One of the great honors of my life was to be a pallbearer for the great Muslim humanitarian Muhammad Ali. I owe that honor to the Ali family and their spiritual advisor, my dear brother, Imam Zaid Shakir, who led the funeral prayer, and later acted as the emcee for the memorial. We all saw clear signs of the wilayah of Muhammad Ali throughout the time we were in Louisville (though we don’t presume God’s knowledge–la nuzakki ‘ala Allah ahadan). He was a beautiful soul, and we heard so many amazing stories from the countless people he touched throughout his extraordinary life. For me, the most striking presentation was the Native American one: among their points was that Muhammad Ali had marched with them when a resolution in congress was threatening their existing treaties with the American Government. Muhammad Ali is a proof that if one adheres to his principles, no matter how unpopular at the time, and follows the prophetic methodology, they will realize the truth of these Quranic verses:
“Truly those who say, ‘Our Lord is God’ and are upright, the Angels will descend upon them saying, ‘Have neither fear nor sadness, but rather rejoice in this Paradise that you had been promised. We are your allies in this lower life and in the Hereafter, where you will have your hearts’ desire, and you will have all you request, hospitably from One, Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.’ Who is more beautiful in speech than the one who invites to God and does righteous works, saying, ‘Truly I am a Muslim, submitted to God’? For good and evil are not equal: repel ugliness with what is more beautiful, and behold, the one between you and whom there was enmity is suddenly transformed into a warm friend. But no one arrives at this station except those of patience, and no one achieves it without great luck” (41: 30-35).
These verses were recited at his funeral and again at the memorial. Let us all pray for his soul, and for his wonderful family. A special thanks from all of us should go to President Erdoğan, who was the only Muslim head of state that attended the event.