The crescent moon and star is an internationally-recognized symbol of the faith of Islaam. The symbol is featured on the flags of several Muslim countries, and is even part of the official emblem for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The Christians have the cross, the Jews have the star of David, and the Muslims have the crescent moon, right?
What is the history behind the crescent moon symbol? What does it symbolize or mean? How and when did it become associated with the faith of Islam? Is it a valid symbol for the faith?
The crescent moon and star symbol actually pre-dates Islam by several thousand years. Information on the origins of the symbol are difficult to ascertain, but most sources agree that these ancient celestial symbols were in use by the peoples of Central Asia and Siberia in their worship of sun, moon, and sky gods.
There are also reports that the crescent moon and star were used to represent the Carthaginian goddess Tanit or the Greek goddess Diana. The city of Byzantium (later known as Constantinople and Istanbul) adopted the crescent moon as its symbol. According to some reports, they chose it in honor of the goddess Diana.
Others indicate that it dates back to a battle in which the Romans defeated the . Goths on the first day of a lunar month. In any event, the crescent moon was featured on the city's flag even before the birth of Christ. The early Muslim community did not really have a symbol. During the time of the Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wa sallam), Islamic armies and caravans flew simple solid-coloured flags (generally black, green, or white) for identification purposes. In later generations, the Muslim leaders continued to use a simple black, white, or green flag with no markings, writing, or symbolism on it.
It wasn't until the Ottoman Empire that the crescent moon and star became affiliated with the Muslim world. When the Turks conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, they adopted the city'sexisting flagand symbol. Legend holds that the founder of the Ottoman Empire, Osman, had a dream in which the crescent moon stretched from one end of the earth to the other. Taking this as a good omen, he chose to keep the crescent and make it the symbol of his dynasty. There is speculation that the five points on the star represent the five pillars of Islaam, but this is pure conjecture.
The five points were not standard on the Ottoman flags. For hundreds of years, the Ottoman Empire ruled over the Muslim world. After centuries of battle with Christian Europe, it is understandable how the symbols of this empire became linked in people's minds with the faith of Islam as a whole.
There are several Muslim countries that currently feature the crescent moon and star symbol on their national flag.
Even more have used the symbol previously in history, but the color, size, orientation, and design features continue to vary widely from country to country. It is also interesting to note the diversity of the countries represented. The majority of these countries are not Arabic-speaking, but rather are part of the greater Muslim world.
They include: Algeria, Azerbaijan, Comoros, Malaysia,Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Thus, the star and the crescent do not have any significance in the Islamic faith. In other words, the reason for depicting these symbols on flags is not Islamic or religious. On the contrary, it is primarily a continuation of a tradition set by the vast Ottoman empire (for a period of over half a millennium), which has prompted some of the modern Muslim states to depict these two symbols on their flags. Moon sighting: The Hilaal There is no symbolic significance of the Crescent in Islam. No special event of Islamic history or faith is associated with it. People of Arabia had been associated with many superstitions concerning different forms of crescent. The answer of Qur'an to them is the same:
"They ask you (O Muhammad SAW) about the new moons. Say: These are signs to mark fixed periods of time for mankind and for the pilgrimage ... " (Ql [Baqarah): 189)
With a crescent, starts a new month of Islamic calendar and it is religiously important for the Muslims to keep track of moon cycles as fixed dates of the year are set for rituals like fasting and Hajj. Qur'an has recognized the importance of both solar and lunar systems of reckoning of time.
"He has appointed the night for resting, and the sun and the moon for reckoning. Such is the measuring of the All-Mighty, the All-Knowing." (Q6[An'am}:96).
Keeping track of a crescent is more important for Muslims than any other religious community who follow the lunar calendar for their religious occasions. Fasting for consecutive 29 or 30 days is compulsory for all Muslims in the 9th month of Islamic Calendar, Ramadaan. Similarly the first date of the 10th month is their festival of 'Eid'. It is obligatory that nobody keep fast on the day of Eid. The Muslims all over the world anxiously try to see the moon on the evening of the 29th day of fasting in Ramadan.
Yet inspite of all these, the crescent and star do not assume any symbolic significance of any kind whatsoever. There are no such symbols representing Islaam like in almost all other religions.
Proper attention should be given, however, to the use of a symbol or icon that at one time represented the worship of agoddessorto one that symbolizes our 'godly' adoration for a righteous person whom some may place on the same plane of reverence reserved Only for Allaah.
In modern times, some governments, like Saudi Arabia, prefer not to use the star and crescent of the Turkish government, but instead use a plain green field with the shaha'dah (la ilaha ilia Allaah) on it in white. There is also a white sword underneath. Several modern day Muslims use the shaha'dah in white on a green field as their way of showing they are Muslim.
The fact is that there is a significant difference between 'symbols of the Islamic faith' and 'symbols adopted by Muslims'. The symbols all of the Islamic faith are only those, which have been declared as symbols by the Qur'an or the Sunnah. These may include the Ka' bah, the black stone of the Ka' bah etc. All these things symbolize one or the other major reality ascribed to by the Islamic faith. Allaah says:
"And whosoever honours the Symbols of Allaah, then it is truly from the piety of the heart." (Q22[Hajj}:32)
So certainly, it is not from the piety of the heart to stand in reverence of crescent and star for Allaah has not declared them as the symbols of Islaam and one should be cautious in it's usage on letter heads, minarets, flags, masjids etc. as a symbol that represents ISLAAM. It does not!
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited