June 16, 2008
Comic-book heroes inspired by Islam
by David Masters
Naif al-Mutawa was troubled.
Highly educated, with two doctorates to his name, Mutawa was an astute businessman and an academic psychologist.
Yet following a conversation with his sister he felt called to give it all up and write children’s books.
He knew that if he was to turn his talents to writing he would want it to be a huge success, like Pokemon.
But would God be pleased with such a creation?
With these thoughts wandering through his mind, Mutawa remembered God’s 99 attributes, including tolerance and mercy.
This chain of thoughts led to an idea: what about 99 comic-book heroes, each embodying an attribute of God?
And so ‘The Ninety-Nine’ was born, a comic book series with 99 heroes, each from a different country, and each possessing one of the 99 attributes of the Islamic God.
The 99 heroes include both male and female characters and are from 99 countries around the world.
Noora the Light, from the United Arab Emirates, shows people the darkness or light inside their souls.
Mumita the Destroyer, from Portugal, is a fierce and dangerous fighter.
Darr the Afflicter, from America, can manipulate nerve endings to transmit or prevent pain.
Since the series was first released in 2006 it has received heartfelt praise and scathing criticism from the Muslim world.
Some Muslims feel that the comic books promote the positive message of Islam in an accessible way.
Others think that putting the attributes of God into comic book characters amounts to blasphemy.
Mutawa admits that he did not consult a Muslim cleric when creating the characters, a deliberate decision.
Asked why, Mutawa replied that a very limited number of people should not be allowed to tell people how to practice their religion.
According to Mutawa, the comic books demonstrate his belief that globalisation should not be fought against, but embraced and used to put ideas out into the world.
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