Muhammad Ali’s conversion to Islam, in many ways, defined his career and legacy as a fighter with conviction. He went on to become an icon for American Muslims.
Just years following his conversion in 1964, he got in a fight that prompted him to write down some reflections on what drew him to the faith in the first place.
It wasn’t a fight in the boxing ring, but an argument at home with his wife, Belinda.
Ali was out of control, Belinda said. He had lost all traces of humility. He was acting like he was God. You may call yourself the greatest, she told him, but you’ll never be greater than Allah.
Like a schoolteacher, Belinda instructed Ali to sit down and write an essay. She asked him to write about why he became a Muslim. Ali obliged, taking out blank sheets of paper and a blue pen and beginning to write.
I think it belongs there — not only because it reveals a great deal about Ali’s character, but also because it teaches us about the religious life of one of the country’s best-known African American athletes and activists. His story reminds us that even the most powerful spiritual journeys can have humble beginnings.