No Muslim walked on the face of the Earth in this century more famously known and celebrated than Muhammad Ali.
Muhammad Ali is no doubt a phenomenon that transcends his time, culture, and politics. He is a household name and perhaps the most famous Muslim in the world, excelling even the likes of Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) and Malcolm X.
Even at the height of his popularity, Ali used his God-given gifts not for his own personal goals but for advancing justice for all. Sports was a venue for him to assert a global message regarding political oppression, racism, and injustices.
He immortalized with a celebrity star on the Walk of Fame, immortalizing him in the celluloid memory of Hollywood. He became the first sports personality to be given a place on the sought-after corridor, outside of the world of film, television and radio.
He was in fact engraved on the wall of the celebrity because he would not have the name of the Prophet stamped on by feet. He said:
“My name is our most beloved Prophet Muhammad’s.”
I hope to see the name of the Prophet engraved in Hollywood someday if I get the chance insha Allah.
It would take volumes to define the phenomena that is Muhammad Ali. But I would like to look at aspects of what made him truly unique, as a celebrity, religious devotee, and simply a human being.
At the age of 12, he declared:
“I am going to be the heavy weight champion of the world.”
As proved by his life, he was inspired only because Allah has been guiding him through his life.
Never did he miss an opportunity to uphold his pride as a Muslim and the greatness of Islam. For example, when a Montreal based group invited him for a million dollar fund raising campaign, contrary to their expectations, instead of talking about his exciting career in sports, he proceeded to give an Islamic sermon.
It incurred a heavy loss to the organizers, who did not even get enough money to pay for the hall. But this is what defines Muhammad Ali, the uncompromising and unstoppable force, in and outside of the ring.
He has been the strongest voice against apartheid and inequality. In this regard, he is second only to Nelson Mandela. Though he did not attempt long sermons or lectures, his brief words attracted and excited people. He made the establishment tremor. Now, the earth is shaken by his passing.
As the Quran says, the earth and heavens rejoice when the corrupt and cruel leave the world. Regarding Pharoah, the Quran says Neither the heaven nor the earth cry for him.
Dick Gregory, a human rights activist and comedian in America says:
“Ali has instilled a divine sense in him. Whenever you see him, either in the last round of a context or before the beginning of a lecture, you find him extolling the God.
To add one more thing: If aliens visit the earth, we can show Muhammad Ali to them as the perfect amalgamation of physical fitness, faith, decorum, love, mercy, and happiness.
Muhammad Ali has departed us forever but we should continue to pray for him. Moreover we should cherish and practice al his teachings, ideals, principles, and values in life.
Muhammad Ali has believed in Allah and that faith has made him strong to face any adversity. With this faith, he has converted every failure into a footstep to victory.
“I never thought of losing, but now that it has happened, the only this is to do it right. That is my obligation to all people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life.”
On another occasion, he said:
“Impossible is not a fact. It is an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It is a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
As befitting to a noble and exemplary believer, never did he find anything impossible in life.
He once remarked:
“Impossible is just a big word, thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world, they have simply given in instead of exploring the power to change it.”
Needless to say, this is a model for any reformer or believer or activist who ventures to alter the world.
“I settled for being remembered only as a great boxing champion who became a preacher and champion of his people.”
Can there be a better example for an inspiring and exiting sermonizer and Islamic activist?
Muhammad Ali always exhibited a relentless passion for hard work and he always remained pro-active. Even when he was scuffling with the deadly Parkinson disease, he did not lose his rocky belief, enthusiasm and passion for hard work. In Time Magazine, Robert Lipsyte wrote:
“A diagnosis of Parkinson was cruel irony to a man who had been so active and verbal. But his gallantry made him a role model for all people, suffering from incurable disease.”
A few weeks before his demise, he roared agaisnt Donald Trump, getting ready to contest the US Presidential election as follows, “I am Muslim. Islam has no relationship with the murderers who massacre the innocent in Paris or elsewhere in the world. Muslims have to remain vigilant about such people who use Islam for their ulterior motives…Such murderers, killing the innocent, leave a wrong impression in the mind of the people.”
Muhammad Ali’s pro-activeness and enthusiasm has become an example for the leaders of many organizations and to the ordinary believers. Normally, many leaders, when they reach their fifties, beckon old age and they try to hand over the mantle of leadership to the youth.
In reality, old age is not in their body but in mind as well. Even at the age of 74, Muhammad Ali behaved like a youth in his prime 20. In his dictionary of life, there was no world-old age but only youthfulness.
Now I have a deep sense of loss because I could not personally befriend this great soul. I hope this article is a humble tribute to him.