[Legendary playback singer Mohammad Rafi and Muhammad Ali in Chicago, 1975. (Photo: binscorner.com)]
Washington: Muhammad Ali - the boxing legend who was born Cassius Clay, was leaving a roller skating rink and scanning the sidewalk for pretty girls when he noticed a man selling newspapers for the Nation of Islam. And it is a cartoon in the newspaper that attracted him to Islam, Ali wrote in an essay.
As reported by Jonathan Eig in The Washington Post, Ali wrote this essay at the behest of his wife, Belinda - now Khalilah Camacho-Ali, to describe how he converted to Islam.
Ali had heard of the Nation and its leader, Elijah Muhammad, but he had never given serious thought to joining the group, which used some elements of Islam to preach black separatism and self-improvement.
Ali took the newspaper, mostly to be polite, but a cartoon caught his eye. It showed a white slave owner beating his black slave and insisting the man pray to Jesus. The message was that Christianity was a religion forced on slaves by the white establishment. "
I liked that cartoon," Ali wrote. "It did something to me. And it made sense."
The cartoon awakened him, and he realized that he hadn't chosen Christianity. He hadn't chosen the name Cassius Clay. So why did he have to keep those vestiges of slavery? And if he didn't have to keep his religion or his name, what else could he change?
In 1964, when Ali won the heavyweight championship, he publicly declared his conversion and made a personal declaration of independence: "I believe in Allah and in peace," he said.
"I don't try to move into white neighborhoods. I don't want to marry a white woman. I was baptized when I was 12, but I didn't know what I was doing. I'm not a Christian anymore. I know where I'm going and I know the truth and I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be what I want", he said.
The former world heavyweight boxing champion, one of the world's best-known sportsmen and one of the most famous Muslim converts, died at a hospital in the US city of Phoenix in Arizona state after being admitted on Thursday.
Ali wrote this essay after 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.
Belinda thes asked 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.
In later years Ali became so humble that once while on a visit in India when he was asked if he was 'the greatest', he hit back saying 'Allah is the greatest'."