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Islam symbols, their meaning, and other Middle East charms

Islam symbols, Kaaba

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, Mecca Great Mosque

“The Great Mosque (Al Haram Al Sharif) surrounding the ‘kaaba’, or the ‘Cube’, the place towards where hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world pray every day, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia” (Ammar Abd Rabbo, Flickr)

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.

The Kaaba

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.

Islam symbols, Kaaba

The Kaaba in Al-Masjid al-Ḥarām (The Sacred Mosque) by Omar A., Flickr

Color green

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.

Islam symbols, green color flag

The flag of Saudi Arabia

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 ;) ).

Turkish flag souvenir, Islam symbols

Turkish flag souvenir: the Star and the Crescent by one2c900d, Flickr

Other Middle East Symbols and Charms

Allah & Arabic calligraphy: the photo below shows the word “God” in beautiful Arabic calligraphy.

Islam symbols, Allah calligraphy

Allah (God) Arabic art by Nevit Dilmen

Hamsa: the meaning of this quintessential hand symbol? Protection against the evil eye.

Middle East symbols, hamsa

Hamsa as door knocker in Morocco by Bernard Gagnon

Nazar (blue eye): likewise, the blue eye charms portrayed below are the Turkish response to the Arab Hamza.

Middle East symbols, Turkish evil eye

The Turkish amulet to protect against the evil eye? A nazar! (Wiki Commons)

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.

Middle East symbols, lotus flower

A beautiful lotus flower in the wild (Wiki Commons)

Do you know of any other Islam symbols or Middle East charms? Share them below!

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2 Responses to “Islam symbols, their meaning, and other Middle East charms”

  1. Andy Says:

    Hamsa is one of my favorites. Great site her, I just discovered it. I love what you are doing.


    • Maria Alexandra Laborde Says:

      thank you Andy! I really hope to raise awareness about this GORGEOUS Middle East region which, unfortunately, has been tainted by biased media and, not going to lie, conflict.

      It is just as dangerous in the streets of NYC as in most streets of the Middle Eastern: people should know that, which is why keep running this blog! thanks for stopping by :-)


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