When people would ask me who my favorite superhero was, my mind would immediately go to Batman, rather than someone like Superman or Spider-Man. I’ve always liked the darkness he had about him, but as I grew older I realized there was another reason why I liked him so much. Unlike most other superheroes, Batman had no superhuman abilities, he had gadgets and technology. He couldn’t fly, he used his cape to glide and his grappling hook to raise himself onto buildings. But the main thing that set him apart from others was his drive. Most other heroes fought for the betterment of their town, for good. Batman fought for vengeance, for his own selfishness.
Growing up, I learned more about character concepts in middle school and high school literature classes. There was the protagonist, who many teachers would call the hero of the story; there was the antagonist, who was usually deemed as the bad guy or the force that is stopping the protagonist from reaching their goal; there are archetypes, such as the lover, the sage, the orphan. Then there was my favorite, the anti-hero, who could be described as a flawed hero.
When this concept was introduced to me, I remember trying to wrap my mind around it. An anti-hero? I thought to myself. Isn’t that basically a villain? I understood it better when I started to read and analyze my own books and TV shows, rather than just what I would read at school. It hit me like a slap in the face when I read A Game of Thrones for the first time. I was still stuck in the good vs. evil mindset, trying to figure out who the heroes were and who the villains were, but gave up when good people did bad things and bad people did good things. It made me question what a hero was.
This could especially be applied to many of the greatest names in history. Take people like Susan B. Anthony for instance; she dedicated much of her time to fighting for women’s rights. She’s deemed as a national hero for women, yet her actions and words only extended to white women, rather than all women. How about Malcolm X? He was in prison and was a part of an organization with very extremist ideas. But despite all of that, he found the true meaning of Islam and even made Hajj, turning his life around completely.
There were many people like this during the time of the Prophet (SAW), most notably, Omar ibn al-Khattab. He did many awful things in his life; he would drink until he was mindless, and he was very well known for his belligerence. He hated Islam when it was first revealed, and he made sure everyone knew. Once, he was so fed up with how Islam was affecting society that he set out to kill the Prophet (SAW). When he found out that his sister and brother-in-law had converted, he confronted them, became enraged with them, and accidentally hit his sister in the face. Once he realized what he had done, he stopped, and decided he would give Islam a chance. Upon hearing the Quran for the first time, it changed his outlook on life. He began to make better choices in life, becoming more of a merciful and softhearted person. He even thought, despite many of the good things he began to do, that if there was one person who would not be able to enter Jennah, it would be him. Yet he was one of the greatest figures in Islamic history, as well as one of the Khulafah Rasheedun.
I believe heroes are just a fictional concept, just another title people would fight to have. Society is stuck in this black and white idea that labels people as either good or bad. People are so focused on who is good and who is bad that they forget that people can change and improve themselves. What people fail to realize is that everyone is gray, meaning no one is a hero and no one is a villain, but it is their choices that are good or bad. People can make terrible and selfish life decisions, but can do heroic actions that say otherwise. Perhaps this is why I have always chosen Batman over other superheroes, because I found him to be a more accurate representation of a human being.
By Mariam Al-Ramahi