The red caption in the image refers to Abu al-Walid al-Maqdisi, the leader of the Palestinian salafi group Jama‘at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (JTJ), which emerged in the Gaza Strip after the August 2009 clashes in Rafah between Hamas and salafi jihadis.  The red caption reads: “kulluna fidak ya abu (sic.) al-walid” (“we are all your redemption/ransom, O Abu al-Walid”).  It is likely that this image was created before his death, Abu al-Walid was eulogized by Ayman al-Zawahiri in a video entitled “rihta’ al-shaykh al-qa’id Hisham al-Sa’idni.”

In the image, the Dome of the Rock appears alongside the al-Aqsa mosque, the appearance of which is a common motif in jihadi imagery. Reverence for both shrines is shared by all Muslims across sectarian lines, though they hold special significance for Palestinian groups (symbolizing Palestinian statehood). The Dome of the Rock was built in 692 A.D. by the Umayyid caliph ‘Abd al-Malik on the site where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven in his mi‘raj (night journey),  and it is considered the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and al-Madina.

The white clouds in the image evoke Allah’s total inscrutability prior to creation. The cloud is also the bearer of rain and therefore bounty (khayr, which is a synonym for rain), and is a sign of good things to come. The lightning emanating from the black group logo at the top left is part of a  common storm motif in Islamic imagery, and is generally associated with the foretelling of divine anger and punishment. This is especially a likely interpretation in combination with the other visual elements in the image.

The text on the right are verses  taken from a famous classical Arabic qasida (poem) written by the pre-Islamic (6th century A.D) Arabian poet al-Samaw’al ibn ‘Adiya’ and entitled “Shama’il al-‘arab.” The poem boasts about the author’s tribe.

More Information
Group Name Jama`at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad fi Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis aka Jama`at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (JTJ) - Palestine
Dominant Colors Blue, Green
Secondary Colors Red, Gold, Black
Language Arabic
Isolated Phrases / Mottoes / Slogans 1) Shahada 2) kulluna fidaka ya abu (sic.) al-walid
Image Number 0311
Groups Region of Operation Middle East
Groups Country of Operation Israel/Palestine
Weapons Firearms, Pistol / Handgun
Body Parts Face / Bust
Body Parts Analysis Covered.
Air Lightning, Clouds / Fog, Sky
Fire Light Rays / Light
Geopolitical Symbols Symbol of party, movement or company, Slogan
Geopolitical Analysis Palestinian Jama`at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad logo - black sphere with white calligraphic text of shahada, group name and sword
Religious Textual References Shahada, Other Medieval Text
Religious Textual References Analysis La ila illa Allah, Muhammad rasul Allah. Pre-Islamic poetry by Samaw'al ibn `Adiya'.
Religious Symbols Holy Site
Religious Symbols Analysis Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa.
Fauna Dove / Default Bird
Flora Trees / Shrubs, Grass / Leaves / Branches Only
Topography Man-made Structure / Landmark
Topography Analysis Domed mosque.
Visual Themes The doves in the image are also significant, as the world of birds in general is very important in the symbolic language of Islam. Pre-Islamic Arabs imagined soul birds fluttering around the grave of the deceased, and the bird continues to symbolize the flight of the soul beyond the confines of this world. Furthermore, the souls of martyrs are believed to live in the crops of green birds. Doves in particular are considered sacred, since they are believed to have protected Muhammad during his nocturnal journey. It is in this manner that the dove can be linked to the notion of martyrdom and the rise of a martyr’s soul to heaven. The dove is also a symbol of loving fidelity, which is manifested by the collar of dark feathers around its neck, called “the dove’s necklace.”

The lush greenery of the background, the rolling hills and trees, resonate the idea of God’s benevolence, and is symbolic of creation, life and sustenance. Furthermore, green is considered the traditional color of the Prophet Muhammad’s tribe, and has been adopted as a sacred color based on Qur’anic verses (76:21; 18:65-82) and a reliable hadith (prophetic tradition or report) that associates green with “universally good things.” Finally, the color is related to jihadi doctrine, as it is believed that while the corpses of martyrs lay in their graves, their souls are to be put into the bodies of green birds that drink from the rivers of Eden and eat from its fruit.

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