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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.


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