Throughout the reign of the Ottoman Empire, flags, symbol of the State, and banners, symbol of the State’s armies, were of great importance while throughout history alongside military and political developments they also displayed artistic variety, and some of them have survived to our time.
Every unit in the Ottoman army and the groups of which they were composed had their own different banners or colors. During the reign of Sultan Selim III (r. 1789-1807), numerous reorganizations took place, particularly in the sphere of the military, and changes took place within the system of the army. Within the framework of this concept of innovation that continued in the era of Sultan Mahmud II (r. 1808-1839), the Janissary Corps was abolished in 1826, and the use of all their flags and badges came to an end. New banners were produced for the newly founded military units.
Among the regimental banners from the 19th century that have survived to our day, some would bear the Ottoman imperial coat of arms, the sultan’s monogram or the Kelime-i Tevhid [There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his Prophet], while others would contain verses from the Holy Qur’an. Among the examples that have been preserved, which were usually woven in three pieces that when joined together formed this type of regimental banner, we find in turn after the Besmele:
The Cow 246 (II:246) (Has thou not turned thy vision to the Chiefs of the Children of Israel after (the time of) Moses? they said to a prophet (that was) among them: "Appoint for us a king, that we may fight in the cause of Allah." He said: "Is it not possible, if ye were commanded to fight, that ye will not fight?" They said: "How could we refuse to fight in the cause of Allah, seeing that we were turned out of our homes and our families?" but when they were commanded to fight, they turned back, except a small band among them. But Allah Has full knowledge of those who do wrong);
The Family of Imran 181 (III:181) (Allah hath heard the taunt of those who say: "Truly, Allah is indigent and we are rich!"- We shall certainly record their word and (their act) of slaying the prophets in defiance of right, and We shall say: "Taste ye the penalty of the Scorching Fire!");
Women 77 (IV:77) (Hast thou not turned thy thought to those who were told to hold back their hands (from fight) but establish regular prayers and spend in Zakat (regular charity)? When (at length) the order for fighting was issued to them, behold! a section of them feared men as - or even more than - they should have feared Allah. They said: "Our Lord! Why hast Thou ordered us to fight? Wouldst Thou not grant us respite to our (natural) term, near (enough)?" Say: "Short is the enjoyment of this world: the Hereafter is the best for those who do right: Never will ye be dealt with unjustly in the very least!”);The Food 27 (V:27) (Recite to them the truth of the story of the two sons of Adam. Behold! they each presented a sacrifice (to Allah): It was accepted from one, but not from the other. Said the latter: "Be sure I will slay thee." "Surely," said the former, "Allah doth accept of the sacrifice of those who are righteous.”).
The fragment of the regimental banner that has been newly included in the Sakıp Sabancı Museum collection bears similar characteristics. It is apparent that it consists of the last of the three pieces of inscribed fabric. Within the cream-colored frame woven in silk thread on the green ground fabric we find the continuation of The Women, verse 77 begun on the previous piece and the entirely of The Food, verse 27.It is possible to date this banner fragment to the last quarter of the 19th century by comparing it with similar examples in various collections.
Bibliography: İlkay Karatepe (ed.), Askeri Müze Bayraklar ve Sanacaklar Koleksiyonu, Military Museum and Cultural Site Commandership, Istanbul, 2008.