Religious Symbols in Flags Explained


One of the most frequent symbols in vexillology
is the presence of religious symbols. The religious symbols incorporated in flags
can be Christian (the most important being the cross), Islamic (the most important being
the crescent), Hinduistic or Buddhist. The largest category of religious symbols
in flags is Christian followed by Islamic. So let’s begin with the Christian symbols
in flags. The Union Jack has Christian elements. Indeed, it is in reality composed of three
flags each superimposed on its other: the English red St George’s cross, the Scottish
diagonal St Andrew’s cross (the white one) and the red diagonal St Patrick’s cross. As a consequence, all flags which have the
Union Jack on the top left corner have also Christian symbolism like the Flag of Australia,
New Zealand, Tuvalu, Fiji and Hawaii, as well many other. The next category of flags having Christian
symbols are those having the Nordic crosses, most importantly those of Sweden, Norway,
Denmark, Finland and Iceland. Those flags incorporate Christian symbolism
while the shift of the cross towards the left is a relatively recent development. Other notable flags with Christian symbolism
include the flags of Greece, with its white cross, that of Portugal and of Moldova (with
their crosses in their coat of arms) , the flag of Switzerland , the flags of Slovakia
, Malta, Georgia, Tonga , as well as flags with a Christian crone like the flags of Serbia,
Montenegro, Liechtenstein and Spain . Some other countries also have the constellation
of the Southern Cross which has Christian connotations notable examples being the flags
of Samoa and Papua New Guinea. There are several other Christian symbols
in flags mainly of territories of either the United Kingdom like the flags of Niue or British
Virgin Islands or the Nordic crosses like the flag of the Faroe Islands. So now let’s examine the flags with Islamic
symbols. In this category, the most notable flags are
the flags with crescents like the flags of Pakistan, Libya, Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria,
Malaysia, Comoros, Azerbaijan, Mauritania, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Maldives. However the Singaporean flag although is a
non Muslim country bears a crescent which in this case is meant to represent a young
nation on the rise / ascendant. Other flags with Islamic symbols are those
of Saudi Arabia, which depicts in Calligraphic Arabic the Islamic declaration of faith which
declares that “There is no other god but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger”. The flag of Iraq depicts the phrase “God
is Great”. The Jordanian flag shows a white star with
seven points which stand for the unity of the Arab people. It is also said to stand for the seven verses
of the first surah in the Quran. The seven points also represent faith in one
God, humanity, humility, national spirit, virtue, social justice, and aspiration. The flag of Bahrain features five white triangles
symbolizing the Five Pillars of Islam. The Islamic symbols on the flag of Iran consist
of four crescents representing the colossal faith of the nation to Islam with the sword
in the middle symbolizing power and determination to keep the faith. The phrase “Allahu Akbar” “God is Great”
is mentioned eleven times in white in the upper and the lower parts of the flag. Let’s move now to the flags depicting Buddhist
or Hindu religious symbols. The religious symbols become visible on five
national flags. It is of interest that in three of those flags
the religious symbols depicted represent both religions. Thus, the flag of Cambodia, features the Angkor
Wat which is easily associated with both Hinduism and Buddhism. The flag of Nepal depicts symbols of both
religions since these represent the two predominant religions in the country. Finally, the flag of India shows the blue
chakra which symbolizes the center of the energy channels of the body (the so-called
nadies) the one being the force of life (prana) and the other that of the vital energy. Nada is part of the Hindu and Buddhist theologies
alike. The flag of Israel is the only one featuring
a Jewish religious symbol, that of the Star of David in a white and blue striped background
representative of the basic design of the Tallit, the Jewish prayer scarf. The flag of Japan depicts the hinomaru, the
rising sun which in Shinto symbolizes spirituality and harmony. The flags of Uruguay and Argentina depict
a shining golden sun deriving from the sun God of Incas, Inti. The Mexican flag features the symbol of the
Aztec God Huitzilopochtliwhich, and it is composed of an eagle sitting on a cactus with
a snake held within its beak. This eagle is thought to have appeared before
the Aztecs urging them to build the city of Tenochtitlan. Several States of USA feature religious symbols
on their flags like the States of Alabama and Florida which show the St Andrew cross. It should be also noted, that the State of
New Mexico depicts a Native American religious symbol. In conclusion, religious symbols are still
prevalent in flags around the world and they represent a sizeable part of vexillology. It is very important to further study and
analyze them.

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