Last modified: 2022-08-03 by ian macdonald
Keywords: bahrain | serration | zig-zag | emir |
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image by Santiago Dotor
The flag of Bahrain was initially plain red, originating from the color of the Kharidjite Muslim sect.
Jaume Ollé, 27 July 1999
The pre-1820 flag of Bahrain may well have been solid red, but I'm skeptical of any connection to the Kharijites. The Kharijites were those who withdrew their support from Muhammad's son-in-law Ali after he agreed to accept arbitration with the Umayyads over the succession to the caliphate. Their modern successors are known as Ibadi Muslims, or Ibadites. The only significant Ibadi communities are found in Oman (where they dominate), some pockets in North Africa,
and on Zanzibar as a legacy of past Omani rule there.
The population of Bahrain is predominantly Twelver Shiite, while the ruling Al-Khalifa family - which has been in power in Bahrain since the 18th century - is Sunni of the Maliki school. No Kharijites or Ibadites. It would make sense to attribute Oman's traditional all-red flag to Kharijite symbolism, but why Bahrains?
Joseph McMillan, 22 January 2004
The Ibadite dynasty of Oman dominated the Arab part of the Persian Gulf (and the African coast) in the 18th century. Bahrain was under rule of Nasr al Madhkur of Bushehr, but ca. 1750 the
Persian domination ended and Omani influence was extended in the zone. In 1783, Ahmad ben Khalifa from the Banu Utba (a tribe originating in Nejd which had moved to Kuwait and then to Zubara in Qatar) established himself in the islands and later
tried to dispute the hegemony of Muscat. For 45 years the Al Khalifa disputed supremacy with the Ibadites (1802-1847). The Al Saud family was on the side of Bahrain, but this was short lived, as the Malikite tendency of the Al Khalifa was not in agreement with the Hanbalism of Muhammad bin Abd el Wahhab. In 1820, the Al Khalifa signed an agreement with the British. Another treaty was concluded in 1914 when Bahrain was pushed fully under British control. From 1820 to 1847 the Ibadite influence decreased in the same proportion that the British increased, and ended officially in 1847. It seems that until 1820 the supreme suzerainty (at less officially) can be attributed to Muscat. (Sources: R. Algrain (Arabie), J. Aubin (Les princes d'Ormuz),
and others, quoted in Enciclopedie de l'Islam (Ibadite dynasty of Oman dominated the Arabic part of the Persian Gulf (and the African coast) in the XVIII Century.
Baharain was under rule of Nasr al Madhkur of Bushahr but c. 1750 the Persian domination finished and Omani influence was extended in the zone. In 1783 Ahmad ben Khalifa from the Banu Utba (tribe originated in Nedj, moved to Kuwait, then to Zubara in Qatar) established in the islands, and later tryed to dispute the hegemony to Mascate. During 45 years the Al Khalifa disputed the supremacy with the Ibadites (1802-1847). Al Saud was at side of Bahrein, but this was short lived, and the Malakite trend of the Al Khalifa was not in agreement with the Hambalism of Muhammad ben Abd el Wahhab. In 1820 Al Khalifa signed an agreement with British. More treaties, later, finished in 1914 when Bahrain was push fully under British control. From 1820 to 1847 the Ibadite influence decreased in same proportion that increased the british one, and finished officially in 1847. Seems that until 1820 the supreme sovereignty (at less officially) can be attribued to Mascate.
Source: R. Algrain (Arabie), J. Aubin (Les princes d'Ormuz), and others,mquoted in Enciclopedie de l'Islam, Vol I, pages 971 and 1973.
Jaume Ollé, 22 January 2004
image by Santiago Dotor
In 1820, following the General Maritime Treaty with Britain, a vertical white stripe symbolizing the truce was added at hoist (but de facto the plain red flag remained in use until 1910).
Jaume Ollé, 27 July 1999
The part describing the red part of the Bahraini flag to be Kharajites or Khawarij is incorrect. I'm unsure about the flag being solid red before representing that, but I'm certain the red in the flag now represents the blood of wars. There used to be 7 points on the flag representing the 7 wars that Bahrain had, and the red was the blood of those wars. The flag is widely regarded as the Al Khalifa (royal family) flag as they were the warriors that took Bahrain out of the Persian rule.
In the Arabic version of Wikipedia (https://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/) they do mention that an alternate explanation is the battles fought (in relation to the "blood" in the message sent.
May AlKhalifa, 24 November 2018
image by Ivan Sache and Eugene Ipavec, 16 March 2001 and 06 March 2012
In 1933, to distinguish the flag from other flags in the area (current Ajman and Dubai flags, ancient Abu Dhabi flag) the stripe was serrated [i.e. limited with a zig-zag border]. The
specific meaning of the serration is unknown. The serration was made of 28 triangles. Proportion of the flag was 9:13.
Source: Flaggenbuch [neu92]
Jaume Ollé, Nozomi Kariyasu and Ivan Sache, 16 March 2001
I found some documents in the Qatar Digital Library with new information on Bahrain's flag history.
The first is a letter from 28 June 1930, which describes the state flag of Bahrain as "red with quarter width serrated white band" two years before the 1932 adoption date given on FOTW. The letter also says that the Sheikh's standard was "introduced about six years ago" (i.e. around 1924). Since the standard is based on the state flag, it's probably reasonable to assume that the serrated version of the state flag is even older than that. (source)
The second is a copy of a flag proclamation from 5 October 1950. The flag described is an exact match for 1972-2002 flag on FOTW. Full text quoted below:
The Bahrain FlagIn other words, the correct dates for this version of the flag should be 1950-2002.
The Bahrain Flag is made up of two colours, scarlet and white, the white portion, which is narrower, runs parallel to the mast. The edge between the red and the white sections may be straight or serrated, and in the latter case there should be eight teeth, as shown in fig. 1.
If the length of the flag is 5 feet; the width should be 3 feet; and the width of the white section from the mast 1 foot. (source).
images by Željko Heimer
The flag was adopted on 19 August 1972.
Sources: Album des Pavillons [pay00 and W. Smith [smi80]
Željko Heimer, date unknown