ismaili rule. The surviving Ismailis fled to Mansurah, where they hoisted the Ismaili flag once again until 1025, when Mehmud destroyed their power. The Ismaili states in Multan and Mansurah were followed by the Sumra rule in lower Sind. The Sumra dynasty rose as an Ismaili power and proclaimed their rule in 1052 and continued to flutter the Ismaili flag till 1361.

In 1067, the Turkish mercenaries had drained the Fatimid treasury at the command of Nasir ad-Dawla in the period of Imam Mustansir billah (1036-1095). The works of art and valuables of all sorts in the palace were sold to satisfy their demands. Lane Poole writes in "History of Egypt" (London, 1914, pp. 148-9) that, "Yet all these exquisite and priceless works of art had been dissipated among the barbarous Turks during the tyranny of Nasir ad-Dawla. The costly collections of the "Treasury of Flags" were destroyed by a torch dropped by a follower of one of the Turkish goths, a collection which had been formed at a cost of 70,0000 dinars."

It is to be noted that three kinds of public holiday celebrations involved the participation of the Imam in Fatimid Egypt, such as the general Islamic holidays, Ismaili holidays and local Egyptian festivals of the agriculture calender. The Ismaili holidays included Navroz, birthday of Ali, Fatima, Hasan, Hussain and the Imam of the age; and Eid-i Ghadir. In all these occasions, the city of Cairo was decorated with green Fatimid flags and illuminations.

Makrizi (d. 1442), Ibn Taghribirdi (d. 1469) and Kalkashandi (d. 1418) had described the pomp of the Fatimid procession in which the Imam himself participated during the New Year's Day. From the descriptions, the procession was really imposing, and the sight was fascinating when it advanced through the streets of Cairo with houses covered with spectators, with noise and commotion which filled the city. The passage abounds in various expressions and names of different objects, varities of cloth, ornaments, banners, etc. The procession included the display of the Fatimid banners. The issuing of all these articles for the procession was usually finished by the 28th of the month of Zul-hijja, and on the morning of the 29th the Imam personally visited a special place at which his chargers were produced for his inspection. He rode across the palace ground to the gate called Bab al-Mulk, where the inspection ground was situated, where a reheral of the procession was demonstrated before the Imam.

When the procession was finally formed, the governor of Cairo, with his men, cleared the streets from the crowd, so that the procession could advance without hindrance.

While riding in the procession, the Imam had exclusive right to be accompanied by two "banners of glory" as they were called. They were small, made of white silk embroidered with gold. They were carried folded. There were also twenty one coloured banners, with inscriptions made in colours different from the banner itself. They measured two by one and a half yards, and were fixed on long spears.

But the most important were two special flags which were carried before all these flags, consisted of a hollow golden lion's head with opened mouth, fixed between two ends of a crescent the middle part of which formed the head of a spear. To the side which constituted the neck of the lion's head a long bag of yellow or red dibaj was affixed. While riding against the wind, the air would pass through the mouth of the lion's head and inflat the bag. These banners were carried by two riding officials.

On that occasion, special silver spears were issued to the suites of various Wazirs and high ranking military officers, in infantry and cavalry. The Treasury department next issued a hundred litters of excellent work covered with precious brocade, of red or yellow colour, called dibaj, kurbubi and siklatun. The straps with which the litters were fixed were richly ornamented with silver. Every Wazir received ten spears and ten litters of this kind. He also received two small flags (liwa) which were left folded. In the procession these were carried before the Wazir while similar flags were carried behind military officers.

After the Wazirs various officials received one, two, three or four spears and litters, depending on his rank. The Wazir, in addition, also received ten large flags made of a cloth called dabik. These flags were adjusted to spears headed with balls and crescents. The military officers had large flags of silk on spears with copper heads, gilded and hollow inside.

Behind the Imam a unit of guards was followed by ten executionirs who carried the swords used for decapitation. Then there were more guards, behind whom the Wazir was riding accompanied by a unit of soldiers in coats of mail, 500 strong. Then followed the musicians with their drums, flutes, etc. Then units of various regiments, over 4000 preceded by the two with the heads of the lions. Behind them again were troops, Turks, Daylamites, Kurds, Ghuzz, etc., archers, mariners, and others.

6. Alamut period

Hasan bin Sabbah

Hasan bin Sabbah

Hasan bin Sabbah (1034-1124) took possession of the fort of Alamut in Iran in 1090. His immediate concerns were to refortify Alamut, provide for it food and water supply, irrigate the field in the valley, acquire adjacent castles, erect forts at strategic points, institute economic and social reforms and unite the Ismailis by bonds of fraternity. Thus, he succeeded to establish the Nizarid Ismailis rule in Alamut. It appears from the fragments of the historical sources that, the Ismailis continued green colour as their standard, and Hasan bin Sabbah is reported to have hoisted it for the first time on the summit of the Alamut.

Malik Shah (d. 1092), the Seljukid ruler in Iran became highly perturbed when he heard the foundation of the Alamut's rule, and hatched animosity with the Ismailis. Soon afterwards, Alamut came to be raided by the Seljukid forces, carrying their imperial banner contained black ground with the figure of a dragon or an eagle. The enemies of the Ismailis desired to hoist their banner on Alamut through military actions, but the Ismaili warriors warded off their attacks all the times and continued to hoist their banner on Alamut.

On August 8, 1164, Imam Hasan Ala Zikrihi's Salam (1162-1166) commemorated a historical occasion of qiyamat-i qubra in Alamut. According to "Jamiut Tawarikh" (compiled in 1310 A.D.), four large banners of four colours, white, red, yellow and green were set up at the four corners of the pulpit. "Haft Bab-i Baba Sayyid'na" (comp. in 1200 A.D.) writes that Hasan bin Sabbah had foretold the advent of qiyamat-i qubra, and said, "When the Imam appears, he will sacrifice a camel, and bring forth a red standard." It implies that the virtual penetration of red colour in the Ismaili tradition took place in the period of Alamut.

The Ismaili flag also reflected superiority and a peak of glory of the Alamut rule. In 1213, the mother of Imam Jalaluddin Hasan (1210-1221) went on the pilgrimage to Mecca under the patronage of the Abbasid Caliph Nasir (1180-1225), who received her with great pomp and deference. On that occasion, the Abbasid Caliph placed the flag of Khwarazamshah behind that of the Ismailis in the caravan of the pilgrims.

7. Post-Alamut period

The post-Alamut is the longest period in the Ismaili history, and so is most obscure and dark due to the dearth of the historical informations. It almost covers 580 years for 18 Imams, who lived in different villages and towns in Iran. They had no their own rule and as a result, no need was apparently felt for their banner. The longest era of post-Alamut witnessed Iran dominated by the rules of Illkhanids (1265-1335), Taymurids (1370-1414), Safavids (1500-1736), Afsharids (1736-1750), Zands (1750-1779) and Qajarids (1779-1925).

Hitherto, we have surveyed that the banner or flag had been used mostly in the battlefields on different occasions and periods. Now, the period ahead was of peace, therefore, the outstanding services of the heroes were symbolized in different manners. The Ismaili flag reflects same massage to the followers through the agency of green and red colours.

It appears that the representation of the Zulfikar or two-edged sword of Ali bin Abu Talib had been the most common in the banners of the Iranian rules. The emblems of the lion and the sun rising behind it or a variety of colours or flags had been adopted along with the different symbols of the Prophet and his descendants. The Ismailis resided in different garbs according to the demand of the time and practised taqiya, therefore, they generally said to have assumed their traditional green and red banners in their villages, where it was also popular in other classes of the people. It however appears that in Kahek, Anjudan and Shahr-i Babak, the green and red banners were flown mostly on the masoleums of the Imams.

The Ismaili Pirs and Sayeds were active in the Ismaili mission in India. Most of them composed the religious hymns (ginans) for the new converts. These ginans however contain the words nishan(emblem), jarad dajja (red banner), tambal nishan (trumpet and emblem), nejadhari (standard-bearer), etc.

