3 Things I Learned about being Muslim from Muhammad Ali

ali-newsToday was Muhammad Ali’s Jenazah. It was held in Louisville, Kentucky only a 5 hour drive from where I live. A lot of people I know – including my brother – drove down to join the congregational prayer for his final departure from this world.

I contemplated going myself – after all not only was Muhammad Ali an inspiration for the world, but he was also a man who was unabashed about his love for his faith.

In fact Muhammad Ali was brazenly vocal about his beliefs throughout his life regardless of the climate of the world around him. At his core – what he did was simply speak the truth no matter what. But he did this in so many ways…

This is what I learned about being Muslim from Muhammad Ali:

  1.  Know who you are – everyone knows Muhammad Ali knew he was GREAT and he had no qualms about letting the world know this. But he was also humble in front of God, “whose proper name” as Ali put it, “is Allah”. “All my success, all my fearlessness, all my victories, all my courage, everything come from Allah”- Muhammad Ali. And it was his respect for the Prophet Muhammad’s (S) name, that got his Hollywood Star placed on a wall on the Walk of Fame. Plain and simply Muhammad Ali was not ashamed of who he was – a proud Black American Muslim man and the heavy weight champion of the world.
  2. Stand up against oppression – Throughout his career, Muhammad Ali was known for standing up for equal rights during the Civil Rights Movement in the US. And he also took a stand against fighting in the Vietnam War because he felt that it was an unjust war even when it meant that he would be stripped of his titles and put in jail for his beliefs.
  3. Do more than just talk – The legacy of Muhammad Ali after he left boxing is one of social activism. “What am I going to do [when I retire?] Get ready to meet God. Owning real estate, owning a business, teaching boxing – that won’t get me to heaven…When I get out of boxing what I’m going to do – I’m going to do all I can to help people… God is watching me. God don’t praise me because I beat Joe Frazier… He wants to know how do we treat each other, how do we help each other. So I’m going to dedicate my life to using my name in public to helping charities, helping people, uniting people – people are bombing each other because of religious beliefs. We need somebody in the world to help make peace.” – Muhammad Ali. And that’s exactly what he did.

So while I wasn’t able to go down and be part of Muhammad Ali’s Jenazah – I pray for him, knowing that he has impacted so many lives in a positive way. And I hope that we, as Muslims – and as people in general –  will carry on his legacy of spreading peace in the world.

You know there are so many great moments of Muhammad Ali’s life that have been caught on tape – and posted to youtube – and I think it’s fitting to share at least a snippet of his life and who he was in closing:

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