After converting to Islam, the former Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali, joined the "Nation of Islam", and refused military service. In the 1960's those were bold, rebellious, and attention-grabbing acts quite in keeping with Clay's public persona. At the time, many blacks were rejecting their "slave names" as well as the religion of their "slave masters", and there was growing resistance to the Vietnam war. In particular, it was felt that blacks were getting drafted to die in a "white man's war". Being a star in the public limelight, when Ali converted to Islam, it became more and more acceptable for others to follow suit.
This is Tragedy #1, when a famous person, a sports idol, converts to Islam, many people might do likewise, and if they also reject Jesus as Lord, they endanger their immortal souls.
"He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." John 12:48Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary interprets it to mean,
"Our Lord publicly proclaimed, that every one who believed on him, as his true disciple, did not believe on him only, but on the Father who sent him. Beholding in Jesus the glory of the Father, we learn to obey, love, and trust in him. By daily looking to Him, who came a Light into the world, we are more and more freed from the darkness of ignorance, error, sin, and misery; we learn that the command of God our Saviour is everlasting life. But the same word will seal the condemnation of all who despise it or neglect it."
Luke also adds,
"He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me." Luke 10:16This is the greatest tragedy: the rejection of God. I do not know whether Ali had regained a belief in Jesus as Lord or not before he died as he had lost the ability to communicate his thoughts to us, I can only pray that at some point he accepted Jesus as his savior.
Later, Muhammad Ali was said to have moved to Sunni Islam, and after the 911 terrorist attacks he said (according to Aljazeera) ,
"Islam is a religion of peace. It does not promote terrorism or killing people," and later,
"I am angry that the world sees a certain group of Islam followers who caused this destruction, but they are not real Muslims. They are racist fanatics who call themselves Muslims, permitting the murder of thousands."
He repeated the message in his December response to Trump, saying: "True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so-called Islamic jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion."
Tragedy #2 is that today's news media is, like Aljazeera, in love with the legacy of Muhammad Ali for not only his dreams of a peaceful Islam, but also for his rebellion against the norms of the 1960's, something that the aging hipsters now in control of the mainstream media look back as a confirmation of their own rebellion against authority. The news media is tragically, knowingly or not, setting up as an idol someone who more than likely rejected Christ.
Tragedy #3 is that more people may be drawn away from Jesus as a result of all of the Muhammad Ali worship that is being laid down.
Yes, he was the greatest boxer of his time, and a good man, but in spite of all those wonderful things perhaps he was also the greatest tragic hero as well.
Oh yes, he was also quite a clown. So let's all drink to the death of a clown,