Imam Gharib Mirza (1493-1496)had left Shahr-i Babak in Iran and settled in his new headquarters, called Anjudan. The scrunity of the sources suggests that the Ismaili mission system after the fall of Alamut's rule was re-organised for the first time in Anjudan. According to the new system, the Imam was followed in the rank by a single hujjat, the chief missionary. The mu'allim (teacher), the head of the mission in a particular region, worked under the hujjat. The mu'allim was assisted by ma'dhum-i akbar (the senior licentiate) and ma'dhum-i asghar (junior licentiate). These Ismaili missionaries used special green and red banners of small size in different regions to identify themselves before the local Ismailis. In some regions, special emblems in the banner were also included where they found no congenial atmosphere.

The Indian Ismailis were also fluttering big green and red banners during special occasions. It was a common practice to paint the boiled eggs with green and red colours on the day of Navroz. It suggests that the green and red had become the accepted colours among the Ismailis in India. Most of the scribes of the ginans (religious hymns) of 18th century used to paint decorative boundaries in their copies with green and red colours, whose examples are still accessible.

To mark a pious person's tomb in the wilderness, most of the Ismailis in Sind and Kutchh in India often put small green banners around or on top of a heap of stones.

8. Modern period

Imam Hasan Ali Shah (1817-1881) arrived in India in 1842. He died and buried in Hasanabad, Bombay in 1881. He was succeeded by his son Imam Aga Ali Shah (1881-1885), who also died in Poona on August 17, 1885. His body in a bier was brought to Bombay, where it was temporarily enshrined in Hasanabad, Bombay for 64 days, and shipped for interment in Najaf. Mukhi Kassim Musa (d. 1896), the then estate agent was entrusted to carry the Imam's bier from Bombay to Najaf. He left behind a very important narrative of the journey of 25 days. He relates that the procession carrying the bier to the sea-port was started from Hasanabad on October 25, 1885. Describing the scene of the grand procession of ten thousand persons, he writes that, "Many persons, numbering 125 had lifted the plates of fruits and sweetmeats on heads in the procession. They were followed by another 125 Ismaili believers, carrying banners and muttering salwat with tears in eyes. They were followed by the special horses of Imam Aga Ali Shah, caparisoned in golden and silver. Behind them were six horses loaded with swords, and another six with that of the shields. Next followed five riders, and three among them held three big banners of Ali bin Abu Talib. These banners are taken out on special occasions." (p. 7)

It should be known that the economical condition of the Ismailis was deplorable to its extreme. Most of them were poor with no significant tradition of education. In sum, the Ismailis had been bred and brought up in the shadow of illitracy for many centuries. Necessary attention was paid to improve their condition in all walks of life in the time of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah (1885-1957). He guided their destinies and knitted into a progressive community, and took them to enviable heights of moral and material glory. The very administrative organisation of the Imam was the proud legacy of the Ismailis. Under his auspicious leadership, the Ismailis reached the pinnacle of glory.

Bombay in India was a centre and a fertile venue to inaugurate the new institutions in the community. Most of the institutions and organisations existed firstly in Bombay and then were opened in other places. The Ismaili local, zonal, supreme and federal councils and other major institutions were established at first in Bombay. Besides, innumerable social and multipurpose institutions were formed in different spheres, such as health, education, economics, mission and religion, etc. with laudable objects. In sum, these were but the signs of the advancing tide of civilization, finding expression in the new thoughts of freedom.

The Ismailis also formed different semi-military organisations in Bombay, such as the Kandi Mola Scout Troops came into existence at Bombay in 1915. The H.H. The Aga Khan Volunteer Corps existed in 1919. The volunteer corps in Hasanabad, Bombay was formed in 1920. Ladies volunteer corps was raised in Kandi Mola, Bombay in 1921 and at Khadak, Bombay in 1922. The scout group at Hasanabad also started in 1922. The first Ismaili Band was formed in 1926 and the Girl Guides Company also was erected in Khadak, Bombay in 1927. In sum, the community added certain tinge of bravery and manliness to its activities. These semi-military organisations were first in the community of their kind and proved highly beneficial. The foremost need of these institutions was to hoist and salute their own banner on the occasions of jubilations and festivity.

It will be very interesting to learn that when Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah made his first visit of East African countries in 1899, it appeared that the Ismailis mostly in the villages used the banners, having complete red ground, whereon the name of the Imam was written in white letters in English. The followers also decorated the steamer and the boat of the Imam with these banners. When the boat landed ashore, the news of the Imam's arrival was announced through the signals of the banners. The tradition of red banner was so popular among the Ismailis in East Africa, that they hoisted it on every occasion and festival on the Jamatkhanas. It cannot be ascertained by any source how the tradition of red banner came to be introduced in East Africa? The Ismailis who emigrated to East Africa mostly belonged to Kutchh, India, and we have a reason to believe that the tradition of red banner must have been originated in Kutchh and introduced in East Africa. While inspecting both oral and written sources available at our disposal, it however appears that there existed no such tradition in Kutchh. The question arises, how the Ismailis in East Africa started the tradition of red banner? It is however seen that when Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah visited East Africa for the first time in 1899, he was warmly welcomed, and the principal items or the decorations in the cities was the red banners of the Sultanate of Oman and Britain. When the Imam launched his next tour in 1902 and 1905, the Ismailis living in the villages used red banners with the name of the Imam on it instead of the banners of the ruling authorities. It became a normal practice to hoist red banners on the jamatkhana during the festive occasions as well as on the arrival of the Imam.

Wazir Kassim Ali Fateh Ali, the then Kamadia of the Thana Jamatkhana in India had heard the tradition of the red banner in East Africa through different channels. It struck an idea in his mind that a similar tradition should be introduced in India. He consulted with different persons, who appreciated his noble idea. He however found different views to determine the colours of the flag. When no one came to a conclusion, it was finally resolved to refer the matter to the Imam in Europe.

On Thursday, April 28, 1927, the Thana Jamat commemorated the 50th Birthday of the Imam. On that occasion, the leaders and the members of the jamat held a grand assembly in the Jamatkhana and passed a historic resolution, which was also read in the Jamatkhana. Mukhi Itmadi Nazar Ali Hashim and Kamadia Kassim Ali Fateh Ali of Thana Jamatkhana sent the copy of the resolution through a telegram to the Imam in Europe. The Imam was highly delighted with the idea of introducing an Ismaili flag and approved green colour with a cross red stripe in it.

The above report was published in the weekly "Ismaili" (Bombay, 1927,p. 7) through an announcement on Sunday, June 19, 1927 that:-



Thus, a flag dressing in green and red colours was designed within a short span of time. Its ground or field contained rich green colour with a red diagonal gushing out from left of the top-corner near staff down to the bottom-corner of the right side, making a red stripe crossing in the green flag.

On Sunday, the 18th Zilhaja, 1345/June 19, 1927 during the historic occasion of Eid-i Ghadir, the unfurling ceremony of the Ismaili flag had been performed for the first time on the Indian soil in the compound of the Thana Jamatkhana. On that occasion, H.H. The Aga Khan Volunteers Corps and the Ismaili Band also participated. Among the eminent persons who attended the ceremony were Mukhi Itmadi Nazar Ali Hasham, Mukhi Laljibhai Devraj, Hasan Lalji Devraj, Kassim Visram Allana, Pir Muhammad Hashim, Mukhi Kanji Wali, Ismail Rehmatullah, Muhammad Ismail Jafar, Ramzan Ali Ibrahim, Kadar Ali Fazal, Haji Muhammad Rahim Zain al-Abidin, Missionary Muhammad Abdullah, Missionary A.S. Sadruddin, etc. The ceremony began at 4.30 p.m. with an inauguration speech of Wazir Kassim Ali Fateh Ali, the then Kamadia, vide the gist of his historical speech in Appendix I.

Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad R. Macklai

Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad R. Macklai
It was followed by the speech of Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad R. Macklai (1843-1971), the then Major of the Bombay Volunteer Corps and the President of the Recreation Club Institute, whose brief biography is given in Appendix II. He said:-

I am deeply thankful to all of you for extending an invitation to me for presiding over this ceremony, which is due to the religious fervour and progressive thoughts of the Thana jamat. Each member of your jamat deserves congratulation on this joyous occasion of hoisting the Ismaili flag in honour of our revered Imam-e-Zaman Mawlana Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan.

Gentlemen, the flag represents an invaluable symbol of the citizens, high or low, are bound to sacrifice for it even at the cost of their lives, because the flag is an emblem of great aspirations and mass sacrifice incurred by human beings for procuring human progress. The Ismaili flag withstood firmly to protect the freedom of thoughts and religious beliefs to each and every one without discrimination during the past glorious epoch of the Ismailis.

It consumed almost ages in promulgation of the religious and spiritual enlightenment. The material progress resulted in the scientific inventions in the human relationship and encouraging them for human progress for the great aspirations and to attract all of them from diverse sectors of the world to a centre during the magnificient period was that very memorable flag.

Thana Jamatkhana

Thana Jamatkhana
He, then unfurled the Ismaili flag with due honour on the Jamatkhana after march-past amid the enchanting tune of the Band, which certainly created a thrilling and sensational environment. Guard of honour was also accorded by the volunteers. Mr. Kader Hussain Merali Manji handed over the flag on behalf of the Thana Jamatkhana to Captain Pir Muhammad Madhani (1896-1959) and Vice-Captain A.J. Lakhpati (1884-1947), which they accepted on behalf of the Bombay Volunteer Corps. Then, Mr. Ismail Gala recited the famous poem of Nur Mohammad Javer before the audience. Mr. Kader Hussain Merali Manji, Haji Mohammad Fazal, Mohammad Abdullah, A.S. Sadruddin and Haji Mohammad Rahim delivered touching speeches. In short, the whole proceeding was performed with unbounded jubilation. On that occasion, the following telegraphic message of the Imam was read before the audience:-

London: 21/6/1927
Time : 10.50 a.m.



Andheri Jamatkhana

Andheri Jamatkhana
The next unfurling ceremony of the flag was performed in Andheri Jamatkhana, Bombay on Sunday, June 26, 1927 at 3.30 p.m. by the hands of Alijah Ismail Virji Madhani, the President of the Supreme Council for Kathiawar. Ali Muhammad Jan Muhammad Chunara (1881-1966), the editor of the weekly "Ismaili" presented an impressive lecture on importance of the Ismaili flag. On that occasion, the Imam sent the following telegraphic message:-

London: 29/6/1927
Time : 10.00 a.m.


The third ceremony in succession was performed in Khadak Jamatkhana, Bombay on Monday, June 27, 1927 at 3.30 p.m. by the hands of Mukhi Megji Mulji (1861-1932). Unfortunately, the Mukhi could not attend it, therefore, Kamadia Kassim Ali Hasan Ali had an honour to unfurl the flag.

The Imam sent the following message on that auspicious occasion:-

London: 1/7/1927
Time : 9.45 a.m.



On Sunday, July 3rd, 1927, the weekly "Ismaili" published the following appeal to the Ismaili readers that:-

My Flag

My Flag
"The flag commands a prestige of a nation. The importance of the flag is glorified everywhere in the world history, and every country has its own flag in different colours, and even a small child of a country feels pride on it. Recently, Mawlana Hazar Imam has chosen specific colours for Thana Jamat. The jamats of Andheri and Bombay also followed it, therefore, the Ismailis in the world should remember that the colours decided by Mawlana Hazar Imam must not be altered at all. This sacred flag can be recognised with colours, not by its name that it is an Ismaili flag and it is necessary to give it an importance. It is needless to say that the citizens of all countries can recognise their national flags hoisting anywhere. Is there any British who is unknown with the Union Jack (the national flag of the United Kingdom)? Today, we Ismailis have fluttered the flag, therefore, a point must necessarily put into consideration that the above flag, whether in the hand of an Ismaili soldier or it hoists on the Jamatkhana, it may hang on the waists of the students or hoists on the buildings of rich class, either it is flown on a car or the Ismaili mills, organisations, offices or factories, wherever it may appear as hoisting, the words will gush out itself from the mouth of one who looks it that, "This is an Ismaili Flag." Not only, the Ismailis, but all people can recognise this Ismaili flag. Accordingly, the colours of the flag is as under:-

Likewise, it is rich with dark colours, whether it may be designed on the cloths of silk, cotton or flannel. It must however be remembered that no changes should be made in its colours. It is hoped that all the jamats of the nation will also join in (hoisting the) flag, indicating the glorious signs of the Ismailis. Besides, it is requested that the African jamats will also make necessary changes in the colour of the flag."

Bandra Jamatkhana

Bandra Jamatkhana
Mukhi Laljibhai Devraj (1842-1930) had an honour to perform its unfurling ceremony at Bandra Jamatkhana, Bombay on July 4, 1927. The whole programme was organised with pomp and jubilation.

Soon afterwards, the unfurling ceremony had also taken place in Talaja Jamatkhana in Kathiawar on July 11, 1927 by Nazar Ali Dhanji Gheewala. It was performed at Dharka Jamatkhana on July 14, 1927 by Mukhi Alibhai Sunderji, in Dhoraji Jamatkhana on July 29, 1927 by the hands of Mukhi Pirbhai and Kamadia Mawji. It was also unfurled in Karachi on August 17, 1927 by Rai Alidina Ali Muhammad (1884-1952). The Panderkawda Jamatkhana performed unfurling ceremony on August 24, 1927 by the hands of President Khalfan Lalji. In Sind, it was unfurled at Hyderabad by Varas Karim Kassim (1878-1958) on November 24, 1927. The ceremony was also performed in Nairobi, Dar-es-Salam, Kampala, Rangoon, etc.

Gwadar was under control of Muscat, where no other flag except the Sultanate of Muscat was officially permitted to hoist on the Jamatkhana. When Sultan Taimur of Muscat made a marine voyage for Karachi via Gwadar in 1928, the Ismaili leaders went to see him in his ship anchored at Gwadar, and sought permission of hoisting the Ismaili flag on the Jamatkhana. Thus, the first hoisting ceremony in Gwadar Jamatkhana took place on April 12, 1928 with the hands of Mukhi Muhammad Abdullah Bachani (1927-1932). The ceremony inaugurated with the sound of bugals, and it was followed by mustket-shots for 11 times. The ceremony was performed with the loud voice of Allaho-Akbar.

My Flag

My Flag
The Imam arrived Bombay from Europe on December 9, 1928, and when the above flag was presented before him, he became overwhelmed with joy to see it and said, "Excellent! This is my Flag". Hence, it became known as My Flag in the Ismaili community. In sum, the identity of these two colours together found a new lease of life with the creation of the Ismaili flag. The name "My Flag" had however been applied by the Imam himself in his message to the Khadak Jamatkhana, Bombay on June 27, 1927.

The Ismailis flag or My-Flag became so popular in India that it became a fashion among the Ismaili merchants to give their commodities the name of My-Flag, such as My-Flag Sari, My-Flag Soap, My-Flag Tie, My-Flag Biscuits, etc. Soon afterwards, an Ismaili journal, called "My-Flag" also began to be published in Hyderabad, Sind by Muhib Ali Mitha,

It will be interesting to note that Prince Aly Khan had visited Thana for the second time on December 21, 1934 and gave an audience to about 300 Ismailis at Wadi on Agra Road. The compound was well decorated with the Ismaili flags. Mukhi Karim Nazar Ali, Kamadia Musa Jafar, Wazir Kassim Ali Fateh Ali, the then President of the Ismaili Council and Ali Muhammad Ghulam Hussain Lakadawala warmly greeted Prince Aly Khan at the entrance. The Shahzada Scout Group accorded guard of honour. When Prince Aly Khan entered the main entrance, he stopped for a while and looked at the Ismaili flags with immense surprise. On that juncture, Wazir Kassim Ali Fateh Ali related the event of June 19, 1927 when the Thana jamat got a unique chance to unfurl it for the first time in India. Prince Aly Khan became delighted and congratulated the leaders.

9. Green colour - its special features

The Ismaili flag contains rich green colour with a red strip descending from left upper corner to the bottom of right side, making a cross mark in the flag. The nature of the characterstics which the Ismaili flag acquired green and red colours (lawn) from the historical context will be explored briefly in the following lines.

