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Shi'ite Religious Flags (Iraq)

Last modified: 2022-12-17 by ian macdonald
Keywords: islam | shi'a | shi'ite | kerbala |
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Religious Flags at Karbala

Spanish Television mentioned yesterday that shortly before the outbreak of the war, a team of theirs working in Iraq had made a long report on the Shi'ite holy city of Kerbala (currently under siege), where the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Husayn is buried. The Shrine of Imam Husayn, a large and highly decorated mosque was shown, flying a large, plain red flag from the top of the highest dome. No other flags were visible over the Shrine. However, another page on Kerbala [no longer on-line] shows a white flag with a black inscription that appears to be a Shahada (Muslim creed), and the caption, "Long live the banner of Islam which was saved by the holy blood of the Martyrs in Kerbala."
Santiago Dotor
, 03 April 2003

Lots of green, red, black, blue and white flags on the Shi'ite march to Karbala.
Francisco Santos
, 21 April 2003

Holy Shrine of Imam Ali

[Holy Shrine of Imam Ali (Iraq)] image located by Bill Garrison, 25 November 2019

Caption: Atop Mt. Kilimanjaro (in Tanzania) a group of Shiite Muslim mountain climbers raise a flag honoring Shiite Imam Ali previously flown at the "Holy Shrine of Imam Ali" located in Najaf, Iraq; , c. July 2016
Bill Garrison, 25 November 2019

Eid al-Ghadir

[Eid al-Ghadir (Iraq)] image located by Bill Garrison, 25 November 2019

Caption: A flag is raised at Shiite Imam Ali's shrine in Najaf, Iraq, on the occasion of Eid-e-Ghadeer. Eid al-Ghadir is a Shia feast, and is considered to be among the "significant" feasts of Shia Islam. The Eid is held on 18 Dhu Al-Hijjah at the time when the Islamic prophet Muhammad was said to have appointed Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor. [an annual event]
Bill Garrison, 25 November 2019

[Eid al-Ghadir (Iraq)] [Eid al-Ghadir (Iraq)] images located by Bill Garrison, 2 September 2022

As the auspicious occasion of "Eid Al-Ghadir" is approaching, in a ceremony in Najaf, Iraq, the flag of Ghadir was raised on the dome of Shia-Muslim Imam Ali (AS) holy-shrine mausoleum. On the flag is written "Man Kunto Mawlah Fahaza Aliun Mawlah" ["Whomever I am his Mawla (master) then 'Ali is his Mawla (master)"]; c. 15 July 2022.
Bill Garrison, 2 September 2022

Since the "مهرجان الغدير الدولي" (English: Al Ghadeer International Festival) is organized by the Badr Organization and Alghadeer TV (a tv channel owned by the former), we should include these attachments in the "Shi'ite Religious Flags" section. It was first held in 2007. It is one of the biggest annual festivals of the media, in which some personalities, institutions, satellite channels, radio stations, etc.

It seems either there are flags for each festival or different variants with no relation one to another design-wise.

For additional information go to Al Ghadeer International Festival (official website):
Esteban Rivera, 2 September 2022

Imam Hussein's martyrdom

[Imam Hussein's martyrdom (Iraq)] image located by Bill Garrison, 25 November 2019

Caption: Shiite Muslims walking toward Shiite Imam Hussein's shrine on 40th day of his martyrdom (Arbaeen) from Najaf, Iraq to Karbala, Iraq. [an annual event]
Bill Garrison, 25 November 2019


Qamar Bani Hashim Flag

[Imam Hussein's martyrdom (Iraq)] image located by Bill Garrison, 27 February 2021


Caption: a red/white "Qamar Bani Hashim" flag; c. Sept. 2017. A Shiite-Muslim flag with the slogan: "Ya Qamar Bani Hashim", which implores that the spirit of "Qamar Bani Hashim" hear the pleas of oppressed Shiite Muslims and ask Allah for his support in their defense. "Qamar Bani Hashim" is also known as "Al-Abbas ibn Ali ibn Abi Talib" and "Abu al-Fadhl", and was a son of Ali (who was the first Shia Imam and the fourth Caliph of Sunni Muslims). Abbas/Qamar was killed c. Oct. 680 CE at the Battle of Karbala where he served as the flag carrier for Imam Hussain. He is buried in Karbala, Iraq. In Dec. 2020 it was revealed that Iran had established a new Popular Mobilization Force (Arabic: الحشد الشعبي‎ ... al-Ḥashd ash-Shaʿbī) militia called "Qamar Bani Hashim" in the village of Hatla in eastern Syria; the militia is comprised mainly of Iranian and Afghani fighters and Syrian residents who have adopted Shi'ism.
Bill Garrison, 27 February 2021

