Muhammad Ali: Sunni Muslim and African-American Hero Goes to His Eternal Home

Mohamed Ali

The sun that brightens the day in African nations seemed to shine a bit dimmer this morning as the news of a falling star shocked the world. Muhammad Ali, “the greatest” formally known as Cassius Clay, passed away at 74 years old in a Phoenix, Arizona hospital, surrounded by his family, after suffering from septic shock. Ali died at 9 p.m. local time on Friday, June 3, 2016.

Soon after ending his 27 year boxing career in 1981, having fought in over 100 boxing matches (professional and amateur), Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a disease he battled for 32 years.

The Black-American legend, who claimed his African origins, was one of the most successful athletes in the history of sports. Muhammad Ali was crowned as the “Sportsman of the Century” and “Sports Personality of the Century”. Beyond sports, beyond heavyweight boxing titles, Muhammad Ali was a talented human who wrote many books including a personal biography and topics about humanity at large.

muhammad ali
Ali in Zaire 1974 Photo/JBeckford Tumblr

Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali in 1964 two years after he was educated on the Nation of Islam under the tutelage of Malcolm X.  He later joined one of the two main branches of orthodox Islam to become a Sunni Muslim in 1975. This was after he left the NOI when he experienced a falling out with the group when Elijah Muhammad stepped down as leader. After his 1975 Sunni conversion there were reports that later in his life he embraced Sufism.

Ali was staunchly against fighting in the Vietnam War, (November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975).

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 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 jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.

He therefore rejected the draft call to join the America military in the year 1967, and was granted an overturned judgment post refusal.

Ali was a world icon in the history of the black race. Many were inspired by the humble beginnings of the legend, but more so, he was brash, cocky, confident, and he gave a voice to a populace that did not have one.

FILE - Laila Ali, left, poses with her father, boxing great Muhammad Ali, after her win against Erin Toughill at the MCI Center in Washington, June 11, 2005.
Laila Ali, left, poses with her father, boxing great Muhammad Ali, after her win against Erin Toughill at the MCI Center in Washington, June 11, 2005.

Born January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky, he reined as world heavyweight boxing champion during his career for many years. Ali transformed the reputation of African-American athletes. He had a intellectual readiness to oppose any act of racism against Africans and minorities all over the world, and he will be greatly missed.

Burial

According to Fox 19 news, less than an hour after news first spread about the death of the global icon, boxing legend and Louisville native, spokesman Bob Gunnell told WAVE 3 News that Louisville will be the final resting place for Ali.

“Muhammad will be buried in Louisville,” Gunnell said, adding that he expects to announce formal arrangements at about 3 p.m. ET Saturday.

Muslims believe that the present life is a trial in preparation for the next realm of existence. When a Muslim dies, he or she is washed and wrapped in a clean, white cloth (usually by a family member) and buried after a special prayer, preferably the same day. Muslims consider this a final service that they can do for their relatives and an opportunity to remember that their own existence here on earth is brief.

We will report on the burial service arrangements as news arises.