The colours of the flag
Islam is rich in colour symbolism. Muslim mystics see rising scales of colours as depicting the manifestation of the Absolute Light reflected into the ladder of the seven degrees or centres of the Islamic tradition.
Thus, for Rumi, progression works according to the following ladder: blue, yellow, red, white, green, blue pale, the last degree being colourless. Indeed, the ultimate degree represents the Principle, source of all things and, in particular, colours. It cannot therefore be the object of any determination.
Another colour ladder provides the following gradation: white (colour of initiation), yellow (true fervour), dark blue (divine favour), green (inner peace), azure (immediate intuition), red (gnosis) and black (divine essence). The last degree gets a colour, but not just anyone. Black symbolizes here the non-manifested, the absence (of colours) representative of the Principle in its pure state.
Colours also portray a concealed lighting of the seven centres of the human being: grey (body or Adam), blue (soul or Noah), red (heart or Abraham), white (conscience or Moses), yellow (spirit or David), black (subtle centre known as the secret or Jesus) and green (Divine Centre or Mohammed).
There are other colour scales concerning the seven Heavens, the seven Earths etc. However, the Palestinian Authority flag refers to four of them only: two complementary (red and green) and two opposed (white and black):
- Red and green usually depict fire and water, terrestrial and celestial fires and, more generally, Earth and Heaven;
- White corresponds to the manifestation (addition) of all colours of the visible light spectrum; black has, on the contrary, to do with the non-manifestation (absorption) of colours. Consequently, white and black deal with the visible and invisible.
These two kind of relationships (Earth/Heaven or below/beyond, visible/invisible or outer/inner) are fundamental in any tradition in general and in Islam in particular. And there is no better symbol than the mountain to cover them.
The mountain symbolism
The symbolic image of the mountain is a triangle, the summit of which is a contact point between Earth and Heaven. It represents the passage between human and supra-human states, terrestrial and celestial worlds. Viewed from above, the summit makes the mountain look like a World Centre; seen from below, the mountain stands as the World Axis and its slopes as ladders to be climbed.
In the Biblical tradition, mountains symbolize the revelation of the sacred as Mount Horeb or Sinai.
In the Muslim tradition, Mount Kaf dominates the terrestrial world. It is separated from Earth by a region of darkness which has to be crossed in order to reach the summit. Sometimes, the Mount or its summit is described as being made of emerald, a colour mixing green and blue. Note that within the flag of Sudan, which is based on the same colours and pattern as the Pan-Arab one, the triangle is green. Green is often considered as the colour of Islam and Mohammed, along with the being who has reached the Mount summit.
On the peak of Mount Kaf dwells the most fabulous bird, the Simurg. Beyond the way back to the source (sharia), it symbolizes the Absolute Knowledge (haqiqat), the Divine Centre, the Great Peace, the Great Silence, the essential Truth, the Principle, the Pole of the invisible reserved only to those who can see with the eyes of the heart. Mount Kaf constitutes the celestial and invisible envelope of the terrestrial and visible Kaaba in Mecca. Does it not suggest the image of the invisible and celestial World containing the visible and terrestrial world ? For more details, see the introduction to symbolism.
The Simurg is assisted by two right and left Imams and the ternary obtained is also a triangle. This ternary describes the Principle and its polarization into different facets. It represents the initiatory triangle showing the way down from the Principle towards its polarization into various aspects and the way back from the polarized aspects to their unification into the Principle. It tells the initiate that we all come from the Principle and that we can only move back to It to overcome our split outer nature and recover our unified inner nature.
Like the Kaaba, there are other places on Earth representing an image of the Divine Centre as, for instance, the mountain where the sacrifice of Abraham happened for Jews or the Golgotha for Christians. Moreover, there is still one place recognized as a Centre image by all three religions, Jerusalem. And the only way to allow the holy city to represent the Great Peace on Earth would be to give access to its holy places 1.
If such an issue seems to be the only one possible, it will nevertheless have to encompass the actual institutional framework. The mutual understanding and comprehension will only arise if oppositions are transformed into complementarities, if divisions are blurred by the light of the common fund to all three religions, which is laid on the mountain summit.
- René Guénon:
- “Fundamental Symbols: The Universal Language of Sacred Science”, Sophia Perennis Et Universalis Publisher;
- Notably, chapter 15 on a hieroglyph of the Pole.
- Henry Corbin:
- “The interiorized meaning in Iranian Sufi hermeneutic”. Eranos Jachbuch, 1958.
1 back Note that such a situation would not be new at all. Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, King of Sicily before becoming Germanic Emperor from 1214 to 1250, landed in 1228 in Palestine, during a 6th Crusade, with 3000 men only. He immediately entered into negotiations with the Egyptian Sultan, Al Kamel, nephew of Saladin. The treaty was concluded without fighting and stipulated, among other things, the neutrality of Jerusalem and gave access to the holy places.