There is perhaps no landscape in Islamic culture more evocative and recognizable than the desert. In jihadi visual propaganda, desert landscapes are very often depicted as dunes or drifts. These landscapes are used to evoke a sense of Arab-Islamic identity and the early history of Islam. Hence, they are commonly used by Salafi groups to refer to the first generation of Muslims generally, as well as that generation’s success in jihad and the purity of its faith. Moreover, as sand may be used as a substitute for water in ritual ablution, it resonates notions of purification and faithfulness. The purity of the sand is combined in the image with elements such as the clouds, the crane, a Qur’an, a mosque and a minaret, all of which are designed to play on the viewer’s religious sentiments. The combination of the images is reinforced by the slogan: “al-jihad madi ila yawm al-din” (“jihad continues until judgment day”).
Similarly, the mountains in the image evoke divine omnipotence, eternity and grandeur. The white clouds—which are shown all over the image—are a sign of Allah’s total inscrutability prior to creation. In addition, because clouds bear rain, they represent bounty, or khayr (which is also a synonym for rain), and a sign of good things to come. The stork in the picture symbolizes piety. The migratory stork in the Muslim tradition is considered a pious bird, preferring to build its nests on minarets, and donning, as it were, white attire, like pilgrims travelling to Mecca for the Hajj. The bird’s constant “lak-lak” sound is interpreted as expressing in Arabic the saying “al-mulk lak, al-‘izz lak, al-hamd lak” (“the kingdom is yours, glory is yours, and praise is yours”).