Reflections on an American Muslim Icon: Muhammad Ali

The Muslim ummah and the world at large has lost a beloved hero.

Muhammad Ali touched the lives of so many in the US and around the world. We are saddened by his loss and pray for his complete forgiveness and a beautiful home in the highest of heavens, Jannat al-Firdaus. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon. Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return.

Below are tributes from some notable scholars and contributors. We would love to hear your own reflections on Muhammad Ali. What did he mean to you? How did he inspire you to be a better Muslim? Please comment below.

OmarSSh. Omar Suleiman:

This life is not real. I conquered the world and it did not bring me satisfaction. God gave me this illness to remind me that I’m not number one, He is.” – Muhammad Ali raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)

Today a legend passed. A shining example of truth, courage, and justice. You will not be forgotten dear brother. Muhammad Ali isn’t just the greatest athlete of all time, he’s an American hero that won the world over with his commitment to the truth. Allah knows how much I’ve always loved and admired him.

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This video is very special as Muhammad Ali raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reflects on the meanings of God, life, death, and the hereafter. Take 10 minutes and watch this profound speech.

I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.” Muhammad Ali raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)

May Allah have mercy on him and elevate his rank, and join him with the greatest in Jannatul firdaws. Ameen

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon.

Sh. Yasir Qadhi

UPDATE: The legend himself has passed away less than half an hour ago – truly to Allah we belong and to Him we shall return. We pray for his forgiveness and ask Allah to bless him with Paradise.


I’m greatly distressed to hear that Muhammad Ali is in critical condition and might be close to the end.

There is no denying that Muhammad Ali is the most famous and influential American Muslim, ever. It is doubtful that anyone will replace that status for the foreseeable future. If the only good that he brought was to bring a positive image of Islam, and to spread the name of our beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in every household and on every tongue in the world, it is a life that is indeed enviable. But in addition to that, he has had a stellar career as the single greatest athlete, of all times. As well, he was an icon of positive political activism, and of preaching truth to power. His court case about refusing the draft for Vietnam was fought all the way to the Supreme Court, which he eventually won.

He converted to what he thought was Islam at a time when Islam was an unknown religion; then he became Sunni after Malcolm X introduced him to mainstream Islam, and he’s been a proud and public Muslim ever since.

If that wasn’t enough, he is one of the most eloquent and poetic star athletes that the world has ever seen. His quotes, like his medals and awards, are legendary (my personal favorite is: “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.“)

We must all go eventually, and Muhammad Ali has lived a good life. Yet still, the heart is saddened and the eyes are sad to see a living legend go before our eyes. Whenever it is his time to go, I pray that Allah eases his suffering, grants him a dignified death, accepts the good that he has done, and overlooks his mistakes.

Br. Muhammad Ali! I know you will not read these words. Yet still, I write them because I am at once proud and humbled to consider you my brother, and to know that we are a part of one Ummah. I consider it a personal loss that I never got to meet you. But I sincerely pray that eventually we shall be together in Jannah, and I look forward to the day that you will dazzle me with your fiery eloquence and make me laugh with your humble humor.

May Allah bless you in your remaining time on this earth, and grant you the best in the next life! Ameen…

ANJSh. Abdul Nasir Jangda:

Born great, died greater- today we mourn the death of a man who, in difficult times, stood firmly upon the path of justice, a man who was often a lone voice for reason and change, a man who has shaped not only the landscape of Muslim America, but also humanity for years to come.

The visceral reaction we have to his loss is a testament to his greatness as not only a fighter, but also as one of the most revolutionary thought leaders of our time.

We all have so much to learn from Muhammad Ali: a beacon of excellence, inspiration, strength, and integrity. I pray he joins his namesake in Firdaws. Please keep him and his family in your prayers this Ramadan.

 

AQuickSh. Abdullah Hakim Quick

May Almighty Allah accept the striving, Dawah, good words, and courage of Muhammad Ali. May Allah open up the doors of Paradise for him. He stood for Islam in difficult times, he inspired many of us to resist the War in Vietnam and all immoral conflict, he continued developing in his faith till he reached the true teachings of Islam through the Last Prophet Muhammad (pbuh); He continued speaking out against injustice and evil till his end. Inna Lillahi wa Innaa ilaihi Raji’oon.

 

UmmZUmm Zakiyyah

I was blessed to spend time with Muhammad Ali a few times, and the fondest memories I have are two: him joining my family to meet his new brother in faith Mike Tyson (as pictured here in Sports Illustrated), and him signing “About Islam” pamphlets and handing them out to fans who wanted his autograph.

The world has lost a champion. May Allah forgive him, have mercy on him, and grant him Jannah without account.

MWajidDr. Mohammed Wajid Akhter

Muhammad Ali meant something special to everyone, but to Muslims he was an incredibly inspirational figure. You have to understand that for a once great civilization, Muslims have precious few public figures that represent the best of what we used to be and not where we are right now.

All across the Muslim world, Ali stood out as an example of someone who was comfortable in his own skin and the world was comfortable with him too. Truly and example that will be missed.
AmujahidAbdul Malik Mujahid

Muhammad Ali told me about his greatest fear. May God forgive his sins and give him a great place in Jannah. ‪#‎RIPMuhammadAli‬.

The last time I met him at his home with Sound Vision team, I asked him what is his greatest fear. This interview was later published by Sound Vision. He remained silent for a moment and then said not being able to enter jannah. In those days he was still able to speak but with difficulty.

It was a very difficult moment. Everyone including his wife sister Lonnie Ali along with Sound Vision team were all teary eyes as Brother Ali remained silent, somber but without tears.

I used my hand and words to comfort him saying that God will give him jannah since he has done so much good.

