British Muslims mourn the loss of a hero
Friday, June 10th, 2016
MuslimView asked British Muslims to reflect on and remember the life, influence and legacy of Muhammad Ali and what he meant to them…
Jehangir Malik OBE , Birmingham
Waking up to the tragic news of the death of Muhammad Ali, felt very personal, as if it was the departure of a beloved family member. They say when loved ones leave they leave a massive gap in one’s life. I certainly experienced that with the departure of both of my parents, but for some strange reason it felt similar with Ali. A tragic loss. The world lost a true family member and a larger than life legend.
My family and I were very blessed to meet Muhammad Ali in the summer of 2000 whilst attending a Jummah in downtown Los Angeles. USA. It appeared he had spotted my daughter Mariam through the crowd and instantly gravitated towards her. Muhammad Ali held her and gave her a kiss. He made a prayer for my daughter and just smiled. It made my Jummah and is a moment we cherish and will never forget.
This is the reason why he is the people’s champ, he had a genuine love and desire to be close to the people. Contrary to the bravado, his life wasn’t a life lived for himself but for everyday folks. He was a voice of the voiceless a true champion of humanity.
The world last Saturday lost a true hero and someone we can all look up to with true love, respect and admiration. Muhammad Ali stood up for what he believed in and he stood up for the oppressed and voiceless. He stood for peace, justice and equality and he lived a life promoting these ideals through his God given talent that went beyond his boxing and athleticism.
Muhammad Ali, may you rest in peace and May God have mercy on your soul. You have returned to the Almighty, left this world but left behind a legacy beyond your life. May God bless you, forever.
This Jummah inshaAllah we will pray Janazah in your absence in Birmingham Central Mosque.
Muhammad Ali 1942 – 2016
Masud A. Khan, Editor, MuslimView
My earliest memories of Muhammad Ali were when I was a child and our household stayed up one evening to watch him fight on TV. It was the 70s and our household was very large. It was not only my parents, my siblings and me, but uncles, aunts, cousins, lodgers (of which there were many) and anyone else who cared to watch the fight because of Ali. I am not sure how and when I got to know about Muhammad Ali, but it kind of seems like I have always known him. We watched in awe with a real sense of him being one of our own, a Muslim fighting for us. Someone named “Muhammad Ali”, probably the most Muslim name you can get, was famous and on the telly and we all wanted to be him. My love for him increased with every word I read about him as I was growing up. I read two biographies about him one by Thomas Hauser and the one by David Remnick and have been in awe of him ever since. There are many words that one can use to describe him, but for me the overriding one is “love”. I saw love in everything he did and said. It was love for his people and the oppressed that made him sacrifice what he loved and held dear. It was love that motivated his generosity towards others and it was love he showed to others that made the entire world love him. He was the means by which Allah made the name Muhammad become known even to the furthest corners of the earth. His compassion, generosity, selflessness, courage, sense of justice, his service to others and his love point to someone who, whilst perhaps not a saint, was probably not too far short either. And God knows best.
Saba Zaman, Broadcast Journalist, London
Once in a while God blesses the world with superheroes. But unlike Kryptonian Superman, Ali possessed earthly superhuman powers with the ability to transcend mortal prejudices and perceptions to fight for a greater cause – human justice for all mankind.
Superheroes by definition, fight for justice. But their methods and motivations differ. Some are brutally violent and use fear as their primary weapon. Some are reluctant heroes, arrogant and headstrong, while others use hope to inspire people to action.
Ali took the best of these qualities and redefined the term hero. Not only did he inspire us with the speed of his fists, but with the stealth conviction of his words and human spirit to become the greatest superhero of our time.
Peter Sanders, Photographer, Chesham
It was an honour to meet him in Madinah, the Illuminated City – what an inspiration! We shall miss you Muhammad Ali, a brave soldier for peace. May God pour His Blessings on you and grant you company with the ones He loves.
Shaheda Dewan, Director, OnPoint Strategies, London
For me, Muhammad Ali was the pinnacle of confidence; he taught me the huge importance of being comfortable with my religion and my appearance. He is incredibly relevant in our society and will always be a source of both strength and hope.
Ali’s unshakable courage defying authority’s call to fight in Vietnam is a vivid reminder of the importance of having principles. I loved that so much about him – he stood his ground and set conscience against personal convenience.
