Friday, August 26, 2011

Islamic Comics: Iznogoud

Iznogoud (pronounced "eeznogoode." Get it?) is a French comic book series that saw the light of day in the 1960s, written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Jean Tabary. I remember liking the comic books very much as a kid. The series is about Iznogoud, the helper, or Grand Vizir, of the Caliph, who actually wants to be Caliph in his place, a desire immortalized in the French phrase "Je veux être calife à la place du calife." Iznogoud is a self-centered and ill tempered character with a lust for power. All his plans to kill the Caliphe so he can take his place always backfire though and he ends up falling into his own traps in the best of comic book / cartoon tradition. The Caliphe himself on the other hand is a very kind and calm almost Buddha like person. The morale here is obvious, but actually so obvious that the comic mocks it too a bit. You sort of build up a sympathy for Iznogoud because he always fails so miserably. He is indeed your classic anti-hero.
        Now the only thing that makes all of this Islamic or even religious at all is that it deals with the Caliphate. The creators of the series are, at least as far as I know, not Muslim at all, so it sort of takes on this theme from the outside. It really could have been about anyone anywhere. This comic book is clearly from before Islam became the new Communism, otherwise the creators might have picked a different theme (Soviet Union anyone?) The Caliphate is difficult though, because the Caliph is simultaneously the head of state and the religious leader, ruling in a theocracy, in accordance with Islamic religious law, the Sharia. So the Caliph is simultaneously the mundane and the religious ruler. He is both priest and president. There seems to have been some religious controversy over it, where "unlike the French version Haroun El-Plassid's title was changed from Sultan to Caliph avoid upsetting the British Muslim community." (wiki).


  1. that's awesome. and no doubt many comic stories remains in our minds.