Constitution of the Caliphate State / War Department
- Category: War Department §61-69
Article 64: The Army is given banners and flags and the Head of State (the Khalifah) gives the banners to whomever he appoints to lead the Army, whereas the flags are provided by the brigadiers.
1. Al-Liwa’ (banner) and Al-Rayah (flag) – from the linguistic angle, they both mean Al-’Alam (sign) as mentioned in the Al-Muhit dictionary. The Shari’ah gave each of them, in terms of usage, a Shari’ah meaning along the following manner:
The Banner is white: written upon it La Ilaha Illa Allah, Muhammad Rasul Allah in black, which is given to the Amir or leader of the Army. It is used to identify his position, and follows the position. The evidence for attaching the banner to the Amir of the Army:
«أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ دَخَلَ مَكَّةَ يَوْمَ الْفَتْحِ وَلِوَاؤُهُ أَبْيَضُ»
“The Prophet entered Makkah on the Day of Conquest and his banner was white” reported by Ibn Maja from Jabir, and on that day the Messenger was the leader of the Army. In the same way, the Messenger of Allah used to attach the banners to the leaders of the armies that he sent out, as has been mentioned in “‘Uyun Al-Athar fi Funun Al-Maghazi Wal-Shama’il Wal-Siyar”by Imam Al-Hafiz Abi Al-Fateh who is known by the name Ibn Sayyid Al-Nas who died in 734 AH, where he stated “...on Monday, four days before Safr of the eleventh year of Hijrah, the Messenger of Allah ordered the people to prepare to fight against the Romans. When it was the next day, he called Usamah Bin Zayd, and said to him go to the place your father was killed, so prepare the horses and you are the Amir of the Army…and so when it was Wednesday the Messenger of Allah began to feel pain…then when it was Thursday he gave a white banner to Usamah, then he said go out on the expedition in the path of Allah, and fight those who disbelieved in Allah, and so he went out with the banner tied…”
The Flag is black: written upon it La Ilaha Illa Allah, Muhammad Rasul Allah in white, which is given to the heads of the divisions of the Army (brigade, unit, etc.). The evidence is that during Khaybar in his role as the leader of the Army, the Messenger said,
«لأُعْطِيَنَّ الرَّايَةَ، أَوْ لَيَأْخُذَنَّ الرَّايَةَ، غَدًا رَجُلاً يُحِبُّهُ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ، أَوْ قَالَ يُحِبُّ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ، يَفْتَحُ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ، فَإِذَا نَحْنُ بِعَلِيٍّ وَمَا نَرْجُوهُ، فَقَالُوا: هَذَا عَلِيٌّ، فَأَعْطَاهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ الرَّايَةَ، فَفَتَحَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ»
“I will give the flag tomorrow, or tomorrow the flag will be taken by a man who is loved by Allah and His Prophet , and (Khaibar) will be conquered through him, (with Allah's help)" While every one of us was hopeful to have the flag, it was said, "Here is `Ali" and the Prophet gave him the flag and Khaibar was conquered through him (with Allah's Help)” (agreed upon from Salama b. Al-Akwa’). ’Ali (ra) at that time was considered as the head of a battalion or brigade of the Army. Similarly in the narration from Al-Harith Bin Hassan Al-Bakri,
«قدمنا المدينة فإذا رسول الله على المنبر، وبلال قائم بين يديه، متقلد السيف بين يدي الرسول ، وإذا رايات سود، فسألتُ: ما هذه الرايات؟ فقالوا: عمرو بن العاص قدم من غزاة»
“We came to Madinah and saw the Prophet on the pulpit, with Bilal standing in front of him holding his sword, and there were black flags in front of the Messenger . I asked ‘What are these flags?’ They said Amr Bin Al-’Aas has just arrived from an expedition” reported by Ahmad in Al-Musnad and elsewhere, and in the report of Al-Tirmidhi from Al-Harith Bin Hassan Al-Bakri he said the wording,
قدمت المدينة فدخلت المسجد فإذا هو غاص بالناس وإذا رايات سود تخفق وإذا بلال متقلد السيف بين يدي رسول الله قلت ما شأن الناس؟ قالوا يريد أن يبعث عمرو بن العاص وجها. فمعنى «فإذا رايات سود»
“I came to Madinah, entered the Mosque and found it crowded with people, and there were black flags fluttering, and Bilal was holding a sword in front of the Prophet I said ‘What is the matter?’ They said: ‘He wants to send Amr Bin Al-’Aas to somewhere’”. The meaning of “black flags” is that there were many flags with the Army, and when the Amir of the Army was one person – and that was Amr Bin Al-’Aas, this means that they must have been with the heads of the brigades and units.
