A New Nation, Its King and Its Flag
[The Outlook, August 28, 1918]
Arabia, the birthplace of Mohammed, has for centuries been a battleground between the Arabians and their most notable converts to Mohammedanism—the Turks. The Ottoman Empire has latterly included Arabia among its nominal possessions, but the claim has been fiercely contested by the independence-loving tribes of the peninsula. Now the western section of the country, which includes the all-important cities of Mecca and Medina, the goal of all Mohammedan pilgrims, has thrown off the Turkish yoke and proclaimed itself independent. It was on June 27, 1916, that this important step was taken, under the leadership of El Hussain ibn Ali, the Grand Sharif and Emir of Mecca, who then became the first monarch of the new Kingdom of the Hedjaz.
This was a step of far-reaching import, since it rendered impossible thereafter the declaration of jehad, or holy war, by the Caliph (or Sultan) of Constantinople against the enemies of Turkey. This could not accomplished while a dignitary of the Moslem faith of so high importance as the Grand Sharif of Mecca, who is a lineal descendant of the Prophet, was fighting on the side of the Allies. It was without doubt the hope and intention of Germany to bring about exactly such a religious war against the Allies, which might have had disastrous consequences, particularly for the English in India.
As the leader of a movement of such importance to the Allies, great interest attaches to the personality of the new King. A portrait of Hussain the First appears herewith. It is reproduced from one which was published in the "Illustrated London News" sometime after Hussain's accession to the throne. Last autumn another photograph of great interest in this connection was received in this country by a photographic agency. It showed the outline of the flag adapted by the new Kingdom of the Hedjaz. Unfortunately, as printed in the New York "Times" of October 28, 1917, it gave no hint as to its colors. A description of the flag was sought, in vain from the Turkish Consul in New York, from the Congressional Library, from the British Embassy in Washington, and from other sources. Finally the new King of the Hedjaz himself was appealed to in the following letter, which, through the courtesy of the British Foreign Office, finally reached its destination in Arabia:
The Century Association,
7 West Forty-third Street, New York,
12 November, 1917.
To His Exalted Highness, the Great Sharif of Mecca, King
of the Hedjaz, Mecca, Arabia.
The news which has recently reached us in America of the creation of the Kingdom of Arabia has filled our hearts with delight and with devout thanksgiving that the Exalted Sovereign of the Hedjaz should have created a Kingdom, and established a Government, independent of the Turkish rule, is cause for sincere congratulation among all of the other civilized nations of the world. To-day we are proud to welcome the new Kingdom of Arabia among the group of Allied nations, whose fixed determination it is to thwart the design of the German. Emperor in his nefarious purpose to achieve world domination.
There has recently been reproduced in this country a representation of the new flag of the Kingdom of your Majesty and I am enclosing herewith a photograph from, the pages of the New York "Times" of 28 October, 1917, which gives a picture of that flag, borne by your Majesty's soldiers. We are most desirous to know the exact colors which are combined in that standard. After repeated and fruitless inquiries in this country I am prompted to acldress myself directly to your Majesty, and, I should esteem, it a great favor if your Majesty would have the courtesy to instruct the proper official to give me the desired information.
I enclose a small American flag which I beg your Majesty to do me the honor to accept as a slight mark of admiration, and respect.
With profound expressions of esteem, I have the honor to be,
Your Majesty's humble servant,
Master of Arts, Harvard University, Member of the
American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia.
On June 4, 1918, a reply, in Arabic, signed by the King of the Hedjaz, was received, with a small specimen of the flag of the new Kingdom. This was forwarded through the courtesy of the Right Hon. Arthur James Balfour, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs London, England. The letter is printed in facsimilie above. As translated, it reads:
Mr. Alden Sampson, Master of Arts, Harvard University, Member of the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, Care The Century Association, 7 West Forty-third Street, New York, U. S. A.
"We have received your kind letter and we much appreciated the pleasure of your nation at our efforts to obtain our independence, which, we readily understand, as the Americans are well known to be defenders of the oppressed. We wish to express our satisfaction that your people have joined the Allies, who are the defenders of right and punishers of those who would crush the weak. We were very pleased to receive the American flag, and we send you with this letter a small specimen of our flag. We conclude our letter by acknowledging your high principles which showed us the way to brotherhood and how to do good in return for good; but you, who first did good, are most praise.
We give our salutation to the generous American people, who are noted for their science and knowledge.
(Signature of the King of the Hedjaz)
El Hussain ibn Ali
The flag, which, it is reported, was devised by King Hussain, himself, is composed of three horizontal sections and a perpendicular triangle. Each color has its significance. The upper horizontal strip, in black, is representative of the city of Mecca; the one in green, underneath, is the color of the Prophet; the white, at the bottom, is for the Abbassid dynasty; the red, in the triangle at the right, is the color of the family of the Grand Sharif of Mecca.
The new emblem will float over a country which comprises only a small portion of the entire-peninsula of Arabia, includes, as has been said, the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina and a few other towns of lesser importance; and it will bring to the Allies the co-operation of a population estimated at a million and a half, of whom about two hundred and fifty thousand live in the cities and towns of Hedjaz, while the remainder live a nomadic life.
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013.
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THE HEADLONG FURY
A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald