Last modified: 2008-01-19 by ian macdonald
Keywords: saudi arabia | asia | shahada | sword | swords:2 | royal flag | tree (palm) |
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|2:3 | image by António Martins-Tuválkin|
Basic design in use by 1932; current version adopted 15 March 1973
On this page:
In The International Flag Book [ped71], Christian Fogd Pedersen gives
the date 1946 for the adoption of the national flag (with the older pattern of sword).
The current design of the flag was established in Article 1 of Cabinet Decision 101,
as approved by a Royal Decree dated 15 March 1973, and further specified by Mandatory Standards
issued by the Saudi Arabian Standards Organization, approved by the board of directors
25-5-1404 A.H. (26 February 1984), published
in the Official Gazette of 10-8-1404 A.H. (11 May 1985), and with an effective date of
2-10-1404 (2 November 1984). I also have another possible date for flag
legislation of 22-10-1377 A.H. (12 May 1958), with a decree number 38 [content of the decree not
Christopher Southworth, 14-15 April 2003
The Dorling Kindersley 1997 Ultimate Pocket Book of Flags
[udk97] mentions that the current version of the sword was adopted in 1981,
and that it represents the sword of king Abd al-Aziz, given to him by his
father. However, Dorling Kindersley's flag books are not the most precise vexillological source—actually
they should be called DK's handbook of flag urban legends. So most probably the 1981 date is a
mistake and bears no relationship with any adoption, either de facto or de jure, of Saudi flag elements.
Santiago Dotor, 15 April 2003
If the sword was adopted in 1981, it apparently wasn't by legislation, because the only law
mentioned in the Mandatory Standards (which themselves formed part of the law after 11 February 1984)
is the Decree of 1973. Figure 2 and Table 8 of the standards give precise geometric instructions
for the sword, which the original decree did not.
Christopher Southworth, 15 April 2003
The point of the sword always points to the viewer's left, no matter what
side of the flag you're looking at. The sword points in the direction in which
you read the shahada--right to left.
Joe McMillan, 31 August 2006
The sword on the national flag is not slightly curved, but is entirely
straight-bladed according to a precise construction diagram contained in
Mandatory Standards effective 11 March 1984. According to both the Law of 1973
which regulated the design and the Mandatory Standards mentioned above, the
sword's hilt is always to the right on both the obverse and reverse of the flag
and is never reversed.
Christopher Southworth, 29 August 2006
At a business ceremony in Tokyo on Apr 2 1980, they still used
Nozomi Kariyasu, 27 October 2006
I saw a documentary about two English guys who flew around the world (in 80
days) on a microlight. They had to get customs clearance in Saudi Arabia, and
when the camera rolled --- right there behind the customs officials was Saudi
Arabia's National flag with --- a curved sword! The Shahada was smaller too.
Martin Grieve, 28 October 2006
|by António Martins-Tuválkin ||
If made according to law, the Saudi national flag should be identical
on both sides, i.e., with the Testament or shahada reading from right
to left and the hilt of the sword hilt to the right, under the beginning of the
inscription. The flag therefore, looks the same whether it is the obverse
or reverse which is being shown—the only way to tell which you
are viewing on an image of the flag is to show a flag pole or halyard along with
the image. Article 1.1 of Decision 101 (8 March 1973) is specific about this,
and states that "The Testament and sword shall be
clearly shown in white and appear identical on both sides of the flag."
The legal position is further clarified in "Mandatory Standards" (enforced
3 November 1984) in which Article 188.8.131.52 states that, "The body of the flag
shall be composed of two layers of green fabric, printed on them El-Shahada
and the Sword in white (as per figure 1)."
Christopher Southworth, 23 September 2003
image by António Martins-Tuválkin
Actually, the official Saudi hanging flag reads correctly and has
the sword underneath the shahada, just like on the flag. In
other words, take a Saudi flag and make it longer than wide with the
heading at the top and you would have it.
Dave Martucci, 2 February 1998
Consider the citation from page 47 of Znamierowski [zna99]:
"Indeed, at least four countries, namely Brazil, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka, explicitly forbid vertical display of their national flags."If so, we can ask what this vertical flag is? Indeed, there has been a tendency of vertical hoisting of flags recently, especially at big international events like Olympic games, and in several such occasions the vertical Saudi flag was surely used. Is it the official design, officialized recently just for that reason, or is it only an unofficial rendition of the Saudi flag made by foreign flagmakers, as a way to display the text rightly? That is, is this an official design, a de facto flag or simply an erroneous design that might have been used somewhere?
I have the idea that Saudi law prohibits the vertical hoisting
of the normal flag, because the writing would become
illegible. Maybe the design with the writing set horizontally across
the middle of a vertical flag is done not in spite of this legal
provision, but because of it.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 8 June 2000
I am not sure that the religion prohibits writings from the Quran
from being written vertically. If I am not wrong, the inscriptions, in
various ornamental forms, are used throughout the Muslim world as a
very developed form of art, and scriptural ornaments are to be found
in many places. So, if there is a ban on vertical hoisting of the Saudi flag (and it
seems there is), that would be for other reasons—first due to the
design that is not suitable for vertical hoisting, and second, and
not quite unrelated with the first, due to the apparent tradition of
"horizontal-only" hoisting of flags in the Arabian Peninsula.
Comparably, there are bans on vertical hoisting in Pakistan and Sri
Lanka, as mentioned above. These flags are not to be hoisted
vertically for the same reasons as mentioned above, and not due to
religious reasons. Other flags in the same part of the world are
rarely if ever seen vertically hoisted in their own countries—
and without any religious reason behind it, and even without the
Željko Heimer, 10 June 2000
The inclusion of sacred Islamic Text on the flag of Saudi Arabia
has created problems when the flag is reproduced on souvenir items or
as a throw-away hand-waver. An example of this problem occurred when
Muslims complained of the flag appearing on World Cup footballs. I
recall that one solution was to reproduce the flag with only the
sword, deleting the text. However I cannot locate any source for this
approach. Does anyone know if this or of any other approach to
including Saudi Arabia in a flag display without giving offence to
devout Muslims? If the sword only is used, is it centered?
Ralph Kelly, 12 December 1998
Flags were not flown at half-mast because the green Saudi flag is inscribed
with Islam's testament of faith and lowering it would be considered blasphemous.
|by Joseph McMillan, 26 August 2006|
The Saudi Arabian flag is only allowed for official purposes. Private
citizens can fly a plain green flag with a golden palm tree over two
crossed swords in the upper fly corner.
Armand Noel du Payrat, 28 June 2002
We have a World Cup promotion poster in Japan which shows 32
national people with their national flag paintings on their faces. Only
Saudi Arabia does not use the national flag but a green flag charged
with a yellow palm above two crossed swords.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 28 June 2002
The only mention of a "civil flag" I can find in Saudi Arabian flag legislation is
contained in a Mandatory Standard ("Dimensions, Geometrical Details and
Usages of Flags and Banners of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia") whose date of
enforcement is given as 3 November 1985. This is the Civil Ensign
(described in the Mandatory Standard as the "commercial flag") used by merchant vessels at sea
There is no other which might conceivably be considered as a civil
Christopher Southworth, 10 July 2003
by Joseph McMillan, 26 August 2006