Ali: reflections of a Muslim
With the passing of Muhammad Ali, the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time, the Islamic community of Jamaica humbly requests that the Jamaican people join with them in saying: "Inna lillah wa lilahi rajioon" - To Allah/God we belong and to Him is our return.
With his life in the boxing ring, he was not only the standard-bearer of boxing speed, skill, and agility, but he became the 20th Century's vanguard in popularising Islam in a positive way.
There is no individual whose reversion (or conversion) to Islam had the degree of global attention and impact as that of the man whose birth name was Cassius Clay.
Whenever he stepped into the ring at the height of his career, millions of people, from the most developed to the most remote part of the world, were glued to their radios and televisions. Everyone was eagerly engaged, hugely entertained and uncontrollably stirred by his every move.
While he was not an Islamic scholar, his wit, poetry and ironically, humble character, were all positive images of a Muslim man and were warmly embraced by people of different faiths across the world and contrast with the ugly pictures that Al Qaida and the ISIS highjackers of Islam have portrayed in recent times.
The likes of Al Qaida, ISIS and the events of September 11 have all certainly had a negative impact on the name of Islam.
However, where these have sullied the name, Muhammad Ali, as a well-loved figure, thrilled and excited, inspired positive thoughts and led millions of people to investigate Islam.
Outside the ring, he was in many ways a very good ambassador for his way of life, his sport and the many charities and educational foundations he supported, often away from the glare of the cameras and public. He promoted the unity of man, charity to one another and love for the human race.
He stood for what he believed at the height of his career and it cost him dearly. He was stripped of the heavyweight boxing crown and his boxing licence was revoked for three years, costing him millions of dollars.
I am confident that in his death he will again unite people across the world in recognising standards of excellence.
He was unsurpassed as a boxer, and to this there are no conscientious objectors. Those whom he overwhelmed in the boxing ring and outside are today standing up to applaud a great human being.
It is significant, therefore, that the death of the greatest boxer of all time should herald a moment to reflect on his example of courage, discipline and the self-belief required to achieve excellence.
His convictions and belief in Islam were at the core of who he was as a man and an athlete. So, as we celebrate the life of Muhammad Ali, may we also remember the positive influence of Islam on him and as a result, his impact on the world.
That is what the Muslims of Jamaica believe should be the final testament to Muhammad Ali as he returns to the Cosmic Greatest, his Creator - the path for all human beings.
- Al-Hajj Mekaeel Maknoon, Amir, Al-Mutaqeen Foundation, Imaam: Masjid al- Hakeem, Ocho Riosmmaknoon@al-mutaqeenftja.com