(picture courtesy of our Louisville Courier Journal).
Muhammed Ali, born Cassius Clay in Louisville Kentucky, was a remarkable boxer, and an even more remarkable human being. A charismatic personality, Ali, named after the famous Egyptian Muslim (who is memorialized in a Cairo mosque named Muhammed Ali Mosque). Ali was many things to many people. I am on record as not liking boxing. I really don’t like watching people pummel each other, but Ali was an artist in the ring who won the heavy weight crown a remarkable three times, and not in succession, for he was not in boxing at the very peak of his career, rather he was in jail for being a conscientious objector to the Vietnam war. I admired him so much for his stance on that unnecessary and uncalled for war. I can only ponder if there even would have been an ISIS if more Muslims in the Middle East had followed the example of Ali and refused to fight as a soldier in an unjust fight. I was also on the same page with Ali in his courageous stand for civil rights as a Southerner in the late 50s and in the 60s. Then there was Ali the humanitarian, and the sad moment of seeing the champ at the Atlanta Olympics light the torch, his hand shaking from Parkinson’s. It was hard to watch if you had seen him in the Olympics 3 decades before, or at his prime. He was a poet and a man of great wit as well. Here are a few quotes that Christianity Today’s article mentions…
“I asked my momma, I said, ‘Momma, how come everything is white?’ I said, Why is Jesus white with blonde hair and blue eyes? Why is the Lord’s Supper all white men?'”
“It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.”
“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”
“My principles are more important than the money or my title.”
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see. Now you see me, now you don’t. George thinks he will, but I know he won’t.”
“A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
“Don’t count the days; make the days count.”
“If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it—then I can achieve it.”
“I’ve made my share of mistakes along the way, but if I have changed even one life for the better, I haven’t lived in vain.”
“If you even dream of beating me you’d better wake up and apologize.”
“Braggin’ is when a person says something and can’t do it. I do what I say.”
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
Some of these belong in the book of Proverbs. George Foreman, long since a Christian preacher and famously the man who lost the rumble in the jungle in Zaire to Ali did a nice job on CBS This Morning memorializing the man. Check it out on You Tube or the CBS website. Ali was a funny man as well.
We in Kentucky salute our champ from this state. I wish more people had his courage, his life wisdom. This is not to say he didn’t have his flaws of course, nor that he didn’t make mistakes. And sadly, one of the main reasons he turned to Islam from Christianity was because of the severe racism he saw and experienced from southern white’Christians’ ( I use the term loosely).