The Real Superheroes are still in Comic Books…

“His comic books have captured the imagination of so many young people with superheroes who embodies the tolerance and teachings of Islam.

… Superman and Batman have reached out to their Muslim counter parts…. And I hear they are making progress too.”

- President Barak Obama, 2010

Last summer I had an opportunity to spend part it at the Columbia Business School (CBS) in NYC where I was part of the Rothschild Fellowship. During this time, I had an opportunity to meet social entrepreneurs from the UK and France,  continued fostering a passion and had an opportunity to expand my cultural and religious beliefs.

On an early New York morning we hard a guest speaker to begin our day- Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, a former CBS alumni. Here was Dr. Mutawa, dress shirt tucked into his jeans, a glowing aura of passion and only small patches of grey in his beard that would hint at his age.

Over the next couple hours Dr. Mutawa spent some time speaking to us about his creation of  the 99….. the world’s first superheroes based on Islamic culture and society.

At first I was a little hesitant. But that was quick to change. What would eventually be Dr. Mutawa’s TED Talk presentation at Oxford the following week, we were introduced to a group of superheroes that have brought a complete different identity to the Islamic world.

Dr. Mutawa’s TED Talk- must see talk on the history of the 99 and how it has evolved:

I was so thrilled to hear about this concept!

Just a few weeks ago DC comics released the first of six comics where the the Justice League of America (… Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, Aquaman…) began partnering with the 99 (…Dr. Ramzi Razem, Rughal, Widad the loving, Jami the assembler…).

It is not the first time that powerful superheroes put their egos to the side to over come evil. In fact, I remember as a kid when Marvel’s Spiderman teamed up with Strom and Beast from X-men and on a diferent occasion with the Fantastic Four.

Tonight I sat down and read the comic. Although I remember it taking me much longer to read a comic book, I was so excited that for the first time in my life, the superheroes I grew up admiring have refreshed my youth by continuing my admiration of the ability for these individuals to over come evil together.

Sounds chessy. But its not.

We may be too old to read comics, but every kid grew up on comics at some point in their life. Our childhood comic heroes are today’s Hollywood superstars. I can only hope that today’s real heroes can learn from those we look up to as kids and overcome their differences to truly appreciate the beauty that exists in all cultures and religions.

The truth is that one superhero can make a difference. A team of superheroes – with different abilities- can make an lasting impact.

To end, I wanted to show a couple quick snap photos of the first time where we see such a unique relationship between superheroes being created.

Justice League of America

Superman meets part of the 99

Introducing the 99

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

The Politics of Fasting…

The Great Mosque of Paris was build in the early 1920’s and was known during WWII as one safe haven for Jews as they were safely hidden in the basement and women’s section of the mosque.

I thought I get deep this week.

For many people Ramadan, beginning September 1 or 2nd for some, marks the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar and a holy time of the year in Islam. Ramadan is believed to be the month in which the Quran was revealed and ends in three days of celebration known as Eid.

Why is this month so special for Muslims?

As many people know, during Ramadan, it is prescribed for many to fast from sun rise to sun set. Fasting is certainly not just practiced by Muslims, as it is a concept that translates through many religions. (click here for examples of different religions that fast) Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and means no drinking or eating, abstaining from everyday sins, and practicing Taqwa.

I believe Taqwa is really interesting because it is defined as a state of advanced consciousness, a state where you are aware of your actions, words and presence. What I find irresistible is how Taqwa translates over through so many diverse backgrounds. Imagine wearing a thin long sleeve white shirt and walking by a large tree with hanging  branches. Taqwa is the idea being aware of those branches and not having those branches catch and rip your shirt. (analogy by Sheikh Sadullah Khan)

I have experienced, like many, how difficult it is to wake up before the sun rises to eat. I once read in The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari-

“You will always feel a little discomfort when installing a new habit. It’s sort of like breaking in a new pair of shoes- at first it’s a little hard to wear them but soon they fit like a glove.”

The book goes on to explain that pain is often a precursor to personal growth, so we can’t dread it. Rather one should embrace it.

For me Ramadan is a time of self-reflection and appreciating where I am in life with respect to other individuals who are less privileged. Reminiscing on and being thankful for the things I have.

More than that, I believe Ramadan brings a sense of balance and Taqwa, awareness. Awareness of my environment, consciousness in what I am saying and doing, and realization in how I can improve.  For me, this first comes as an individual then as a contributor to the growth and progress of society.

The most gripping thing I have found during Ramadan is how to manage the ego in disciplining myself to wake up everyday before sunrise. I have failed at doing this many times and most likely will for times to come. However, realizing the weakness has been my first step. As I try to be a more understanding person, my goal is that through all the fasting and non-fasting, through all the times of being conscious and being unaware, I hope to be able to learn and carry my actions forward past Ramadan, through Eid and into the forth coming months.

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |