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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

MY DEAR HOODBHOY,

IN REPLY TO YOUR LETTER OF 8TH OCTOBER, THE COLOURS OF OUR FAMILY ARE, AS YOU KINOW, RED AND GREEN, THE REASON BEING THAT WE REPRESENT BOTH THE (OFFICES OF) 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.

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.


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