Mawlana Shams ud Duha, Imam, Ebrahim College
As someone who followed boxing and martial arts, he was a hero in the ring. As an activist, I found his sacrifice for truth and justice an inspiration. As an imam, I found his courage and rhetoric in da’wa mesmerising.
Michael Scott, Photographer, West Bromwich
Back in 1983 he came to Birmingham and I remember the streets of Lozells were lined with huge numbers of people. Back then I was not aware too much about Muslims or Islam as I wasn’t a Muslim. Looking back it was a historic moment in history for the people of Birmingham. I remember him opening the Muhammad Ali centre in Hockley which helped serve the community for many years. I remember working there in the mid-nineties and thinking how I had taken part the day it was opened by the late great Muhammad Ali. I think Muhammad Ali had a massive influence on all those that he had contact with, especially the youth of the time. He was able to bridge communities regardless of religion, creed or colour which when you consider is exactly what Islam and its teachings is all about.
Fawad Mughal, Banking Customer Services, Maidstone
I was fortunate to meet him, very briefly, as a child when he came to Birmingham Central Mosque in the early 80s. The picture (to the right) is of my father holding the microphone for him as he addressed the crowd in the main prayer hall. At that time he had already started to succumb to Parkinson’s and his speech was laboured and slurred. Yet I remember this man-mountain that seemed to fill any room he was in.
For me he was probably the first non Pakistani Muslim I had seen on telly. The first celebrity I knew that was Muslim. Growing up in the 70s, other than the Pakistani Cricket team, there were very few sporting heroes that we could claim as Muslims and look up to, and so he filled a massive hole for me and my friends. What I remember most is that he always smiled at the children.
Naeem Raza, Presenter and Marketing Consultant, Glasgow
Muhammed Ali inspired me to challenge, change and achieve. Be yourself to succeed. Nothing is impossible by the Will of Allah.
Assed Baig, Broadcast Journalist, London
Muhammad Ali gave me the confidence to be Muslim and proud. He was unashamedly Muslim, confident and charismatic. He showed me that we should stand and fight for what we believe in and never shy away from the truth.
Muhammad Shabbir, Councillor, Bradford
Ali’s sharp mind, his boldness and resoluteness for what was right inspired me. When he lost his title he gained the respect of the world and at the same time he changed and evolved. His natural compassion always shone through to connect with hearts the world over. In the end Ali’s compassion was sharper than his mind or tongue ever was.
Aisha Sheikh, Maths Teacher, Dewsbury
Muhammad Ali was not only the greatest boxer of all time, he was a towering figure who was even more influential as a vocal activist for civil rights; he transcended his sport. Ali didn’t just do the work of a civil rights leader, he sounded like one. He often spoke with the lilting cadences and fiery passion of a preacher. He didn’t just float like a butterfly and sting like a bee; he sang like a bird and roared like a lion. There are very few people in the history of the planet like Ali, truly inspirational, who could make everybody in the world stop for a moment, forget their differences, smile, and applaud in unison.
Shaukat Warraich, CEO Faith Associates, High Wycombe
Watching him box, listening to his speeches and his lyrical jousting and reflecting on his Islamic transformation over the decades brought the realisation to me that his greatness was not just in his ability to win but to learn, un-learn and re-learn. His strength wasn’t in his rigidity but the power to engage and persuade. I was inspired by him and I’m grateful to Allah to have witnessed the transformations in my lifetime. The challenge now will be how to transfer his inspiration to the next generation.
Fiaz Akhtar, IT Director, Aylesbury
He was a character that rallied the older generation as well as the young, up to and including my parents. And it was really pleasing to see how much pride my mum and dad /older relatives took in the fact that a Muslim had become so famous and on his way to icon status. Happy childhood memories !
Irrm Sattar, Pharmacist, Newcastle upon Tyne
I met Mohammed Ali when I was 8, I remember it so clearly. He came to Newcastle upon Tyne in 1977 for a few days. He spoke in the main hall of the main mosque to the men and it was relayed to the room where the women were. After that he came into the women’s smaller hall and pandemonium broke out. All the women literally started throwing their kids at him! It was as if they thought some of his magic would rub off on them!
I was standing close enough to reach out and touch him if I wished. But even at that young age I knew how crazy and rude that would be. Poor guy! He didn’t last long in there before he bolted. Bet that was one of his worse encounters! My mum remembers him carrying his baby daughter the whole time and with his wife next to him. I felt that this also sent a message out to our Asian men that it was ok to hold and look after your children. Most of my father’s generation felt this was a woman’s job.