The flag of Afghanistan underwent more changes during the 20th century than any other flag in the world. By my count, the design of the flag was change some twenty times in that time period. Since 2000 it has been modified three more times. The first of these flags, flown under the rule Abdur Rahman Khan, was completely black. Today’s Afghanistan flag, on the other hand, consists of three stripes and the emblem of Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan flag’s colors – black, red and green – are meant to represent different chapters in the nation’s history. Black represents the 19th century, when a series of wars led to British occupation. Red represents the Afghans fight for independence, and green is meant to show that independence has been achieved. These colors were also part of the Afghanistan flag from 1928 to 1978, running either vertically or horizontally. Back then, black represented the previous monochrome version of Afghan flags, which in turn represented the sovereign. It’s believed that the red was taken from the Soviet flag and meant to represent modernity and progress. Green stood for Islam.
The emblem of Afghanistan, which is found at the center of the current design, consists of several things. At the very top of the emblem, one finds the Shahadah. The Shahadah is the Muslim declaration of belief in the oneness of God and the acceptance of Muhammad as his prophet. Depending on whom you ask, in English it more or less reads, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” Below the Shahadah, there’s an image of a mosque with its mihrab facing Mecca. A mihrab is a niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the direction of the Kaaba, a cube-shaped building in the city of Mecca, and hence the direction all Muslims should pray. Two flags are also attached to the mosque, which are taken to be Afghanistan flags. Below the mosque is an Arabic inscription stating the name of the nation.