Green (akhdar) is synonymous with nature. For the Arabs, as for many other people, green is the symbol of good luck, of natural fertility, of vegetation, of youth. For Islam, the green standard of the Prophet and the green cloak of Ali bin Abu Talib have become the very emblems of the religion. As a beneficent colour, green belongs so naturally to the popular spirit of the Arabs that their colloquial language is full of expression where this colour symbolizes joy, gaiety or success. Giving the description of green, the Holy Koran also says, "Reclining on green cushions and beautiful carpets" (55:76) and "Do you not see that God sends down water from the cloud so the earth becomes green?" (22:63). In Syria, a green land is used in describing a lucky person. To wish somebody a good year, one uses the expression green year, and when one takes up residence in a new dwelling, green leaves of beet are hung there as a token of good luck. In Moracco, the expression my stirrups are green means, "I bring the rain when I travel into an area where it is awaited." The Prophet himself declared, "The sight of green is agreeable to the eyes as the sight of a beautiful woman" (al-Jahiz, Tarbi, p.137). "The colour green," said al-Simnani, "is the most appropriate to the secret of the mystery of mystries." Johann L. Fleischer writes that, "Najmuddin Kubra gives an exact description of the revelations of coloured lights that occur to the initiate during his spiritual training : there are dots and spots and circles; the soul passes through periods of black colour and of black and red spots until the appearance of the green colour indicates that divine grace is near - green has always been considered the highest and heavenly colour."

The emerald is thought to avert evil, and its green colour, the colour of paradise, gave this stone a special place in Muslim thought. Thus, according to a saying, the Guarded Tablet (lawh mafuz) on which everything is written from pre-eternity, consists of abundant green emeralds.

In Islamic cosmology, Mount Kaf encircling the terrestrial world,is made of green, whose colour is reflected by the celestial vault. According to "Encyclopaedia of World Art" (Rome, 1959, 4th vol., p.723), "Green was probably the colour of the Prophet himself and of his descendants through his daughter Fatima. This colour is mentioned in the Koran and was considered the restorative and healthful colour of paradise itself." Abu Rimthah Rifa'ah Taimi relates: "I saw the Prophet wearing two green garments." (Abu Daud, 1520:1135). Ibn Yala narrates, "I saw the Prophet circumambulating round the Kaba, wearing a green sheet, passing under his armpit" (Tabaqat, 2nd vol., p.536).

It is related that the Prophet left behind three robes, which were mostly worn at the time of battle, and of these one was made of green brocade (diba).

Annemarie Schimmal writes in her "Deciphering the Signs of God" (Cambridge, 1994, p. 16) that one thing, is clear : green is always connected with Paradise and positive, spiritual things, and those who are clad in green, the sabzpush of Persian writings, are angels or saints. This is why, in Egypt, Muslims would put green material around tombstones : it should foreshadow Paradise. Green is also the colour of the Prophet, and his descendants would wear a green turban.

10. Red colour - its special features

Red (ahmar) is the colour of fire and blood. It is linked with vital force. It is gushing colour, hot and male, unlike green. Adam signifies red in Hebrew. The red sulphur (kibrit ahmar) of Islamic esotericism denotes Universal Man. Abdullah Numair narrates on the authority of al-Bari; who said, "I have never seen anyone more attractive and elegant in a red cloak than the Prophet" (Tabaqat, 2nd vol., p.534). Jabir b. Abdullah also narrates, "The Prophet put on his red sheet on the Eids and Fridays" (ibid). Abu Juhaifah Wahab bin Abdullah relates: "I saw the Prophet in Mecca at Batha. He was in a tent made of red leather. Bilal came out with water which the Prophet had made his ablutions. Then he came out wearing a red mantle."

According to "Ahadith-i Mathnawi" (ed. Badi'uz-Zaman, Tehran, 1955, p. 299), the Prophet once said, "Red rose is a part of God's glory."

While studying the colour symbolism of the Sufi garments, it is learnt that red was preferred by the Badawiyya in Egypt.

11. Significant features of green & red colours together

We have described above the features of green and red colours. We will briefly proceed to discuss significant characterstics of these two colours together.

Ibn Khaldun(d. 1406) writes in "Muqaddimah" (1st vol., p.186) that Khadija asked, what garment he liked best to wear during revelation, and the Prophet replied, "White and green ones", whereupon she said that it was an angel, meaning that green and white, are the colours of goodness and of the angels." Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal (d. 855) writes that when the revelation came, the Prophet covered his head with almost green mantle, his face grew red, he snored as one asleep, or rattled like a young camel; after some time he recovered (Masnad, Cairo, 1949, 4th vol., p.222).

Ibn Athir (2nd vol., p. 83) writes that when the Prophet handed over his green banner to Ali bin Abu Talib during the battle of Khaibar, he proceeded towards the fort. On that occasion, Ali had worn a red sheet on his body.

The famous tradition has it that once Imam Hussain and Hasan mounted on the shoulders of the Holy Prophet when they were yet small boys. Imam Hussain wore red garment, while his elder brother was in green dress. Being asked why both brothers were in different dresses, the Prophet said, "This Hasan will fight for restoring peace in religion, while Hussain will sacrifice for the cause of Islam." It ensues from this tradition that the agency of peace and sacrifice is symbolized in green and red colours in Islam.

Ibn Jubayr, who went on a pilgrimage to Mecca on August 22, 1183, described the cover of the Kaba that, "The outside of the Ka'bah, on all its four sides, is clothed in coverings of green silk with cotton warps; and on their upper parts is a band of red silk on which is written the verse (3:96): "Verily, the first House founded for mankind was that at Bakkah i.e., Mecca." (vide "The Travels of Ibn Zubayr" tr. By R.J.C. Broadhurst, London, 1952, p. 79)

Fariduddin Attar (d. 1221), the famous Sufi saint writes in "Musibat-nama" (ed. N. Faisal, Tehran, 1959, p. 62) that:-

The master (Pir) is the red sulphur, and his breast the green ocean,
Who does not make collyrium for his eyes from the dust of the master,
may die pure or impure.

Kubrawiyya, one of the Sufi orders developed an elaborate colour symbolism. Najmuddin Kubra (d. 1220), one of the saints speaks green with tranquillity (itmi'nan) and red with gnosis (irfan). Furthermore, Prophet Abraham is symbolised as the red colour, the aspect of the heart and Prophet Muhammad as the green colour, the point connected with the divine reality (haqqiyya).

Mukhi Kassim Musa (d. 1896), the estate agent of the Imam had been entrusted to take with him the bier of Imam Aga Ali Shah to be buried in Najaf. He left behind an important description of his journey. Mentioning the worth of the bier, he writes, "The inner and outer parts of the bier were wrought in silver filigree, and nothing was left in its expenses. A big green umbrella was spread over the bier, which was crossed by a red stripe. Four persons lifted the umbrella, whose four sides were decorated with banners." (p. 8)

Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah ascends on the throne of Imamate

Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah ascends on the throne of Imamate
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah ascended on the throne of Imamate at the age of 7 years, 9 months and 16 days on August 17, 1885. His enthronement ceremony was solemnised at Bombay Dharkhana Jamatkhana on Friday, September 1, 1885. On that historic occasion, he sat on the oblong wooden throne surrounded by the elder persons of the community. The most striking feature was that the oblong cushion inside the throne was absolutely green, and the Imam sat in the centre in red attire. It explicitly depicted an image of the present design of the Ismaili flag.

Ruby and Pearl

Ruby and Pearl
It must be known that both ruby (yakut) and pearl (marjan) are the Koranic terms, having natural colours of red and green respectively. Ruby is a transplant red gemstone variety of the mineral corundum. Rubbies vary in colour from pale to deep red, also called the pigeon blood. On the other hand, the pearl is a substance forming the inner layers of the shells of nacreous mollusks, as pearl-oyster, abalones, etc., having rich green colour. The Holy Koran contains following mention of yakut (ruby, i.e., the red) and marjan (pearl, i.e., the green) that:-

Ka anahunal yakut wal marjan
Yara avadh amul moti mahe'n jadash'e,
ke mannek matha chhaya.

"O'friends! Precious and durable pearls (moti) are inset (in paradise) with rubies (mannek) inlaid on it."

