Boxing great Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay Jr., embraced Islam in the 1960s after spending time with members of the Nation of Islam, studying the Quran and attending services at mosques. His faith played an important role in shaping his future.
But the Rev. Franklin Graham hopes Ali converted to Christianity before he died last week at age 74, saying via Twitter: “My father Billy Graham hoped Ali would give his life to Christ. I’ve wondered if he trusted Him before slipping to eternity. I sure hope so.”
An interfaith memorial service is planned for 6 p.m. today at the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam, 560 Fayetteville Rd. S.E. Participating organizations include AtlantaMuslim.com, CAIR Georgia and the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to attend.
Mosques across Georgia planned to conduct funeral prayers for Ali on Friday between 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. after the end of each mosque’s weekly congregational service.
“Muhammad Ali was a hero not only to Muslims, not only to African Americans, not only to athletes but to all people who champion peace and justice,” said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of CAIR Georgia during an interview with the AJC’s Shelia Poole. “He holds a special place in the heart of Atlanta because of his many visits here.”
Graham, son of the evangelist Billy Graham and now president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization, prompted a mixed reaction with his tweet, with some agreeing, some criticizing and many saying Ali’s faith was between him and God alone: