Ninety-nine, to be exact (though a few of these, well, may not be considered “virtuous” by some peoples). “Islamic Superheroes Going Global” by Camille Agon for Time, August 5:
Like other kids the world over, Middle Eastern children have long fantasized about superheroes battling injustice in American cities or fighting beasts in Japan. Five years ago, they got some champions of their own to cheer on when Kuwait-born businessman Naif Al-Mutawa created a new breed of superheroes endowed with Muslim traits and virtues. Now Mutawa is on an even greater mission: taking those same Islamic characters around the world.
“The 99”, a comic-book series based on characters that each personify one of the 99 qualities that the Koran attributes to God, met early resistance in places like Saudi Arabia. Local authorities worried that the series might mock Islam. But after Mutawa guaranteed that he would remain respectful of religion and won backing from a major Islamic bank, the series took off around the Gulf. Initially given away for free with Arabic versions of Marvel comics (the license for which Mutawa owns in the region), The 99 is now a stand-alone success, with some 500,000 copies given away and sold across the region in the past two years. […]
The “99” epithets of Allah include al-mudhil (“the Humiliator”), al-khafid (“the Abaser”), al-muntaqim (“the Avenger”), and al-darr (“the Harmer”). Wonder if the two heroes — “the Humiliator” and “the Abaser” — focus solely on dhimmis?
The 99 is based on a pivotal moment in Islamic history: the Mongol invasion of Baghdad in 1258. In Mutawa’s series, 99 gemstones encrypted with Baghdad’s wisdom and power were scattered around the world, left for superheroes such as “Jabbar the Powerful” and “Noora the Light” to find before their archnemesis Rughal does. […]
Yet the 99 do try to teach virtues valued by Islam, such as working as a team and combining your strengths with those of others. “The goal is to teach children that there are 99 ways to solve a problem,” says Mutawa.
Including, apparently, by humiliating, abasing, harming, and exacting vengeance from others.
The characters in The 99 include Muslims from all over the world: Fatah, from Indonesia, can open and close gateways at any location; Daar, from the U.S., can inflict pain; and Mumita, with unparalleled agility, is Portuguese. This year, a burqa-wearing character from Yemen named Batina the Hidden will make an appearance. “Even though there are approximately 50 female superheroes, only five will be covered in that way,” says Mutawa. “I want to send the message out that there is not only one way to be Muslim.”