Other Shi'ite Religious Flags

An incident in Baghdad reported in the Washington Post of August 14, 2003, ("Flag Is Flash Point In A Baghdad Slum: Perceived Insult Ignites Anti-U.S. Unrest," by Anthony Shadid, p. 11) has some interesting information on religious flags displayed by Iraqi Shi'ites. The August 13 incident arose when a U.S. military helicopter knocked down a flag that Shi'ites had placed on a transmission tower in Sadr City (formerly Saddam City), the huge, Shi'ite populated slum in Baghdad. US commanders have apologized for the incident, which led to the killing of one Iraqi. The article mentions the following flags:

  • "... black flag that fluttered atop the tower, inscribed in white letters with the name of one of Shiite Islam's most revered figures."
  • "... this is our faith. This flag, it represents our faith."
  • "Footage of the incident aired by the satellite news channel Al- Arabiya clearly showed a helicopter hovering for several seconds near the flag, which bore an inscription of a 9th Century descendant of the prophet Muhammad known as the Mahdi."
  • "Within hours, youths had climbed the transmission tower, bedecking it in red, green, white and black flags, colors symbolic of suffering and martyrdom and resonant in Shiite Islam. Most bore the inscription of the Mahdi, and youths waved the flags past sunset."
Comment: The Mahdi ("guided one") in this context is Muhammad al- Muntazar (meaning "the Expected One"), the 12th and last of the imams recognized by mainstream Shi'a Islam. He is also referred to the "hidden imam" and the "lord of the age." An eleventh generation descendant of the prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima and her husband Ali, Muhammad al-Muntazar is said to have disappeared in A.D. 878 into the cave above which the great mosque of Samarra now stands. Shi'a faithful believe he is still hiding in the cave and will return in the final days to restore true Islam and spread the faith to the entire world. It is not clear from the news report exactly what the inscription on the flag said, whether just the name or one or more of the Mahdi's titles as well.
Joseph McMillan, 15 August 2003

Shia Battle Flags

[Shia Battle Flag (Iraq)] image by Eugene Ipavec, 23 Nov 2010

A flag sold on Ebay. The seller claims that his army team discovered that this fabric-banner was used as a 'battle flag' by the Iraqi-Shia-cleric 'Sadr Army' uprising against the U.S.-led military occupation forces in Iraq. True, M. Sadr (a young Shia religious-political leader friendly with the Iranian fundamentalist government) was also rebelling against the Shia-lead government of Iraq.

Anyway, this fabric item isn't so much of a 'flag' as it is a portion cut from a long bolt of cloth with a repeating religious design. While I don't read Arabic, from my other insights, this design appears to honor the tomb-shrine of the major Shia 'saint': Imam Hussain/Husayin -- who was killed at the battle of Kerbala/Karbala about 730 C.E. Perhaps this American soldier/unit tore it off of some makeshift flagpole, or perhaps merely ripped it down off some wall (because there appear to be tear marks in the upper left & right corners of this item). Anyway, some Shia militiaman might have just grabbed this (or any) religious fabric and made an impromptu "flag."
Bill Garrison
, 23 Nov 2010

[Shia Battle Flag (Iraq)] image by Eugene Ipavec, 12 Dec 2010

A flag sold on Ebay. The seller claims his U.S. Army unit captured it during some battle/raid involving Shia militants who were opposing the U.S.-led military 'occupation' of Iraq. As I mentioned in an earlier email, this piece of fabric contains some slogans honoring (most likely) some Shia religious figure (saint), such as their Imam Hussain/Husyain (depending upon your preferred spelling of Arabic words). Interesting, this fabric/flag uses 3 different styles or script of Arabic. Normally, this fabric comes from a bolt of cloth (as in making a dress, etc.), from which you cut off the portion you want -- to hang in a mosque or at home. I'm not too sure how 'picky' you want to be in defining what a 'flag' is; if a piece of design-cloth is carried/waved by a militiaman does it make the fabric a 'flag'? I suppose some enthusiastic militant could have torn this down off a wall and tacked it to some makeshift flag-pole to taunt the soldiers.
Bill Garrison, 23 Nov 2010

Popular Mobilization Militia Unit

[Shia Battle Flag (Iraq)] image located by Bill Garrison, 18 October 2017

Flag, Iraq, Shia Muslim, Popular Mobilization Militia Unit, outside Kirkuk, c. Oct. 2017. Several different flags are shown. I believe that neither white flag refers to a specific militia unit, but is a generic Shiite Muslim flag that can be used in many different Shia religious parades. In general, these religious-oriented flags are beseeching Shia martyr Imam Husain/Hussein (killed at "Battle of Karbala/Kerbala") to help some Shiite cause in overcoming some adversary.
Bill Garrison, 18 October 2017