In 1905, a Russian scholar, Dr. C. Inostrantseve, had published an interesting article in Russian, based on the sources of Makrizi (d. 1442), Ibn Taghribirdi (d. 1469) and Kalkashandi (d. 1418). The article deals the solemn procession of the Fatimids in which the Imam himself participated on New Year's Day. According to the description, the ornament which the Imam used to wear on his turban was a sort of crescent made of finest rubies of immense value, the like of which could not be found in the world. The rubies were fixed on a piece of silk which was lightly stitched to the turban. This crescent had the name Hafir, i.e., horse-shoe. Inside it they used to fix the Yatima, means incomparable, i.e. a pearl of the size and colour that were unique in the world. It was surrounded by smaller, but also immensely precious green pearls. Around all these there was a string of fine emeralds. All these was fixed in such a way as to be above the forehead of the Imam, who wore no other ornaments.

The notion of green and red emerges in addition while pondering minutely over the following Koranic verses:-

"And the herbs and the trees do adore" (55:6)
"Therein (earth) is fruit and palms having sheathed clusters" (55:11)
"And when the heaven is rent asunder then it becomes red like red hide" (55:37)
"And for him who fears to stand before his Lord are two gardens" (55:46)
"Dark-green in colour" (55:64)
"In both are fruits and palms and pomegranates" (55:68)

The essential features of green and red colours have been mentioned above in the historical context. In sum, the green colour in Ismaili flag symbolizes joy, gaity, prosperity and peace; while the broad red diagonal on it connotes sacrifice.

Wazir Dr. Pir Muhammad Hoodbhoy (1905-1956), the then President of the Ismailia Association for Pakistan had made a humble submition to the Imam in his letter of October 8, 1954, asking the interpretation of green and red colours of the Ismaili flag. In reply, the Imam sent the following letter that:-

16TH OCTOBER, 1954




For further details regarding the meaning of the above Imams's message, vide "Shah and Pir - its meaning" in Appendix III.

On March 14, 1957, Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah sent an inspiring message to the Ismailia Association for Kenya for the Ismaili youth of Mombasa. In his message, the Imam said, "Younger members of the community should offer themselves for service with a view to become waezins. I have much confidence in youth, they can help with energy and they will keep the flag flying."

It will be interesting to learn that Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah symbolically applied the terms of banner and standard in the titles he invested to few eminent persons. For instance, he conferred the title of the "banner of the divine light" (nur'no vavatto)upon Varas Essa Nanji at Bombay on December 31,1933. The Imam invested a posthumous title of the "standard bearer of the real believers" (haqiqi momino'na alambardar)to Pir Sabzali at Bombay on December 14, 1938. He is also reported to have crowned the title of the "banner of Ismailism" (Ismaili din'na vavatta)to a certain leader of Madras at Bombay on December 30, 1927.

12. Ismaili flag & New Ismaili Constitution of 1986

Mawlana Hazar Imam, H.H. the Aga Khan IV, ordained the new Ismaili Constitution on Saturday, December 13, 1986 at Merimont in Geneva. Leaders of the jamat who were mandated to work on the new Ismaili Constitution had come from various parts of the world. It was indeed a historic occasion where the family members of the Imam, members of the Constitution Review Committee and the staff of the Secretariat from Aiglemont were present. At 11.00 a.m., the Imam ordained, signed and sealed "The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims"

It is clearly seen in the photo of Hazar Imam when he was ordaining the New Ismaili Constitution that there was a small Ismaili flag on Imam's table, having an image of the Coat-of-Arms, i.e., the monogram of a crown (taj) on it. This is a royal monogram which was originally presented by Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah after his gracious arrival in India from Europe on March 2, 1920. Lt. Col. Pir Muhammad Madhani and Major A.J. Lakhpati had acknowledged its receipt on behalf of the volunteers Corps of Bombay at Imam's bungalow in Bombay on Saturday, April 3, 1920. The Imam said to them during presentation that, "Get such Coat-of-Arms prepared and every volunteer should wear it on his cap."

It should be noted that the new Constitution does not allow any Ismaili to misuse the Ismaili flag or its colours for any other purpose. Accordingly, the Article of the Constitution clearly lays down that:-




It is a key point to note that the word "My Flag" is not referred to in the New Ismaili Constitution, but the word "Ismaili flag" is simply used instead.

The Ismaili flag is flown on the Jamatkhana, mostly on special festive occasions, the gracious arrival of the Imam and the day when the Imam sends any farman to the jamat. As soon as the occasion is over, the flag is required to be removed and folded up. It is quite improper to keep it fluttering for days together or to use it with faded colours. It is common for flags to be hoisted at sunrise and hauled down at sunset.

In conclusion, we will quote from "Haft Bab" (Bombay, 1959, p. 40) by Abu Ishaq Kohistani as saying:-

"All the Imams are Mawlana Ali, all are one. And if he sometimes appears young, and another time old, or an infant, this is done in order that the world and humanity may remain as it is. And Mustafa said that Ali ibn Abi Talib, may God beautify his countenance, on the day of Resurrection will raise the banner of the qiyamat single-handed."


PRIMARY : (Arabic & Persian)

Nahjul Balagha (Qum, 1981). Kitab al-Maghazi (London, 1966) by Waqidi (d. 822). Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyah (Cairo, 1955) by Ibn Hisham (d. 833). Kitab al-Tabaqat (Leiden, 1905) by Ibn Sa'd (d. 845). Masnad (Cairo, 1949) by Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (d. 855). Al-Bayan wal-Tabyin (Cairo, 1952) by al-Jahiz (d. 868). Sunan (Cairo, 1952) by Ibn Majah (d. 886). Sunan (Cairo, 1952) by Abu Daud (d. 888). Futuh al-Buldan (Leiden, 1966) by Baladhuri (d. 892). Tarikh al-Rusul wa al-Muluk (Cairo, 1960) by Tabari (d. 923). Kitab al-Aghani (Leiden, 1900) by Abul Faraj Ispahani (d. 969). Musibat-Nama (Tehran, 1959) by Fariduddin Attar (d. 1221). Akhbar al-Muluk Bani Ubayd wa Siyaratihim (Paris, 1927) by Ibn Hammad (d. 1230). Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh (Beirut, 1965) by Ibn Athir (d. 1233). Wafayat al-A'yan (Paris, 1838) by Ibn Khallikan (d. 1281). Muqaddimah (tr. Franz Rosenthal, London, 1958) by Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406). Al-Khitat (Cairo, 1959) by Makrizi (d. 1441). Rauza-tus-Safa (tr. Mubarik Ali Shah Jilani Hashim, Lahore, 1983) by Mir Khund. Haft Bab (Bombay, 1959) by Abu Ishaq Kohistani. Voyage from Bombay to Najaf (Ms. 1885) by Mukhi Kassim Musa (d. 1896).

MODERN : (English & Urdu)

History of Persia (Lahore, 1888) by John Malcolm. The Seljuks in Asia Minor (London, 1961) by Tamara Talbot Rice. The Arab Kingdom and its Fall (Beirut, 1963) by J. Wellhausen. History of Arabia before Muhammad (Lahore, 1989) by De Lacy O'Leary. The Spirit of Islam (London, 1965) by Sayed Amir Ali. Rise and Fall of the Fatimid Empire (Bombay, 1944) by A.S. Picklay. Ismailis through History (Karachi, 1997) by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin S. Ali. Early Arabic Odes (Delhi, 1938) by S.M. Husain. Organisation of Government under the Prophet (Delhi, 1987) by M. Y. Mazhar Siddiqui. Mystical Dimensions of Islam (1975) by Annemarie Schimmel. Deciphering the Signs of God (Cambridge, 1994) by Annemarie Schimmel.. Studies in Early Ismailism (Jerusalem, 1983) by S.M. Stern. The Social Structure of Islam (Cambridge, 1962) by Reuben Levy. The Legacy of Islam (London, 1960) ed. by T. W. Arnold. War and Peace in the Law of Islam (Virginia, 1955) by Majid Khadduri . History of Egypt (London, 1914) by Stanely Lane Poole. The Fatimid Theory of State (Lahore, 1957) by P.J. Vatikiotis. Religion and State in Iran (Berkeley, 1969) by Hamid Alagar. A Short History of Islam (Lahore, 1980) by Mazhar-ul-Haq. The New Islamic Dynasties (Edinburg, 1996) by C.E. Bosworth. Jihad-i-Islami (Lahore, 1966) by Khalil Ahmad Hamidi. Islam-ka-Nizam-i Hukumat (Lahore, 1982) by H.A. Ghazi. Ahadith-I Mathnawi (Tehran, 1955) ed. By Badi'uz Zaman. Maqalat-i Nasiri (Gilgit, 1972) by Allama Nasiruddin Nasir Hunzai. Land and Sovereignty in India (Cambridge, 1986) by Andre Wink. Sulh al-Hasan (Qum, 1998) by Shaykh Radi al-Yasin. Gohar-e-Gwadar by Shihabuddin A. Gwadari, Karachi (1994).


The Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden, 1997). Encyclopaedia Britannica (1990). Encyclopaedia Americana (1983). Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. Encyclopaedia of World Art (Rome, 1959). American Educator (New York, 1973). The Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam (London, 1989) by Cyril Glassee. The Dictionary of Islam (Lahore, 1984) by T.P. Hughes. Islamic Shi'ite Encyclopaedia (Beirut, 1970). The New Universal Encyclopaedia (London, 1955).


Private & Confidential Subjects Discussed by Religious Study Group (Mombasa, 1959). The weekly "Ismaili" (Bombay, June-August,1927 & March, 1946). The weekly "Das" (Calcutta, December 9, 1927). "Fidai" quarterly (Bombay, July, 1927). "Ismaili Satpanth Prakash" (1927).

B. APPENDIX I: speech of Wazir Kassim Ali Fateh Ali

Gist of the speech of Wazir Kassim Ali Fateh Ali, then Kamadia of Thana Jamatkhana, delivered on June 19, 1927 at Thana

Wazir Kassim Ali Fateh Ali

Wazir Kassim Ali Fateh Ali

Dear President & Gentlemen,

First of all, I am heartily thankful to you all gentlemen on behalf of our jamat to respond to our invitation for making here an assembly.

Gentlemen, you must have learnt from the invitation cards that we are gathered here to add an important and significant page in the Ismaili history, therefore, you have been bothered for it. I have no enough words to thank you for coming as far as from Bombay in the summer season and took pain to ornament our poor jamat with an incomparable honour. It is our prayers that the merciful Lord of the age may recommpense here and hereafter for the trouble you have taken. It is however confirmed that you also hold the importance of today's glorious occasion like us.

Gentlemen, you are well aware that our today's gathering is meant to unfurl the flag in our holy Jamatkhana with the kind consent of Saheb-i Zaman, Hadi al-Mahdi, Ulul Amr, Mawlana Dhani Salamat Datar, Saheb-i Amr wal Asr Sarcar Khudavind Aga Sultan Muhammad Shah Datar. The flag is a token of freedom, while its colours symbolize its authority. The freedom and authority are the emblems of sovereignty. Gentlemen, I will proceed with assertion that we will be fortunate to see an Ismaili empire in near future. I think that you will join in my auspicious dream. It will be not an exaggregate if I may name this flag as an "Ismaili Flag" because of getting its permission from the Imam.

Gentlemen, a fortunate enjoys an honour of the flag. The true fidais and champions gain this matchless honour in the battle. Perhaps you will surprise to know why the Imam instituted a unique honour to the poor jamat of Thana?

Gentlemen, this is the first occasion of unfurling the flag in the history of the Indian Ismailis, and we are fortunate to initiate in yielding the honour. Indeed, we are thankful to the Imam-e-Zaman. Our poor jamat is crowned with this honour; therefore, it will be not an exaggregate to present a brief history of our jamat on this auspicious occasion.

Gentlemen, a peep into the historical records reveals that a terrible famine devastated Kutchh in 1833 Samavat (1777 A.D.). Almost eight families on that time had emigrated and settled in Thana, such as the forefathers of Mukhi Teja, Pirbhai Bharmal, Haji Virji, Mulji Mannek, Bhimji Rahim, Lalji Ratansi, Hashim Mevawala and Nathu Jetha. They came in search of bread and butter with a shelter. The glory of the Thana jamat at that time was extra-ordinary. The scholars of history can explain you that today the city of Thana is not even a shadow of the Thana of that period. There had been a Thana of the Peshwas in Poona, and the outskirts of the Thana had become a famous in history for many times as a battlefield. With this importance, the mercantile activities of Thana were sound with immense prosperity. Our forefathers lived here and toiled as the gram-sellers and hawkers. It was not possible for them to join other fields because of coming from the famine-stricken region with no capital. Bombay was not a city, but a town and that too belonged to the fishermen. With insignificant initiative, the above eight families marched in the battle of improving their economy, and became not only the merchant princes, but also colonized the location of Thana. Alas! It was not acceptable to the nature! In 1900 A.D., a frightful fire devastated the market of Thana, which is still reckoned a historical fire. The hazard of fire will become clearer from the fact that it became a legendary proverb in Surat and Thana. This dangerous fire caused trembling and inestimable losses to our community and others. Almost all the houses of ownership, shops, the source of income and the residential flats, etc. were consumed to ash, and almost all families became wanderers. Some of them had gone to Malad and Kalwa to attend the marriages and were quite unknown of the destruction in their absence. What would have been occurred with them when they returned and heard the ruins of their assests? I feel it appropriate to assign you to imagine by yourselves the condition of their hearts.

Gentlemen, despite the complete disaster, our jamat had well treasured in minds the golden advices of patience, courage and struggle imparted by our Ismaili faith. They were not disheartened with its result and thanked that, "God's will shall prevail!" They girded up their loins and dispelled the clouds, and reverted to think of future. In the meantime, late President Khan Saheb Alijah Haji Ahmed Devji, J.P., late Alijah Kamadia Jafar Pradhan, J.P., late Nainsi Pirbhai, late Waiya Gangji, late Kanji Aloo, late Moloo Jan Mohammad and late Juma Jan Muhammad, J.P. roused in action in Bombay, and made a visit of our jamat with relief funds and instructions of our beloved Hazar Imam. Gentlemen, I relate with a sense of pride that the Thana jamat responded in clear words that, "He is a Lord. We do not need his monetary assistance. We are thirsty of his prayers, which can prosper many orphans." Indeed, the humble prayers of the Imam proved a boon for us, and accelerated our economical condition to great extent in the decade ahead. We thank Lord that we became capable to stand today at your service with his mercy.

Gentlemen, the best-known suit in our jamat was Bar Bhayia Case, which is not unknown to you. It is a privilege of our jamat to prosecute the case for the first time. This case originated in Thana. The Wadi and Jamatkhana were its main centres. The Jamatkhana at that time was situated at the corner of Jambadi in the market, which still speaks the pride of past splendour as an asset of the Imam. We won the above case and the plaintiffs were badly defeated. The Bombay case had a great concern with this case; therefore, they made an appeal and gained victory. The Imam of the age, Imam Hasan Ali Shah, while taking bath in Kurala River, had blessed to our poor jamat with warm congratulation and blessings. It is our belief that we have become today fortunate with these prayers for getting this unparalled honour with our stainless faces.

Gentlemen, you have come to respond to the invitation of that jamat, which is a poor but too old jamat, and you also knew what I have explained from the history. Its oldest books of 125 years are still accessible in jamat. We justifiably feel pride being the descendants of this old jamat. Besides, this location was favourite for Mawlana Aga Hasan Ali Shah and Aga Ali Shah for their hunting expeditions, where the tents were pitched and they enjoyed hunting trips therefrom. Once a big tiger roared and harassed the people, and none could face it. When it slept, it was awakened and hunted at the distance of about ten steps by Aga Ali Shah, and brought the people under his obligations. Since then, the sceders of our jamat could not resist in Thana jamat against us.