This is how the banners were attached to the Amir of the Army, and the flags with the rest of the Army, its divisions, brigades and units. Accordingly, there is a single banner and many flags for each army.
Therefore, the banners are a sign for the Amir of the Army and no one else, and the flags are signs with the soldiers.
2. The banner is attached to the Amir of the Army, and it is a sign for his position; in other words, it stays with the position of the Amir. As for during the battle, the leader of the battle, irrespective of whether it was the Amir of the Army or another leader who was appointed by the Amir of the Army, is given the flag to carry it during the fighting on the battlefield, and for this reason, it is called Umm Al-Harb (the mother of the war) since it is carried by the leader of the battle in the battlefield.
For that reason for the duration for which the war takes place, each leader of a battle has a flag, and this is an issue known at that time, and the continuation of the flying of the flag is an evidence of the strength of the leader of the battle. It is part of the administrative organisation that is required according to the customs of war.
Lamenting the deaths of Zayd, Ja’far and Ibn Rawahah, the Messenger of Allah told the people before the soldiers delivered the news
«أَخَذَ الرَّايَةَ زَيْدٌ فَأُصِيبَ، ثُمَّ أَخَذَهَا جَعْفَرٌ فَأُصِيبَ، ثُمَّ أَخَذَهَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ رَوَاحَةَ فَأُصِيبَ»
“Zayd took the flag and was martyred, so Ja’far took the flag and was martyred, and so ’Abdullah Bin Rawahah took the flag and was martyred” (reported by Al-Bukhari).
In the same manner, if the war is taking place and the leader of the Army in the battlefield is the Khalifah himself, then it is permitted for the banner to be raised in the battlefield and not simply the flag alone. It is reported in the Sirah of Ibn Hisham that in the major Badr battle, both the banner and the flag were present on the battlefield. It is reported in the Sirah “Ibn Ishaq said: and the banner was given to Mus’ab Bin ’Umayr Bin Hashim Bin ’Abd Manaf Bin ’Abd Al-Dar. Ibn Hisham said: and it was white…and Ibn Ishaq said: and there were two black flags in front of the Messenger of Allah : one with ’Ali Bin Abi Talib which was called Al-’Uqab, and the other with some of the Ansar”.
As for during times of peace, or at the end of the battle, then the flags are distributed in the Army with the divisions, brigades and units raising them…as is mentioned in the narration of Al-Harith Bin Hassan Al-Bakri regarding the Army of Amr Bin Al-’Aas.
The first banner to be tied in Islam was the banner of ’Abdullah Bin Jahsh, and a black flag with a white crescent was tied for Sa’d b. Malik. All of this indicates that it is imperative that the Army has flags and banners, and that the Khalifah is the one who assigns the banners to whomever he assigns over the Army. As for the flags, it is permitted for the Khalifah or the brigadiers to present them. The narration of Umm Salamah that the Messenger of Allah said
«لأُعْطِيَنَّ الرَّايَةَ غَداً رَجُلاً يُحِبُّ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ، وَيُحِبُّهُ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ...، فَأَعْطَاهَا عَلِيّاً»
“I will give the flag to a man who loves Allah and His Messenger, and Allah and His Messenger love him ... He gave it ’Ali” shows the permissibility of the Khalifah doing so. The permissibility of the brigadiers presenting the flags to others can be understood from the narration of Al-Harith Bin Al-Hassan Al-Bakri which mentioned
"وإذا راياتٌ سود"
“there were black flags”, since its meaning is that there were many flags with the Army while they had a single leader, which was Amr Bin Al-’Aas. Irrespective of whether they were returning from or leaving for an expedition, this means that flags were with the heads of the brigades, and there is nothing to indicate that it was the Messenger who appointed the flags to them. However, it is permitted for the Khalifah to give the brigadiers the power to give the flags to the brigade heads, and this is more appropriate for discipline, even though all of this falls under what is permitted, or in other words, Mubah.