The image is the banner that appears on the website of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). It consists of several familiar jihadi motifs, including the horse and rider, the outline of world map, the black banner bearing the text of the shahada (Islamic testimony of faith holding that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger) and a calligraphal representation of the words “Jund Allah.”
The horse is an important symbol in both pre-Islamic Arabia and Islamic culture. Traditionally, horses have been ascribed with positive qualities of chivalry, bravery in battle and victory as evidenced in pre-Islamic poetry, the Qur’an, hadiths and other genres of literature. For example, the beginning of the Qur’anic sura 100 talks about “running horses” that appear as galloping through the world toward the final goal, namely, Judgment Day. Horses are also symbolic of the first generation of Muslims and that generation’s successful military campaigns, and thus are often employed to evoke specific Salafi religious sentiments with regard to the military victories of Muhammad and his companions. The rider emphasizes the element of human agency in jihad, and is a way to enhance the traditional symbol of a horse and flesh out notions of aggression and the call to jihad. Thus, the horse and rider motif places current jihadi activities within the same unfolding dialectic as the jihad of early Islam.
According to 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 outline of a world map globalizes local Uzbek or regional issues and signals the IMU’s link to the global jihadi movement.
Finally, the word “furqan” (here transliterated “furqon”) is a Qur’anic term for the notion of distinction between good and evil and a shar‘i (Islamic legal) term for evidence/proof. It is also used to denote the Qur’an itself (al-Furqan).