[Shia Battle Flag (Iraq)] image located by Bill Garrison, 3 September 2021

Iraqi Shiite militants wave flags near the town of Jurf al-Sakhr, Iraq on 30 October 2014. I believe the top green flag shows Hazrat Abbas, the left black one shows Imam Husain, while I cannot translate the yellow one.
Bill Garrison, 3 September 2021

Imam Hussain/Hussein, Ashura memorial ceremony

[Ashura memorial ceremony Flag (Iraq)] image located by Bill Garrison,, 11 November 2019

Caption: BAGHDAD, IRAQ: An Iraqi Shiite Muslim fixes a huge black flag beside colorful ones in a street of Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Kazemiya 22 February 2004. Muslim Shiites in Iraq started preparations to mark Ashura, the day when Imam al-Hussein, grandson of Prophet Mohammed was killed in Karbala, 100 kms south of Baghdad, in 680 AD. The Shiites will freely mark Ashura 02 March 2004 for the first time since the ouster of Saddam Hussein. AFP PHOTO/Marwan NAAMANI (Photo credit should read MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP via Getty Images)

The middle line reads: "Ya, Hussain" or "Oh, Hussain", which is an appeal to Shia religious martyr Imam Hussain (sometimes spelled "al-Hussein" depending upon Arabic or Farsi) to come to the assistance of oppressed Shiite Muslims.

Bill Garrison
, 11 November 2019

[Ashura memorial ceremony Flag (Iraq)] image located by Bill Garrison, 3 September 2021


A Shiite flag depicting the Muslim Prophet Mohammed's cousin Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (center) and his two sons Imam Hussein/Husain (right) and his brother, Abbas (left with the hat feathers), near Baghdad on the way towards the central holy Iraqi city of Karbala on October 26, 2018, ahead of the Arbaeen religious festival which marks the 40th day after Ashura, which commemorates the seventh century killing and martyrdom of the revered Imam Hussein/Husain. (Photo by Ahmad AL-RUBAYE / AFP) (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images)
Bill Garrison, 3 September 2021

[Imam Husain Flag (Iraq)] image located by Bill Garrison, 3 September 2021


A Shiite-Muslim religious flag depicting Imam Husain/Hussein; c. Jan. 2011 near Karbala, Iraq.
Bill Garrison, 3 September 2021

[Imam Husain Flag (Iraq)] image located by Bill Garrison, 23 February 2022

There are two flags (with the Iraq national flag in the middle) that appear to be related to the [Shia-Muslim] "Imam Hussein Holy Shrine" at a conference on March 28, 2017 at the Karbala, Iraq shrine. The red flag appears to show a yellow logo of the shrine, while the green flag has a "khamsa" or "hamza" (hand logo) of the Husayn/Hussain family. The "Imam Husayn Shrine" or the "Place of Imam Husayn ibn Ali" ( Maqām al-ʾImām al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAlīy) .
Bill Garrison, 23 February 2022

Twelver Shiites

[Twelver Shiites Flag (Iraq)] image located by Bill Garrison, 16 November 2019/p>

Flag, Iraq, Shia Muslim militia. A Shia flag atop an Iraq army MRAP vehicle on Tel Keppe frontline; Oct. 30, 2016.
Bill Garrison, 16 November 2019

[Twelver Shiites Flag (Iraq)] image located by Bill Garrison, 16 November 2019

Similar poster showing the 12 imams of the "Twelver Shiites" in a V-shape row.
Bill Garrison, 16 November 2019

Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary militia force

[Shia Battle Flag (Iraq)] image located by Bill Garrison, 27 July 2021

From, caption: white-field flag with orange trim and slogan with "bleeding sword" image --- usually associated with Shia-Muslims. Seen in Baghdad, Iraq; 4 Jan. 2020 during funeral procession for assassinated Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani. Possibly affiliated with Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary militia force.
Bill Garrison, 27 July 2021

Ya Husain flag

[Ya Husain Flag (Iraq)] image located by Bill Garrison, 3 September 2021

From The red slogan on the flag reads "Ya Husain" ["Oh, Husain"], which is an appeal that he intercede favorably with the flag holder. He was the third Shia Imam, and who was martyred in Karbala, Iraq c. Oct. 680 CE. The faintly readable wording above "Ya Husain" is a famous hadith of Prophet Muhammad that reads: "Inn al-Husain misbahul-huda wa safinatun-najat" that symbolically means that "Husain is the lighthouse of Islamic guidance for the lost ships [souls} and he is their rescue ship."
Bill Garrison, 3 September 2021

