The word hero gets thrown around a lot these days.
We put people on pedestals – some belong there, many do not.
Our sometimes misguided focus leads us to sometimes follow pretenders, hucksters and false idols.
One man was the real deal. And he has died.
Words cannot adequately describe what a hero Muhammad Ali has been.
He won the heavyweight boxing title not once, not twice, but three times.
This was when being the heavyweight champion of the world was the pinnacle of academic achievement.
He was simply the greatest boxer of all time. We will never see a champion like him again.
Muhammad Ali was fearless. He refused to fight in the Vietnam War, even though it cost him three years of his prime years as a boxer.
He left the Christianity of his youth and became a Muslim. This was a time when most Americans had no idea about Islam.
He spoke out repeatedly against mistreatment of African Americans and called the white power structure out on a regular basis.
He was afraid of nobody and nothing. He risked everything for his principles.
How many of us can say that?
In so many ways, Muhammad Ali was a hero. He was a hero to African Americans during the civil rights movement. He was a hero to the 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. He was a hero to those who had no voice, no megaphone to call out racism and injustice for what it was.
People always called him “The Greatest.” And he certainly was.
On greatness, Ali said “champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them, a desire, a dream, a vision.”
Rest in peace, Champ. And salam alaikum.