This image was created by or for Jama‘at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (JTJ or Society for Monotheism and Jihad, also known as al-Qa’ida in Iraq), as indicated by the appearance of the group’s logo on the image. The organization was initially led by Abu Mus‘ab al-Zarqawi, but became part of the al-Qa‘ida network in Iraq under the official name Tanzim Qa‘idat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn in 2004.
The banners in the bottom circles resemble the classic black flag with the text of the shahada (Islamic testimony of faith holding that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger), which traces its roots to prophetic times. According to hadith (prophetic tradition or report), the black flag was the battle flag of the Prophet Muhammad and it was carried into battle by many of his companions. 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.
In the top circle, above the head of Usama bin Ladin, appears a green banner, which is often used synonymously with the black and white flags in jihadi imagery. Another element in the image is the appearance of clasped hands. The hands grasped in a handshake are a symbol of unity between al-Qa‘ida and the greater jihadi movement. In this manner, the image is able to connect the concerns and activities of al-Qa‘ida with those of its associates/ affiliates and other jihadi groups and Muslim entities. Each circle contains a slogan at the bottom, in addition to the calligraphical representation of the shahada on the banners. Under bin Ladin, the slogan reads: “kulluna ma‘ak didda al-tawaghit” (“we’re all with you against the tawaghit [evil idols]”). The bottom right slogan reads: “yadan bi-yadin ma‘a al-mujahidin” (“hand in hand with the mujahidin [fighters]”); and the bottom left: “hamlat al-tadamun al-Islami didda al-tawaghit” (“the Islamic solidarity campaign against the tawaghit [evil idols]”).