The flag of Saudi Arabia reflects that nation’s close ties to Islam. This significant connection also affects the display and use of the flag on official occasions.
The adoption of the current Saudi Arabian official national flag occurred on March 15, 1973. The flag displays an Islamic religious call to worship written in Arabic that Muslims consider sacred. The white text appears in large letters on a green background, above a sword. Since the flag contains a religious phrase, the Saudi Arabian government as a matter of respect for Islam has specified rules concerning the proper display and use of the flag. Unlike many secular flags, the Saudi Arabian flag reportedly does not appear on clothing or other personal items, and it does not fly at half-mast during periods of national mourning because of its religious symbolism.
The green background of the Saudi flag honors the Islamic religion, the only religion permitted in Saudi Arabia by law. It is a color that has close historical associations with the Prophet Mohammed, who founded Islam in Medina on the Saudi Arabian Peninsula in 622. Mecca, a very important location in the Islamic faith, contains spiritual significance to Muslims around the world and it, too, lies within modern Saudi Arabia. This history strongly influences flags in the nation of Saudi Arabia to this day.
The modern Saudi Arabian flag likely traces its roots to the Kingdom of Najd. Saudi Arabia, an historic center of Islam, fell under the official control of the Ottoman Empire in 1517. Considerable turmoil existed in the region during the 1700s and 1800s. In 1904, the Saudis gained national autonomy, but still faced claims from the Ottoman Empire. During World War I, they fought for independence from the Ottoman Empire alongside British military officers, and from 1915 to 1927 became a British protectorate ruled by local leaders. In 1927, Britain acknowledged the Kingdoms of Najd and Hejaz as sovereign states. The two Kingdoms unified to form modern Saudi Arabia in 1932. At that time, Saudi Arabia adopted a flag that became the precursor to the current flag.
The sword on the Saudi Arabia flag represents justice. It has often been associated closely with the House of Saud, the royal family of Saudi Arabia. Between 1932 and 1973, the size of the written inscription on the flag changed three times. The current flag adopted on March 15, 1973 has remained unchanged since that date.