Gentlemen, I will now proceed to speak on this auspicious occasion. I have told you that we have gathered here to unfurl the Ismaili flag. Most of our brothers in Africa use the flags mostly in the villages. According to the oral report, the ground of their flag is red, on which the name of Mawlana Hazar Imam is written in white letters. This tradition is so prevalent that it is generally hoisted on the Jamatkhanas on every occasion and festival. During the gracious arrival of the Imam, his steamer and boat are decorated with these flags. The news of Imam's arrival is heralded through the signal of fluttering the flags. I have heard it from Jafar Ali Ghulam Hussain of Dar-es-Salaam, the son of Kamadia Ratansi Ibrahim of Kutchh and missionary Mohammad Abdullah etc. It apparently inspired me that why we should not introduce a like tradition in India?

Gentlemen, I have discussed accordingly with other persons in Thana, who appreciated, providing lot of potential force and courage to my idea. Later on, there arose difference of views in connection with the colours of the flag, and it also created controversial questions while approaching few leaders of our jamat. It was however resolved at last to include the matter to the Imam for kind permission in the cable message to be sent from Thana jamat during the birthday occasion. Accordingly, while asking for permission humbly with our proposals, Mawlana Hazar Imam became happy and approved specific colours after making due alterations. It is our good fortune to present it with pride as an accepted Ismaili flag that has been designed according to the holy guidance.

We can summon the world through this flag that here is the salvation of souls, equality, no superiority or inferiority, no partiality but equality. It has a universal love and unity.

Gentlemen, the Recreation Club Institute has been entrusted to convey the great message of Islam in the world, wherein the message of the Ismaili flag is also incorporated, therefore, we have quite reasonably decided to get it unfurled with the hands of its President. Hence, this flag will promulgate the holy message, which is assigned to the Recreation Club, and also spread its aims explicitly in the community and the community may also begin to work ahead in accordance with the objective of our beloved Lord.

Gentlemen, we pray from the merciful Lord that as we jamat has been assigned a unique credit of unfurling the flag, likewise he may also make us capable to retain its prestige. We are thankful with the core of hearts to Kader Hussain Merali Manji, Jafar Kassim Visram, Jafar Ali Juma Jan Muhammad, Ghulam Hussain Dariyaquli Haji, Merali Pirbhai, Hussain Karim, Ghulam Ali Merali, Ali Mohammad Ghulam Hussain, Karim Nazar Ali, Ghulam Hussain Jafar and Abdul Hussain Yaqub Ali for taking pain in making this programme successful.

Gentlemen, I have taken your much time and apologize with heart. Before concluding my speech, it will be appropriate to say the reason why this honorable task has been determined on today? You all must know that today is the holy day of Eid-i Ghadir. Today, while returning from Mecca after performing farewell pilgrimage, our holy Prophet had publicly declared Ali Murtza (spiritually) his equal and imparted the great teachings of Ismailism regarding an equality of Ali and the Prophet. It is a holy day when it was trumpeted in public to the Ismaili Imamate for the welfare and prosperity of the world. It is a blessed day when the successor of the Prophet was declared with an objective that no distinction in Islam would occur in future. Islam succeeded on this memorable day and the legitimate got his rights, inviting towards the true path, and Islam became perfect. On such great and holy day, the flag of Mawla Murtza Ali was flown, and similarly we also flutter the flag on that very day, which may become prosperous to the Ismailis and translate our dreams of prosperity.

Now, Major! I humbly request you on behalf of our Thana jamat to unfurl the Ismaili flag on this occasion of Eid-i Ghadir, which is a hope of our community, our pride and our dream of prosperity and add a brick in the foundation of future sovereignty.

1) Wazir Kassim Ali Fateh Ali was born in 1896. He was a renowned figure in Thana jamat. He served as a Kamadia, then a Mukhi of Thana Jamatkhana. He also rendered his valuable services to the Thana Local Council as a President for 18 years. He was also an Employment Secretary (1938-1942), Honorary Secretary (1944-1945) and Chief Secretary (1945-1946) of Recreation Club Institute. He was the Chairman of the Aga Khan Legion Executive Committee for 2 years, and also worked as a member of the Aga Khan Platinum Jubilee Committee. In appreciation of his outstanding services, he was bestowed with the title of Wazir. He was also a good orator and writer and a famous sportsman. He was expert also in playing the harmonium. He died on June 25, 1978 at the age of 82 years in Thana.

2) Thana, primarily a residential suburb as well as an agricultural hinterland of Bombay, is situated as a district in Maharashtra State at the mouth of the Thana River on western India. The district is spread in 3658 sq. miles and is bounded by the Arabian Sea on western side, and the Sahyadri Hills of the Western Ghats, about 22 miles from Bombay. The word "thana" means military checkpoint, garrision or military post. In earliest times it was a capital of a large kingdom. It was also visited by Marco Polo in 1298, and in the 16th century, it became a Portuguese settlement. It was taken by the Maratha in 1739. In 1775, the British forestalled a Portuguese attempt to recapture it by taking after a siege of three days. On March 6, 1775, it was ceded with the island of Salsette to Great Britain by the treaty of Surat. The English church here was consecrated by Bishop Beber in 1825.

3) In 1777 A.D., the ruler of Kutchh was Maharajadhiraja Mirza Maharao Sri Ghodaji II (1760-1778), and the eight Ismaili families most possibly emigrated to Thana during the rule of Maharajadhiraja M.M. Sri Rayadhan III (1778-1813).

4) The term "peshwa" is a Persian, meaning "foremost" and was introduced in Deccan by the Muslim rulers. After his coronation as a Maratha ruler (chhatrapati) in 1674, Shivaji appointed Moropant Pingle as a Peshwa (or prime minister). It was Bajirao (1720-1740), who virtually made the peshwaship hereditary in the Bhat family.

5) There is also a fertile track of 8 acres, called Wadi, situated at Agra Road, Thana.


Courtesy : The weekly "Ismaili" (Bombay, 26th June, & 3rd July 1927)

C. APPENDIX II: Biography of Huzur Wazir Macklai

Brief Biography of Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Rehmatullah Macklai

Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Rehmatullah Macklai, the son of Rehmatullah Mulji Macklai was born in Kera, Kutchh in 1894. He matriculated in Bombay in 1909 and joined his father's business in 1913, and became one of the most famous broker managers of Finance and Bullion Exchange in Bombay.

His career in the field of community service started when he joined the Ismaili Dharmic Library as a member in 1912, and then became its Hon. Secretary with Dr. Ali Muhammad Nasser Karamsey as the President. The Central Board of Mission of Bombay also came into existence in 1912 with his untiring efforts, which was transformed into the Recreation Club. The name of the Recreation Club changed into the Recreation Club Institute on February 10, 1921, and he became its first President with Alijah Hasan Lalji Devraj as its Chief Secretary.

Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah also appointed him the Honorary Major of the H.H. The Aga Khan Young Volunteer Corps, Bombay on March 14, 1924. The British India also made him J.P. in 1926, and then the Honorary Magistrate.

Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Rehmatullah Macklai had a privilege for hoisting the Ismaili Flag for the first time on the Indian soil in Thana Jamatkhana on June 19, 1927.

He had visited Europe and United States for the first time for five months in 1930 and got unique chance to see the Imam on several occasions in Europe.

He was the founder President of Islamic Research Association in 1933, and the Ismaili Society in 1946. He was also made the Private Secretary of the Imam and Mata Salamat during the Golden Jubilee in 1936. He was also the first President of The Aga Khan Legion in 1940.

In appreciation of his long and outstanding services, the Imam granted him the unique title of Huzur Wazir and Commander-in-Chief. He was also appointed the World Head of the Ismailia Associations of the world.

In sum, he had rendered his services for 40 years with the Recreation Club Institute and the Ismailia Associations of the world till 1954, and retired.

He died on Wednesday, July 21, 1971 in Bombay at the age of 77 years. In his message, the Imam said, "Wazir Macklai's devoted services to the jamat will always be remembered by my jamat and by myself and will be deeply missed by all."

D. APPENDIX III: Shah and Pir - its Meaning

The two terms, mustaqar Imam and mustawda Imam, are in application in the Ismaili theories to denote the types of the Imam, which have come from the following Koranic verse:-

"It is He Who produced (ansha'a) you from one living soul, and then (there is) a lodging place (mustaqar), and then a repository (mustawda). Indeed, We made plain the signs for a people who understand" (6:98)

The famous commentator Baidawi (d. 1286) writes in his "Anwar al-tanzil wa-Asrar al-tawil" (1st vol., p. 303) that the word mustaqar in the above verse means the man's backbone (sulb, pl. aslab), believed to be the "lodging place" of the sperm, while the word mustawda means the repository of the sperm in the female, i.e., the womb (rahim). Abu Hayyan (d. 1344) also comments in his "al-Bahr al-Muhit" that, "Mustaqar and Mustawda are explained here as meaning the loins of the father and the womb of the mother, as standing for the male and the female."

