Crescent Moon: Symbol of Islam?
The crescent moon and star is an
internationally-recognized symbol of the faith of Islam.
The symbol is featured on the flags of several Muslim
countries, and is even part of the official emblem for the
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies. The Christians have the cross, the Jews have the
star of David, and the Muslims have the crescent moon,
What is the history behind the crescent moon symbol?
What does it symbolize or mean? How and when did it become
associated with the faith of Islam? Is it a valid symbol
for the faith?
The crescent moon and star symbol actually pre-dates
Islam by several thousand years. Information on the origins
of the symbol are difficult to ascertain, but most sources
agree that these ancient celestial symbols were in use by
the peoples of Central Asia and Siberia in their worship of
sun, moon, and sky gods. There are also reports that the
crescent moon and star were used to represent the
Carthaginian goddess Tanit or the Greek goddess Diana.
The city of Byzantium (later known as Constantinople and
Istanbul) adopted the crescent moon symbol. According to
some reports, they chose it in honor of the goddess Diana.
Others indicate that it dates back to a battle in which the
Romans defeated the Goths on the first day of a lunar
month. In any event, the crescent moon was featured on the
city's flag even before the birth of Christ.
The early Muslim community did not really have a symbol.
During the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him),
Islamic armies and caravans flew simple solid-colored flags
(generally black, green, or white) for identification
purposes. In later generations, the Muslim leaders
continued to use a simple black, white, or green flag with
no markings, writing, or symbolism on it.
It wasn't until the Ottoman Empire that the crescent moon
and star became affiliated with the Muslim world. When the
Turks conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, they
adopted the city's existing flag and symbol. Legend holds
that the founder of the Ottoman Empire, Osman, had a dream
in which the crescent moon stretched from one end of the
earth to the other. Taking this as a good omen, he chose to
keep the crescent and make it the symbol of his dynasty.
There is speculation that the five points on the star
represent the five pillars of Islam, but this is pure
conjecture. The five points were not standard on the
Ottoman flags, and as you will see on the following page, it
is still not standard on flags used in the Muslim world
For hundreds of years, the Ottoman Empire ruled over the
Muslim world. After centuries of battle with Christian
Europe, it is understandable how the symbols of this empire
became linked in people's minds with the faith of Islam as a
Based on this history, many Muslims reject using the
crescent moon as a symbol of Islam. The faith of Islam has
historically had no symbol, and many refuse to accept what
is essentially an ancient pagan icon. It is certainly not
in uniform use among Muslims.
This leads to the question of alternatives. What other
"symbol" represents the faith? Is it necessary to even have
This emblem, commonly recognized as the symbol of the
Islamic faith, has actually acquired its association to the
faith by association, rather than intent.
The star and crescent symbol itself is very ancient,
dating back to early Sumerian civilization, where it was
associated with the sun God and moon Goddess (one early
appearance dates to 2100 BCE), and later, with Goddesses
Tani and even Diana. The symbol remained in near constant
use, and was eventually adopted into the battle-standard of
the Ottoman Dynasty, who are mainly responsible for its
association with Islam. As the Dynasty was also the
political head of the faith, it was inevitable that their
symbol would be associated with Islam as well. It should be
noted that there is no mention of such a symbol in the
Koran, the Holy book of Islam, nr is there any relationship
between the crescent and star and the Prophet (whose flag
was black and white, inscribed "Nasr um min Allah," "with
the help of Allah.")
Today, the star and crescent is widely accepted as a
symbol of the Islamic faith, and is used in decorative arts,
jewelry, and national flags- much like the cross in
Christian countries. It is associated with the use of the
moon to time festivals. It is, however, not accepted by
all Muslims- many Muslims consider it un-Islamic and