While chilling over a chai at home, your dad might have told you about the time he went to see Muhammad Ali knock down Joe Frazier on a little television screen back in the day. Or perhaps your uncle told you how much he cheered the champion for refusing to go to war in 1967. Or maybe someone you know spotted him in Bangladesh, Egypt or Iraq!
Leaving behind a trail of tributes from around the world, the three-time world champion will be buried this weekend, with Will Smith and Lennox Lewis carrying his coffin. His mission went far beyond his boxing career. Part of the civil rights movement, he was a fierce, unapologetic black Muslim who fought for justice. He also spent much of his later life traveling the world to help others. He famously said: “I’ve always wanted to be more than just a boxer. More than just the three-time heavyweight champion. I wanted to use my fame, and this face that everyone knows so well, to help uplift and inspire people around the world.”
Working tirelessly in America and beyond, Ali contributed to the efforts of Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Special Olympics, Disarm Education Fund and Direct Relief International. He took part in soup kitchens and celebrity fight nights to fundraise for charity, and was named the Messenger of Peace by the United Nations in 1998.
Ali regularly met with faith leaders from different religions to improve interfaith relations. He said: “Rivers, ponds, lakes, and streams — they all have different names, but they all contain water. So religions all have different names, but they all contain the same truths.”
With Ramadan now upon us, we are being physically challenged day in, day out, for a whole month, allowing us to feel compassion towards those who are in poverty and living under harsh circumstances. We are also trialed on our character, as God encourages even more generosity and kindness during this holy month. Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) is reported to have said: “Ramadan is an honourable and blessed month, and the rewards for generosity are multiplied in it”.
There are many people taking part in charity walks and experiences to get extra bonus points this Ramadan, so that’s something you can consider. You can also offer to buy lunch for a homeless person, instead of the lunch you would normally have, or join a Ramadan food distribution initiative. At home, you can spend more time with your parents and help them with a task they are struggling with, or you can help your siblings with their homework.
There is no better time to extend a hand of kindness so that we can leave a legacy like that of Muhammad Ali’s.