5 Amazing Lessons Muslims Should Learn From Muhammad Ali

Somewhere between the eulogies, the obituaries, the tweets, the memes and the acres of press coverage on the passing of Muhammad Ali… lies a set of transformative lessons.

Lessons that took a young African American Cassius Clay from Louisville, Kentucky to becoming Muhammad Ali – heavyweight champion and one of the most recognisable and loved figures on the planet.

Lessons that a Muslim world in turmoil is desperately in need of.


Lesson #1: Have a vision

Muhammad Ali knew exactly what he wanted to achieve from an early age. His school friends recall him sparring with them as a scrawny kid and telling them he was going to be Heavyweight Champion of the world. Even though it looked like an impossible dream then, he had already taken the first step toward his goal just by having one in the first place.


Without a vision, there can be no hope of achieving our dreams. Instead we wander the wilderness, forever reacting instead of acting. The Muslim world is desperately in need of a positive vision to aim for, to marshal our abilities towards and to inspire us.

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Lesson #2: Work hard

Everyone knows that it takes hard work to become world champion. But to become world champion 3 times over and after a prolonged enforced break at the height of your physical abilities? That’s when you know that Muhammad Ali had an exceptional work ethic.

He put the hours in, he used to train wearing extra layers of clothes and weights tied to his legs. He went to the limits of his physical abilities… and then kept going.

dance under the lights

The Muslim world used to be the nation that revelled in working hard. We would put the hours in to make new discoveries, build the most magnificent structures and uplift the human race. Today, we are amongst the least productive people on Earth. We need to regain our love of sweating for our supper.

Lesson #3: Inspire yourself and others

ali quotes

There have been many exceptional individuals in the past century, but few have been so keen to share the secrets of what made them great with the rest of us. Muhammad Ali was transparent and open to constantly sharing words of inspiration and motivation to anyone and everyone.

He inspired people who didn’t like boxing, who didn’t speak his language and who didn’t share his faith. This isn’t just amazing – it is almost magical. Then again, the Prophet (SAW) did say, “In eloquence there is magic…

The Muslim world suffers from a crisis of communication. We are unable to articulate ourselves and our faith to each other and to the rest of the world in terms that even begin to show the beauty of Islam and the wisdom behind it. We need to regain that eloquence, the magic and the words to inspire once more.

Lesson #4: Admit your mistakes


There are few figures more iconic, more quotable and more consequential in the past century than Muhammad Ali, but his mentor Malcolm X was one of them. In the early years of their friendship, Malcolm was like an older brother to Muhammad Ali. But then Malcolm broke with the Nation of Islam and Ali ostracised Malcolm as the leadership of the Nation demanded.

One day, they passed by each other outside a hotel in Ghana. Malcolm tried to say salaam to his old friend, but Ali ignored him. Years later, when Ali also joined traditional Islam and Malcolm had been assassinated – Ali regretted this incident deeply.

Turning my back on Malcolm was one of the mistakes that I regret most in my life. I wish I’d been able to tell Malcolm I was sorry, that he was right about so many things. But he was killed before I got the chance. He was a visionary ahead of us all.

Muhammad Ali was big enough to admit his mistakes publicly. There are many areas in which we are on the receiving end of injustice and oppression, but the Muslim world needs to be open and honest with itself about our own failings and how we have fallen from our better selves.

Lesson #5: Have dignity and self-respect – for yourself and your faith

hollywood star

When he changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, there were many who refused to use the new foreign sounding Islamic moniker for him. Muhammad refused to given in to their prejudice just to fit in. There was a boxer who point blank refused to call him Muhammad Ali. When they finally got in the ring, Ali rained blow after blow on him each time bellowing “What’s my name?” until his prejudiced opponent gave in.

The respect he had for the name was seen once more when he was given his own star on the Hollywood walk of fame. He requested that his star not be placed on the floor like those of others, but instead fixed into a wall. When asked why he replied that he could not bear to have the name of the Prophet (SAW) on the ground where it could be walked over.

This dignity and self-respect is something missing from many parts of the Muslim world today. He was unashamedly black, unapologetically Muslim, unimpeachably confident and yet unbelievably likeable – and in doing so, showed that we don’t need to compromise on our values in order to gain respect… or even love.


Ali spent the majority of his life saying he was “the greatest.” He was known to be loud mouthed and cocky, but few minded because he did it with class, a knowing wink and then proved himself right time and time again. Yet when he was once asked about his debilitating Parkinsons, he replied “Perhaps it is Gods way of showing me He is the greatest… not me.”

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.

To the world he was a boxer, a legend, a champion and even “the Greatest of All Time.” To Muslims he was something far more precious. He was one of us.

38 / View Comments

38 responses to “5 Amazing Lessons Muslims Should Learn From Muhammad Ali”

  1. Avatar Ibrahim says:

    Allahu Akbar! I felt emotional after reading this article. Jazaka’llahu kairan!

  2. Avatar Ririn says:

    Innalillahi wa inna ilaihi rojiun. Selamat jalan Muhammad Ali, semoga Allah menghadiahimu surga.

  3. Avatar fatima says:


    This was truly inspiring! May Allah forgive him and grant him the highest place in jannah, near to the one whose name he proudly proclaimed and respected.

  4. Avatar Yusuf Ahsan says:

    Great article. He was truly a role model for the modern Muslims.

