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.
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.