Archive for Faith

“THE 99”: Muslim Superheroes

there is nothing fundamentally different between Islam and any other belief on Earth or any other way of being human… For me, in the end, the 99 attributes of Allah are attributes that not only all Muslims value, but humanity values. Things like generosity, strength, wisdom, foresight, mercy… So my point of what I was trying to do was try to bring us together, versus pull us apart.

when i first heard about this muslim comic book called The 99, i thought it was a cheesy attempt by some apologetic opportunist. but after looking into it and the writer’s background, i think it’s kinda cool. an animated version of the comic book is in the making…i’d write more about it but i’m busy at work and i just finished explaining it to a friend…so i’m just going to copy and paste our convo, links and all… you’d probably enjoy the convo more anyway…it includes munchkins…and bacon…

c: man i just want to go home but i have to go to the other place after this
c: and work till midnight
a: think of munchkins plotting to bring down humanity
a: evil little munchkins
a: with superpowers
a: the ability to sweat cheese
a: so they can stink up any room they’re in
a: and cause others to pass out
c: does this world include hallucinogens?
a: of course
c: fun world
a: a friend of mine is a teacher
a: so he asks his students on the first day of class
a: if you could have any super power what would it be
a: this guy raises his hand and says the ability to sweat cheese
a: my friend thought it was the greatest thing he ever heard
c: i would have so many questions for that dude
c: what would your power be?
a: read minds
c: hmm that is risky business
a: theres a new islamic comic book
a: with 99 superheroes
a: 99 representing the 99 attributes of God
a: which Muslims believe in
c: really
a: so each superhero personifies an attribute
a: so this one character, Noor
a: possesses the attribute of Light
a: and she can strike light and holograms anywhere but the downside to her power is
a: she can see the bad in people as well, so she develops a cynical view of the world
c: wow
c: sounds interesting
a: theyre screening a documentary about the making of the comic book
a: but the film is also a look at how the comic book has caused controversy in the muslim world
a: religious conservatives hate it
a: one criticism is that its idolizing these superbeings, and only God is to be idolized
c: religious conservatives hate everything except god
a: they hate god too
a: i think its funny that many of these same imams
a: praise suicide bombers and yet believe chidren shouldn’t read about muslim superheroes
a: like if he blows his limbs off and takes out others with him, hes a hero
a: and it’s ok when muslim kids look at this and see it as a positive thing
a: but they cant read a comic book that promotes God’s attributes through his creation
a: it’s like shutup and go away
c: well put
a: i went to get a halal bacon sandwich
a: and the guy forgot the bacon
a: thats the only reason why i went to get it
c: so its just a halal sandwich…
c: i love turkey bacon
a: supposedly its really good at this place
c: go back and throw it in his face like you are a rockstar
a: word
a: wheres my bacon bitch
c: exactly
WHAM! BAM! ISLAM! is the story of Naif Al-Mutawa and THE 99- the first comic book rooted in Islamic history and culture. Since its launch in 2006, THE 99 has been both an international media sensation and a lightening rod for controversy. An intimate look at an entrepreneur and his daring venture to build a new pop-culture for young Muslims, WHAM! BAM! ISLAM! examines the shifting definitions of the sacred and the secular across the Islamic world at the dawn of the 21st century.

For more info about Wham! Bam! Islam!

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Gaza, God, and Faith

“This world was designed to break your heart.” –Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

It’s times like these that usually leave us feeling vulnerable and angry, frustrated and helpless. For me, each crisis brings God to the forefront of my thoughts, puzzling over His place in all of this. Shouldn’t an all-powerful, all-knowing being be held accountable to some degree for what’s happening in the world? Or does that come with the assumption that He isn’t in control and isn’t actually doing anything? Do we really have to wait until we’re dead for a little bit of justice?

Tonight though, Shaykh Hamza’s words came to mind. The pain of watching the images of over 230 of my brethren being bombed to death by a force 100 times more powerful while the rest of the civilized world goes about its business and while Arab leaders watch comfortably from their palaces, and being acutely aware of my own helplessness and inability to stop those bombs from falling, produced a sense of stupefied, bewildered wonder. It’s almost like this world was in fact created just to break our hearts and to wear our spirits thin.

I envy the life of a mystic. They are at peace with themselves and their environment and have come to accept this world for what it is and do not worry about “fixing” it. It is a resignation that comes not from indifference, but from a deep faith in God and an abiding trust in His message. Accepting this dunya for what it is, means turning away from any hope of worldly salvation.  They are humble and unimpressed by this dunya and do not expect nor request anything of it.

This attitude reminds me of a time in my childhood when my father became very ill and was told he could possibly have cancer. We stood around him in the hospital room as he sat upright and chatted with us in a steady, calm voice. I felt myself falling apart inside, terrified that I was going to lose him.  I struggled to keep my fear from showing but I couldn’t stop imagining what life would be like without him, and before I knew it, the tears came pouring down.  My dad addressed the situation by addressing everyone in the room. He talked about death and said that if  he was diagnosed with cancer, than it was the will of God. Each one of us would one day confront the end, but if we live good lives, then there is nothing to fear or be sad about.  Although I couldn’t understand where this strength came, I felt a deep admiration for him and his attitude soothed me. I was amazed by his courage in the face of something that would shake the faith of most. Many people crave that sort of faith, the courage and resoluteness it produces in character, the ease and peace it floods the heart with, a faith that remains just as steady and protective of its keeper in times of adversity.

I really don’t believe that the power structures we live under will change in my lifetime or anytime soon after that, because people here live a distracted, detached existence, a completely different reality from those living in other, troubled parts of the world. They have no direct incentive to change the system. Despite being aware of this, some of us still refuse to accept the world for what it is and because of this, we suffer a restless existence. I’m not sure if that unwillingness on our part comes from some good part of our nature or if it’s just a symptom of weak faith. A part of me wishes that it didn’t want to understand the divine rationale for allowing the innocent to suffer. Or whether the term “allow” is even correct in this context. I wish I could be at ease, secure in my faith and comforted by it, to the point where I no longer feel distress, anger, and despair when news like this hits me. 

I read somewhere that to despair is to doubt God and I remember being bothered by that statement because it seemed unfair. But I think I understand the wisdom behind those words , although I may never reach that degree of faith where my heart can emulate them.  Nevertheless, I pray that one day I do come to possess the wisdom that comforts the heart of the mystic. <>

“All humans are dead except those who have knowledge; and all those who have knowledge are asleep, except those who do good deeds; and those who do good deeds are deceived, except those who are sincere; and those who are sincere are always in a state of worry.” ~Imam Shaf’i

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