Hence, the mustaqar is considered to be the male, whereas the mustawda is reckoned as the female. As the female receives the sperm from the male, the mustawda Imam receives knowledge from the mustaqar Imam. The latter is the lodging place of the divine knowledge. The God's knowledge settles (tastaqirru, a verb from which the noun of place mustaqar is derived) and dwells (tuqimu) in the person of the Imam. He thus becomes the mustaqar of God's knowledge, i.e., the place in which God's knowledge has settled. This mustaqar Imam is sometimes called muqam. This word is a noun of place from the verb aqama (to dwell). It means therefore, the place where God's knowledge dwells (tuqimu).

The mustaqar is the term, derived from the Holy Koran (vide 2:34, 6:66, 98 and 7:23), applied to the regular and permanent Imam, occupying his proper place in the chain of succession, as opposed to mustawda, i.e., temporarily entrusted.

The term mustawda is derived from the verb istawda, meaning the leaving in custody. This term is also seen in the tradition that, "Verily, Hussain bin Ali, leaving for Iraq, entrusted the book and his will (istawda al-kitab wa'l wasiyya) to Umm Salma, the widow of the Prophet, and when Imam Zayn al-Abidin returned to Medina, she handed these over to him." (al-Kafi, 1st vol., p. 149).

In sum, the office of the mustaqar Imam is a permanent and hereditary, while that of mustawda Imam is temporary and not hereditary. Contrary to the mustaqar Imam, the mustawda Imam does not possess pontifical authority, he cannot transfer his office to any one else, he retains his position only temporarily.

The former is also symbolized as the sun, father and day. The latter is symbolized as the moon, mother and night. In other words, the mustaqar Imam's nature is hot like a sun, father or day, while that of the mustawda Imam is cool like a moon, mother or night. That is why the terms jalali and jamali are also used for mustaqar and mustawda Imams respectively. The mustaqar Imam can hold both offices at one time.

Likewise, Ali bin Abu Talib held two offices, i.e., mustaqar and mustawda. His office of mustaqar remained with his son Hussain and his progeny for ever, while the office of mustawda was governed temporarily by his another son Hasan, who in no circumstances could transfer his office to his own posterity.

Historically, it must be known that Hasan was 37 years old when his father fell at the hands of the assassin at Kufa in 661. Qais bin Sa'd was the first to swear allegiance (bayt) to Hasan on the day when Ali bin Abu Talib died, and it was followed by 40,000 Kufans, acclaiming him as the fifth caliph. Tabari (2nd vol., p. 5) writes that the oath of allegiance takeb by those present stipulated that, "They should make war on those who were at war with Hasan, and should live in peace with those who were at peace with Hasan." It sharply suggests that the oath sworn by the Kufans was purely political, and nothing to do with the succession to the Imamate. It was absolutely a temporal pledge of allegiance (bayt) to raise Hasan on power against Muawiya, but due to the disloyalty of the Kufans, he made a peace treaty and abdicated the power in favour of Muawiya. Granted that it was a religious pledge relating to the Imamate which had brought Hasan on power, then it will definitely mean that Hasan also transfer it to Muawiya, which is quite impossible.

The extant sources specify the causes of Hasan's renunciation as love for peace, distaste for politics and its dissensions, and the desire to avoid widespread massacre among the Muslims.He relinquished the power in 661 after ruling for 6 months and 3 days and the year of his abdication became known as the "year of the community" (am al-jama'a). Tabari (2nd vol., p. 199) quotes a tradition attributed to the Prophet, who is reported as saying: "This son of mine is a Lord (sayed) and he will unite the two branches of the Muslims."

Hatim bin Imran bin Zahra (d. 1104) writes in his epistle, "al-Usul wa'l Ahkam" that, "After him (Ali bin Abu Talib), his son al-Hasan undertook the affairs (al-amr); he was the Trustee (mustawda) Imam, and lived 47 years. Then after him came his brother al-Husayn; he was the Permanent (mustaqar) Imam." It is stated as well by several other scholars, such as al-Khattab bin Hasan (d. 1138) in "Ghayat al-Mawalid" (p. 35) and Ali bin Muhammad bin al-Walid (d. 1215) in "Risalat al-Idah" (p. 139), and "Tuhfat al-Murtad" (p. 168). This is furhter echoed in the Ismaili poem, "ash-Shafiya" (pp. 146-49, 221) attributed to Abu Firas that, "And the Pure Foundation of Religion (Ali bin Abu Talib) passed away, conveying the affair (al-amr) to al-Husayn. He conveyed the outward knowledge and the religion to al-Hasan, who with trusteeship was endowed." According to "The Encyclopaedia of Islam" (Leiden, 1971, 3rd vol., p. 1167), "Deviations from the strictly linear descendance in the succession to the Imamate were often explained in terms of a depositary (mustawda) Imamate which had to be returned to the line of permanent (mustaqar) Imams. Thus al-Hasan was sometimes considered as a depositary Imam, since the Imamate was carried on among the descendants of al-Husayn, the mustaqar Imam." Shaykh Radi al-Yasin writes in his "Sulh al-Hasan" (Qum, 1998, pp. 31-2) that when Ali bin Abu Talib was about to die, he entrusted al-Hasan and said, "My son, you are the trustee of authority and of blood."

Hussain was thus mustaqar Imam, who sacrificed his life for the cause of Islam; and Hasan was mustawda Imam, who abdicated the temporal power for restoring peace for the cause of Islam.

The Indian Ismaili Pirs further equated the term shah for the mustaqar and pir or hujjat for mustawda. The Imam exists in every age to guide his followers and that Imam was and is necessarily the mustaqar in the progeny of Imam Hussain, and he can also command at one time the office of the mustawda or the pir. Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah said in a message of January 11, 1953 that, "……and at present there is no independent Pir. I myself holding this position."

Hence, Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah held both offices of Shah (Imam) and Pir. He died on July 11, 1957 at Geneva, and bequeathed the offices of Shah and Pir (i.e., the offices of mustaqar and mustawda) to his grandson, Karim as per his Will which reads:

"I appoint my grandson Karim, the son of my own son, Aly Salomone Khan to succeed to the title of Aga Khan and to the (offices of ) IMAM and PIR of all Shia Ismailian followers."

Accordingly, the present Hazar Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims holds the offices of Shah and Pir, and as we have discussed already, that the former position explicitly symbolizes the father and the latter as mother. That is why, Mawlana Hazar Imam generally blesses his followers with the terms: "Paternal (mustaqar) Maternal (mustawda) Loving Blessings."

The red colour is the very symbol of the office of shah (or the mustaqar), and in its contrast, the green colour stands as the office of the pir (or the mustawda). In the light of the theory of the terms mustaqar (shah) and mustawda (pir or hujjat), Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah sent his message to Dr. Pir Muhammad Hoodbhoy (1905-1956) in reply to his letter, asking an interpretation of red and green colours of the Ismaili flag. The Imam sent the following message, sounding the terminologies of Indian tradition of shah and pir for mustaqar and mustawda :-

16th October, 1954

My dear Hoodbhoy,

In reply to your letter of 8th October, the colours of our family are, as you know, red and green, the reason being that we represent both (offices of) the Shah and the Peer.

The Shah was Hussein, the Peer was Hasan. Hasan had the Peer's colour of green, but Hussein's martyrdom was so enormous in events and was so opposed to even the smallest laws of war that the colour of his Holy Blood, namely red, was accepted with the green of the Prophet's Flag as a souvenir and remembrance of that terrible day.

It infers from above discussion that the GREEN COLOUR symbolizes peace and RED COLOUR is an indicative of sacrifice, therefore, both peace and sacrifice of all means and materials in the world, are the very messages of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, broadcasting through the channel of their historical colours of the flag.