He stared at me in silence as though questioning if I am sure about myself entering jannah. May Allah give him the Jannah which he desired and may God keep us on the straight path.

A photographer was clicking away and all those moments are recorded.

I have worked with Brother Muhammad Ali on several projects including to stop genocide in Bosnia with Bosnia Task Force. I have great memories of him. One such memory is this photo in which he asked me to pose this way for a photographer. May Allah keep us all serving humanity to please Him.


It is important to keep mentioning that ‪#‎MuhammadAli‬ was a Muslim as today about 30% Muslim children avoid using their Muslim names at school. Not all Americans know that he was a Muslim. I remember marching with Ali in downtown Chicago for the rights of Palestinians during the first intifada when a reporter from CBS asked me why is Muhammad Ali marching. I told her that he feels for the persecution of fellow Muslims in Palestine. She responded saying I did not know that he is a Muslim. May Allah grant him Jannah.

Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay), boxing world heavy weight champion in London 1966. Ali always prays to Allah before the first round of a title fight in London. HOT1966015W2715/7A © Thomas Hoepker / MAGNUM

Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay), boxing world heavy weight champion in London 1966. Ali always prays to Allah before the first round of a title fight in London. © Thomas Hoepker / MAGNUM

 

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10 responses to “Reflections on an American Muslim Icon: Muhammad Ali”

  1. Noor says:

    To Him we belong and to Him we will return, but the passing away of a muslim as courageous as Mohammad Ali is indeed a great loss to the ummah. May Allah forgive him and grant him Jannatul Firdaus Ameen.

  2. Rene says:

    My deepest condolences to his family. There will not be another boxer like Muhammad.

    May he Rest In Power.

  3. Kristy says:

    There was an interesting report on CNN a week or so ago, focusing of Muhammad Ali’s journey through religions, from being raised Baptist, to joining the Nation of Islam in which he changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, to becoming Sunni just when Malcolm X was assassinated, to finally joining the Sufi sect of Islam in 2005 when influenced by the writings of Hazrat Inayat Khan, “Founder of the Sufi Order in the West”.

    The CNN report was an interview with his daughter recently when he no longer could talk. “Muhammad Ali: Five things you never knew about the boxing legend, By Conor Lane, CNN April 28, 2016. http://edition.cnn.com/2016/04/28/sport/

    Thought some readers might be interested in this.

  4. Khalid Khan says:

    What a great man, he was. Mighty god may grant him jannah.

  5. I am distressed to see that Muhammad Ali’s family is not honoring him with a proper Muslim Namaz Janazah. Many of his family members who are controlling the funeral arrangement (including his daughter Laila Ali) are not Muslims.
    Muhammad Ali (may Allah bless him) will have a ‘private family prayer service’ on Thursday and then on Friday 9AM he will have a ‘private Muslim prayer led by an Imam’ in the funeral home. Then a procession will take his remains to a cemetery for private burial. Afterwards, in open ceremony on Friday at 2PM, he will have a ‘interfaith’ prayer led by an Imam and eulogy at KFC Yum center. Naturally you can’t have Janazah in the seats of KFC Center.
    I want someone to start a Twitter movement on this matter and demand that he should have a proper Janazah that all Muslims are allowed to attend as Janazah is a community ‘duty’ for Muslims.
    I and my wife were planning to travel from Chicago to attend his Janazah and now we are uncertain about his Janazah arrangements.

  6. Haris Amin says:

    As the brother above articulates, I’ve been puzzled at how long it’s taking to bury Muhammad Ali. I haven’t heard any scholar comment on this. Is this OK Islamically? Wouldn’t Ali have specified it in his will. The media have said he specified his burial arrangements.

  7. Muhammad Ahmed Alvi says:

    Making correction:
    I contacted Muhammad Ali Center during the weekend about the Muslim tradition of open Janazah prayer. They have contacted me today to inform me that Muhammad Ali’s Open Janazah prayer would be held on Thursday at 12 Noon at Freedom Hall of Louisville KY.
    All Muslims in the area please try to make time for The Greatest, BBC’s ‘Athlete of the Twentieth Century’.
    Thanks

  8. Rehmat says:

    On June 6, Rabbi Michael Lerner, the founder of Tikkun Jewish community and editor-in-chief of Tikkun magazine announced that he was honored to be invited to speak at funeral services of world boxing legend Muhammad Ali to be held on Friday.

    “American Jews have played an important role in the continuing fight for social justice and peace, so our presence in this memorial will be a testimony to the very many in our community who celebrated Muhammad Ali’s courageous fight for peace, social justice, and a world in which love and generosity wins out over fear, hate, militarism and domination. As a religious Jew and rabbi I wish to honor this comrade in the struggle for ‘tikkun olam’ – the healing, repair and transformation of our world. And as a representative of the Jewish world I want to reaffirm our solidarity with Muslims around the world,” Rabbi Lerner said.

    The funeral service is scheduled for Friday in Louisville, Kentucky – Ali’s hometown. Ali died last Friday at the age of 74. He had Parkinson’s disease for over 30 years.

    Former US president Bill Clinton of Monica Lewinsky fame will deliver a eulogy. Other speakers will include Jewish actor Billy Crystal, who is know for his imitation of the Champ, Ali’s wife Lonnie Ali; his daughter Maryum Ali, and sportscaster Bryant Charles Gumbel along with representatives of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Mormonism and Catholicism.

    https://rehmat1.com/2016/06/08/rabbi-lerner-to-speak-at-muhammad-alis-funeral/

  9. Omer Riaz says:

    Greatest Sportsman and Human being of all time. RIP Muhammad Ali

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