Why has the Imam Reza shrine in Iran hoisted the black flag for the first time in history outside of Muharram?

Ayaan Paul
Ayaan PaulOct 18, 2023 | 14:33

Why has the Imam Reza shrine in Iran hoisted the black flag for the first time in history outside of Muharram?

In a historic and unprecedented move, a black flag has been hoisted above the illuminated Razavi dome, of the Imam Reza mosque complex in Iran - a stark departure from tradition as it's outside of Muharram, the month of mourning in the Islamic calendar.

The Imam Reza mosque complex in Mashhad, Iran, home to the mausoleum of Imam Reza, also known as Ali al-Rida, is an iconic religious complex and the largest mosque in the world by area.

  • It holds immense significance for Twelver Shia Muslims and is a focal point for religious pilgrimage.
  • This grand complex is managed by the Astan Quds Razavi Foundation, with its custodian, Ahmad Marvi, a prominent Iranian cleric.

The flag change, ordered by the custodian of the Astan Quds Razavi, is a symbolic gesture with multifaceted significance.

The black flag holds a distinct place in Islamic history and tradition.

  • Contrary to misrepresented claims over social media, it does not represent a call to arms or conflict.
  • This shift to black indicates a solemn expression of grief, mourning and solidarity.

In contrast, a red flag symbolizes the pursuit of vengeance.

  • The red flag was last raised at the Jamkaran mosque in Qom in response to the assassination of General Soleimani, signifying a call for retribution that has not been fulfilled yet.

The reason for this extraordinary change in flag color seems to be the tragic incident in Gaza, where an Israeli missile struck a hospital, resulting in over a thousand casualties. 

  • The attack occurred at the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in the besieged Gaza Strip, with Palestinian officials holding Israel accountable for the tragic incident and Israel deflecting the blame.
In response, the Imam Reza shrine is mourning the lives lost and condemning the hospital massacre. This act of solidarity has prompted a massive anti-Israeli and anti-American demonstration at the sacred shrine.

The black flag also holds a unique place in Islamic prophecy.

  • It is said that when black flags emerge from Khorasan (a region that includes Persia and Central Asia), people should follow them, even if it means traversing through challenging conditions.
  • This tradition is associated with the arrival of the Mahdi, the Caliph of Allah.

However, the black flag at Imam Reza primarily signifies a powerful and poignant message of sorrow and solidarity with the civilian casualties of Israeli retaliation in Gaza.

Last updated: October 18, 2023 | 14:35
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