In Islamic tradition (as was the custom in pre-Islamic Arabia), blood or shedding blood symbolizes contrition and expiation, paying for a wrongdoing or sins with blood. In the jihadi visual propaganda however, blood or red usually symbolize the act of martyrdom, and it is linked to warlike qualities. Here, blood is seen dripping from the sword of a warrior who is standing in front of a large black banner that bears the shahada (Islamic testimony of faith holding that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger), a symbolic depiction of the sun and the name of the group: “saraya al-tawhid wal-jihad” (“Squadrons of Tawhid wal-Jihad [monotheism and jihad]”).
According to hadith (prophetic traditions or reports), the black flag was the battle flag of the Prophet Muhammad and it was carried into battle by many of his companions. Since then, the image of the black flag has been used as a symbol of religious revolt and engagement in battle (i.e., jihad). In the contemporary Islamist movement, the black flag is used to evoke notions of jihad and of reestablishing the Islamic Caliphate.
The sword in the image further helps depict current jihadi activities as modern extensions of the campaigns of the first Muslims, as swords are seen as noble weapons that embody the religious purity, nobility and righteousness that is associated with the Prophet, his companions and their successful military campaigns.