Islam is, arguably, one of the most controversial and misunderstood religions in the world. For this reason, I picked Islam symbols, their meaning, and a couple of other Middle East charms for this week’s special #FriFotos post. I hope this photo essay sheds some light on this fascinating region and their culture. Let me know if you learned something new today!
Islam Symbols and Their Meaning
Neither Prophet Mohammed (puh) nor The Quran describe or mention any Islam symbols or colors. What’s more? Mohammed actually warned against such “Holy Symbols,” as they could easily turn believers to idolatry. Thus, the Islamic symbols described below are simply representations of several Muslim artists, troops, and other believers throughout the centuries (Wikipedia). As such, they should be interpreted as symbols of Islamic identity and Muslim brotherhood–nothing more, nothing less.
In my opinion, the most contradictory Islamic symbol is the Kaaba. Meaning “cube” in Arabic, millions of believers around the world pray daily, 5 times a day, towards its location in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Also, during pilgrimage (Hajj), the dream of every Muslim is to touch its velvety exterior.
Infidels (nonbelievers of Islam) could easily identify these actions and love for the Kaaba as idolatry in itself. Personally, I draw an analogy between the Kaaba and what Virgin Mary means to several Catholics: it’s not idolatry, it’s simply veneration. Although I’m sure followers of either religion might politely disagree with me.
Another fascinating fact about the Kaaba is that the cube and rock inside of it were symbols of other tribal gods in pre-Islamic Arabia. However, Prophet Mohammed came in after the Revelation and dedicated the entire place to Allah alone, claiming to purge all other idols.. Since then, “Kaaba” has been the holiest place (or shall we say symbol?) of Islam.
To Muslims, the color green represents nature and LIFE. And naturally so, as prophet Mohammed specified that those in Paradise will wear fine garments made of green silk (Surah 76:21). Moreover, green was the color of choice of the Prophet’s tribe and was used in flags and other symbols in Islamic conquests. For these reasons, GREEN has been associated with the religion for centuries.. As a result, this color dominates mosque decorations, sacred graves, Quran bindings, and several Muslim country flags.
The Star and the Crescent
Likewise, the star and the crescent were not meant to be Islam symbols. It was history and practice that slowly connected these heavenly bodies to the religion.
For instance, the star and the crescent have long been symbols of Southern Arabia, even before Mohammed’s first Revelation in 610 CE. They were used in their currency (“Tombs and Moon Temple of Hureidah,” Gertrude Caton Thompson, p.76). Then, in the 14th century, these symbols started to appear on navigational charts. In fact, the latter is the oldest representation of flags with the Islamic star and crescent ever found ( yet ).
Other Middle East Symbols and Charms
Allah & Arabic calligraphy: the photo below shows the word “God” in beautiful Arabic calligraphy.
Hamsa: the meaning of this quintessential hand symbol? Protection against the evil eye.
Nazar (blue eye): likewise, the blue eye charms portrayed below are the Turkish response to the Arab Hamza.
Lotus flower: in ancient Egypt, this beautiful flower represented Upper Egypt (nowadays southern Egypt, bordering Sudan). Conversely, lotus was the flower of the goddess Lilith in Mesopotamia. In fact, some mystic Jews claim that she was Adam’s first wife.