The writer of this article was a student in his early school years in Al-Nasiriyah neighborhood in Riyadh when the writer of the Saudi national anthem, Ibrahim Khafaji, wrote: “Hurry and rise to the highest glory, glory the creator of the sky and raise our green flag, that carries the straight light, repeating oh great is God... my country, my country you lived as pride of Muslims long live the king for the flag and the homeland.”
These were words that were engraved in our hearts and minds from a young age.
The day started in the morning queue at school by singing the national anthem with one resonating voice as students competed over the extent of their delight and pride in their country.
The resonance of the words has stuck in my mind until this moment.
King Salman has honored the flag by issuing a royal decree designating March 11 as a National Flag Day. It is also the day when King Abdulaziz adopted the flag that we see fluttering today.
The Saudi flag went through many phases before reaching its current form. When Imam Mohammed bin Saud founded the First Saudi State in 1727, the first design was adopted, featuring a green background with the white shahada inscription.
The same green flag with the white shahada inscription continued to be adopted during the Second Saudi State in the beginning of the period of Imam Turki bin Abdullah, holder of the Al-Ajrab Sword, in 1824.
Let us recall our national role on this day; let us recall the historic information on the value of this day; and let us recall our history on this day
After the launch of the unification campaigns led by King Abdulaziz, the first historical images indicate that the same flag used during the First and Second Saudi States continued to be adopted.
In later years, two crossed swords were added above the shahada inscription after the declaration of the country’s unification in 1932. This flag is seen in historic pictures, including the pictures of one of King Abdulaziz’s first aircraft, a Dakota DC-3, which formed the basis of the launch of the airline Saudia later on.
The current Saudi flag, which features a green background, the shahada inscription, and an unsheathed Arab sword pointed to the left, was later adopted.
The flag has been a symbol of pride in Saudi identity over three centuries, as it holds connotations of prosperity, growth and giving.
Moreover, the flag reflects an authentic historical reality as it expresses Arab and Islamic depth through the status represented by the shahada placed at its center.
This makes lowering the Saudi flag to half-mast impermissible out of respect for what is written on it.
The sword symbolizes the strength and justice of our leaders, imams and kings, while the green color represents peace, giving, development, and tolerance.
Perhaps National Flag Day will prompt researchers to write about this great flag.
I can think of only one book that has documented the flag’s history, written by Abdulrahman Al-Ruwaished and published by the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives.
Can it be possible that there is only one book documenting the story of this flag on the shelves of our libraries?
In 2018 the Diriyah Gate Development Authority attempted to raise awareness of the flag, resulting in many questions regarding its history.
Let us recall our national role on this day; let us recall the historic information on the value of this day; and let us recall our history on this day.
Raise the green flag. Long live the king, for the flag and the homeland.
• Dr. Badran Alhonaihen, cultural and historical validation director