  5. We are all from God and to God we will all return,,, my sincerest condolence to the whole family of the great legend boxing history, Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali, your body will only the part to be disappeared, but your name and history of life will be forever and the whole future generations will read about you…. may God bless you to the best and more comfortable place in jannah…

  6. Avatar Hamid Akhtar says:

    Alas, we should have learnt all this while he was alive. I think, there might me many more such greay people around we should know the details, so we can copy the traits. Can we have more about Mohammad Ali’ s recent achievements?

    • Avatar Kristy says:

      Muhammad Ali easily moved from the Nation of Islam, to Sunni Islam, to Sufi Islam in 2005. In this day of Islamic sectarianism, the absence of negative comments by him about past religious experiences is commendable. Many people do not know this, but he was greatly influenced by the peaceful writings of Hazrat Inayat Khan, “Founder of the Sufi Order in the West”. There are interviews from a week or so ago with his daughter when it became apparent that Ali was dying. She reveals much about his religious influence in his life as well as in hers.

  7. Avatar Fahim says:

    This article has brought tears to my eyes, purely out of a mixture of reverence for its beauty and shame for the state we are in.
    May Allah guide us all – Ameen !

  8. Avatar Miftah says:

    Jezakellah it is truly inspiring

  9. Avatar Valerie says:

    Sincère condolences to Muhammed Ali’s family. May Allah grant him forgiveness and peace!

  10. Avatar Maznah says:

    I admired him since 1970. MAY ALLAH BLESS MOHAMMAD ALI.

  11. Avatar Faezah says:

    Innalillahiwainnailaihirojiun. The world will miss him very much. He is and will always be an inspiration to us all. May Allah pardon all his sins, grant him mercy and place him in the highest Jannah. Ameen.

  12. Avatar SaiamUK says:

    jazakAllah khairan for this beautiful tribute Wajid bhai (Y)

  13. Avatar Roohi says:

    Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon. This article is so emotionally inspiring because it speaks the truth, about Ali about Islam about Muslims and us as people.

  14. Avatar Zain Zubair says:

    MashAllah!!! A great sportsman and role model for all Muslims. RIP

  15. Avatar Salman Ahmad says:

    Allahu akbar…the best part of this article is about suffering from Parkinson, where he said when asked “Perhaps it is Gods way of showing me He is the greatest… not me.”

  16. Avatar D Noralizah says:

    Beautifully said for a great legend a wonderful soul. So proud that He was one of us.

  17. Avatar Saadiyah says:

    May Allah showers His blessings on Muhammad Ali’s soul. Amiiiiin.

  18. Avatar Nurammar says:

    May Allah bless him…aminnn..

  19. Avatar Sufyan Abubakar says:

    I was surprised by my own grief. We knew he was severely ill, aging, and barely able to communicate. It was only a matter of time so why did it hurt so much? I still don’t know that I fully understand as many people have expressed the same feelings. But what I do believe is that Allah put the love of Muhammad Ali in the hearts of so many people. This is a special connection. It can’t but be divine. May Allah shower him in His mercy, raise him to levels in the hereafter even higher than the ones he reached in this world, and join us with him and the one he was named after in the highest level of Jannatul firdaws. Ameen

  20. Avatar Aba Haziq says:

    jazakAllah khairan for this beautiful tribute

  21. Avatar Leya nabi says:

    Ameen lets all take a moment and pray for the greatest

  22. Avatar Faaizah says:

    Masha Allah, what a beautifully written article.

  23. Avatar muhammed h says:

    As Salaamu Alaikum

    A tribute to a worthy Muslim espousing all the values which should be dear to all Muslims. We have so much to learn from Muhammed Ali. The tragedy is that it took his return to the Creator for us to appreciate his qualities. From HIM to we come and to HIM is our return. Innal lahi.

  24. Avatar Moumina says:

    Quote; “when he was once asked about his debilitating Parkinsons, he replied “Perhaps it is Gods way of showing me He is the greatest… not me.” Allahu Akbar!
    JazakumAllah for this memorial article which truly give our brother Muhammed Ali the tribute he deserve. Rahmatu Allah.
    I watched the memorial service live on net from my home in Oslo,Norway; and it truly showed the legacy left for us as an ummah. It is to rise ourself above all racism and discrimination, to be a servant of Allah Azza Wa Jall between all religions or ethnicity. To view the tribute shown to Muhammed Alis(RahmatuLlah) memory by not only figurative muslims, but also christian and jewish leaders, buddhists and native indians….surely was the best memorial service ever and indeed justified to brother Muhammed Alis memory. I pray that his name in history not only inspire to courage, but also that our duty as a global muslim, is that our concern for the fellow human being is without border, no matter religion, status or beliefs. May he rest in peace, and may his family be blessed.
    Wish you all Ramadan Kareem.

  25. Avatar Abu waliyya says:

    That’s fantastic may the Muslim world now take a look at words and phrases, and put in to practice, amin. Wa jazaakum Allah khairan.

  26. Avatar Abu waliyya says:

    That’s fantastic may the Muslim world now take a look at this words and phrases, and put in to practice, amin. Wa jazaakum Allah khairan.

  27. Avatar Ali says:

    R.I.P. Muhammed Ali

  28. Avatar shreejon says:

    I am learn more about Muhammed Ali in this article which is unknown for me before. May Allah blessing him and reach Jannatul Ferdous. Amiiiiin.

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