The passing of Mohammad Ali brought about a much needed moments pause in the world. As he had done his entire life, his death brought the world to a halt to commemorate the great legacy of the man, and in so doing, reflecting on the most topical issues of our time: race and religion.
The Greatest Boxer Of All Time demonstrated in life as in death that Islam was not the problem here. Millions of people watched and bore testimony to the life that he lived all as a direct consequence of his faith. When he could have easily avoided the draft for Vietnam as many other privileged people had (Bill Clinton and George Bush amongst them), he chose to stand up for what he believed in and give voice to the voiceless. He sacrificed everything on the principle of doing what is right regardless of the personal cost, and today he rightly receives the recognition for it. But the love we witness and experience for him is not man-made; it is instilled in us by God, for when God loves someone, He orders all creation to love them.
His life draws out an important question for us all; what risks will we take to make the difference we wish to see? What circumstances do we face and what choices do we need to make to fulfil the duty our world is calling us to fulfil. Indeed, in Ali’s time, race was the big issue of the day, but can we honestly say this had been resolved? His faith sparked great controversy and even backlash, perhaps an even greater problem today. Which of us will be the ones to sacrifice everything we have to do what needs to be done to change this world for the better?
And as great moments come, they end, often abruptly. Today’s massacre in Florida comes as an irritating reminder of the madness of the world we live in. A man who has nothing to do with my faith has decided to kill people in its name; a paradox if there ever was one. And just like that, the world’s media will remind everyone of the “dangers of radical Islam” and pedal the idea of a clash of civilisations.
But amidst this madness, let us not forget the truth, the same truth Ali’s life so poetically displayed. Our humanity connects us far more than our enemies can divide us. We must come together and stand unshakably for the truth we believe in, united against those who try to sow the seeds of violence, even if that means sacrificing everything to do so.
Then, we should always ask ourselves the question; what is my role in making this better.