Remembering Muhammad ‘Ali (r.a.): "The Greatest"

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Muhammad ‘Ali (r.a.) lived through segregation in the South.  When he won an Olympic gold medal for boxing, White America embraced him.  But when he went back to Lousville, Kentucky; there were places that did not serve “Negroes”.

He turned to Islam as the religion of his ancestors and became an exemplary Muslim, coming via the Nation of Islam.  He opposed the Vietnam War and this is what he said: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?  No, I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over.  This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars.  But I have said it once and I will say it again.  The real enemy of my people is here.  I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality.  If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people, they wouldn’t have to draft me; I’d join tomorrow.  I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs.  So, I’ll go to jail, so what?  We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”

They stripped him of his heavyweight world championship title, but he never ceased to be “The Greatest”.  Three years later, he won his appeal against the ban.  He went back, and defeated the formidable George Foreman in his prime. In the Golden Age of boxing, he was the one that ruled it all.  And yet, he never forgot his God.

When they wanted to give him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he declined.  He said he was named after the prophet of Islam, Muhammad (s.a.w.), and he did not want people to walk all over that name.  After much controversy and deliberation, the star of Muhammad ‘Ali (r.a.) is the only one that is on the wall, where people can look up to the name, “Muhammad”.  Boxing made him famous, but his character made him great.  May Allah (s.w.t.) Forgive him and Raise him to that state of nearness.  Inna lillah wa inna ‘ilayhi raji’un.


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