The dominant color in the image is the color red, the color of fire, blood, passion, impulse and danger. It is also fundamentally linked to blood, and warlike qualities. However, like the color yellow, red can be ambivalent, both divine and infernal. The yellow and red of the flames invoke the pain of separation and a longing to be united with God, that is, the longing for death and achievement of martyrdom.
The dove in the top right of the image is a common motif in jihadi visual propaganda. 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. 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.”
At the center of the image, there is a black banner with the text of the shahada (Islamic testimony of faith holding that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger), a symbol associated with the Islamic State of Iraq. The black banner is a joint symbol of vengeance and revolt that traces its roots to prophetic times. According to prophetic tradition (hadith), 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 with the shahada is used to evoke notions of jihad and of reestablishing the Islamic Caliphate.
The appearance of the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque is also common in jihadist imagery. Muslims across sectarian lines share a reverence for both sites, though each also holds special significance for Palestinian groups (symbolizing Palestinian statehood). Its appearance in this context ties together the two theaters of jihad, Iraq and Israel/Palestine, a notion that is verbalized in the caption on the right: “bawwabat al-tahrir li-ard filastin” (“[The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) is] the gateway of liberation for the land of Palestine”). The text on the left again refers to the ISI, stating: “amal al-umma wa-majduha al-qadim” (“[ISI is] the hope of the umma [the Islamic nation] and its foremost pride”).