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5 Red and White The Colors of the Factions’ Banners Absolutely critical to the contrasting identities of the Faqaris and Qasimis are the different-colored banners that the two factions carried . The various origin myths, in fact, give the impression that the factions were initially differentiated above all else by the colors of their flags—and furthermore, in at least one version of the myth, by the colors of their clothing, food, and utensils, as well. Two chroniclers of the Damurdashi group, al-Qinali and an anonymous author, present the divergent banner colors as, initially, at least, the overriding identifying feature of the two factions: Al-Qinali: The people of Egypt from ancient times were in two factions (farqatayn): soldiers and bedouin and peasants, white flag and red flag. The white was Tubba˜i, and the red was Kulaybi. . . . Anonymous: The people of Egypt, beys, aghas and the seven regiments, were two factions: White Flag from the Yemeni Tubba˜ and Red Flag from Kulayb brother of al-Zir. . . .1 On the face of it, the fact that each faction carried a flag of its preferred color may not seem such a startling revelation. After all, color is one of the most common, most easily deployable, and most easily recognizable markers of any political or ideological group, as we have already seen with great clarity in our considerations of Byzantine and 95 96 A Tale of Two Factions pre-Islamic Arab factionalism. And what better way to rally a sizable political grouping—or any grouping, for that matter—than by waving a brightly colored pennant above their heads? This simple observation makes it all the more surprising that there has been no serious consideration of the banners of the Faqari and Qasimi factions, and of the colors of those banners. This chapter examines the factions’ use of colored banners against the backdrop of the role of colored banners in Islamic, and more particularly Ottoman, history. It then contextualizes the factions’ more general color preferences by probing the connections between distinctly Ottoman identifying colors and color dichotomies in early Islamic and pre-Islamic history. Finally, it returns to the framework of the origin myths by inquiring into the significance of deploying red and white banners in public processions. Colored Banners in Islamic History The colors of banners seem to have carried particular weight in the Byzantine Empire and among the tribal armies of the early Islamic empires. As we have already seen, the Roman and Byzantine circus factions carried banners in their distinctive elemental colors: blue, green, white, and red. The early Muslim armies could hardly have helped encountering these banners in the course of their conquests; we know for a fact that they encountered them in Egypt, whether or not they were influenced by them.2 In Islamic annals, a tradition persists that the banner of the Prophet Muhammad’s tribe of Quraysh was white and that of Amr b. al-˜As, the conqueror of Egypt, red.3 Notwithstanding , the banners of the tribes who made up the early Muslim armies evidently displayed a variety of colors, singly and in combination, with no consistent regard even for the fundamental red-white distinction between Qaysi and Yemeni tribes.4 No doubt the most famous, or at least notorious, reference to banner colors in early-Islamic history is the saying ascribed to the Prophet mentioning “a people coming from the East with black banners ” who would presage the appearance of the messianic figure known as the Mahdi.5 The proselytes of the ˜Abbasid revolution took full advantage of the eschatological expectations raised by black banners in their campaign to undermine the Umayyad dynasty from within. Even after the ˜Abbasids had triumphed over the Umayyads in 750, they continued to deploy black as their dynastic color; not only the banners but the headdresses and garments of the ˜Abbasid caliphs were black. Their highest military officers and administrative officials 97 Red and White were likewise obliged to wear black, whereas functionaries below the rank of judge were forbidden to do so.6 The ubiquitous black created a striking contrast with the banners and dynastic color of the Umayyads, which had been white, after the personal flag of the dynasty’s founder.7 Yet the caliphal banner that the commander of the ˜Abbasid armies carried was made of white silk, inscribed with Qur˘anic verses and paeans to the caliph; it was paired with a “gilded” banner usually carried by the crown prince.8 The Ismaili...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780791486108
Print ISBN
9780791458839
MARC Record
OCLC
56408502
Pages
311
Launched on MUSE
2012-02-08
Language
English
Open Access
N
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