See also: Yā Hussain flag in Iran

Al-Abbas flag

[Abbas Flag (Iraq)] image located by Bill Garrison, 3 September 2021

A red-field religious flag carried my Shiite-Muslims throughout the Middle East. The yellow-green slogan on the flag reads: "Ya Abal-Fazl Al-Abbas". Above "Abbas" there is a barely discernable slogan that reads: "Qamar Bani-Hashim". "Qamar Bani-Hashim" means "Moon of Bani-Hashim Tribe" near Quraish/Mecca, Saudi Arabia. In Arabic literature a "handsome man" is called "Qamar". The "Man in the Moon" expression symbolizes a beautiful face. In Shiite theology, al-Abbas was known as having a beautiful face, hence, his having the nickname of "Qamar". Al-Abbas was the brother of the third Shiite Imam Husain/Hussein, and al-Abbas was the flag bearer of Husain's army at the Battle of Karbala -- where both were martyred (c. 680 CE). Essentially, this flag is an appeal by its carrier asking al-Abbas to spiritually intervene in supporting the Shiite flag bearer's cause in overcoming some disorder.
Bill Garrison, 3 September 2021

Sadiq Al-Sadr martyr flag

[Sadiq Al-Sadr martyr flag] image located by Bill Garrison, 13 November 2022

A white-field flag with a facial drawing of Sayyid "Mohammad Mohammed Sadiq Al-Sadr" (or 'Sadir'} {b. 1943 - d. 1999}. He was a Grand Ayatollah for Shia-Muslims in Iraq. During the reign of Iraq Pres. Saddam Hussein (dictator: 1979-2003, and a Sunni-Muslim), Sadiq called for government reform and asked for the release of detained Shia leaders. Saddam saw Sadiq as a potential political threat, and allegedly had a "hit squad" assassinate Sadiq and two of his sons on 23 March 1999. His youngest son, "Muqtada al-Sadr" survived, (b. 1974) would oppose the U.S. intervention in Iraq (c. 2003-2011) and later (c.2018-2022) was an influential political leader in Baghdad. Below his portrait his name "Sadr" {in Arabic} appears, and the red lettering reads: "the honor of the Arabs." This flag was paraded on March 9, 2022 to denounce rising prices of basic food items in Al-Haboby/Al-Habboubi Square in the center of the city of Nasiriyah in the southern Dhi Qar province of Iraq. While the flag honors Sadiq Al-Sadr and is more of a religious Shia-Muslim flag, here it is being used as a "protest" flag against an ineffective government.
Bill Garrison, 13 November 2022

Miscellaneous unidentified Shia flags

An article in the Independent contains a slide show with several flags with Shia connections:
David Phillips, 11 June 2016

The images below were seen at the attack on Mosul:

[Shia Battle Flag (Iraq)] image located by Esteban Rivera, 8 November 2016

[Shia Battle Flag (Iraq)] image located by Esteban Rivera, 8 November 2016

[Shia Battle Flag (Iraq)] image located by Esteban Rivera, 8 November 2016

[Shia Battle Flag (Iraq)] image located by Esteban Rivera, 8 November 2016

[Shia Battle Flag (Iraq)] image located by Esteban Rivera, 8 November 2016

This set of pictures takes place during the Battle of Mosul (2016), which was preceded by the Mosul Offensive (2016) in which multiple parties take place (Sunni, Shiite, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians) as well as a multi national coalition (
Esteban Rivera, 8 November 2016

There are many different Shia-religious flags that are paraded around by Shia/Shiite-Muslims. Today there are hundreds of them, usually with just slightly different images of their main imam/saint: Imam Hussein ibn Ali. The artwork of these flags is limited only by the creativity and imagination of Shia artists. Hence, I am somewhat reluctant to submit any more of their religious flags, but their artistry is interesting.
Bill Garrison, 12 September 2022

[Shia Flag (Iraq)] image located by Bill Garrison, 12 September 2022

From, a black-field flag bearing an image of the Shia-Muslim Imam Hussein bin Ali [with the Arabic slogan "Yalatharat al-Hussein" ("Those who want to avenge the blood of Hussein")] carried while en route to Karbala, Iraq from Nasiriyah in Iraq's southern Dhi Qar province on Sept. 5, 2022, ahead of the religious holiday of "Arbaeen". The holy day commemorates the 40th day after the "Day of Ashura": the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. 2022 is the first year since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic that Shiite pilgrims can enter Iraq in large numbers and without restrictions. Its impact/importance: About 5 million pilgrims have entered Iraq so far [early Sept. 2022], and the number is rising significantly. The Iranian Interior Ministry announced that all borders with Iraq were closed today [9 Sept 2022] and called on Iranians to refrain from traveling to Iraq due to Iraq's inability to receive any more pilgrims. It also called on all Iranian pilgrims inside Iraq to return to Iran as soon as they finish the ceremony to open space for others to attend.
Bill Garrison, 12 S