Lessons from a long week

This has definitely been one hell of a week. First of all, this has been the hardest Ramadan of my life. I’ve finally begun to understand what it feels like to be a convert to some extent because of feeling alone. It’s not easy being alone or being around people whom you expect to know everything about you. I really am not sure I’m gaining any benefits from Ramadan like I used to and I don’t know what to do about it. It’s just making me sad.  Then again a lot happened in the past few days that made me rethink my relationship with this month.

The next thing that happened was that Muhammad Ali died. His funeral was in Ramadan, having died just days before it.  This went from shock, to denial, to sadness, to appreciation for everything I could have possibly learned from his life and death. Muhammad Ali was the ultimate example of our time of what a Muslim should be. I can not stress this enough. In every single interview I’ve watched of him, he mentioned something about God and his desire to reach Heaven.  I honestly think that no one in this entire world got a send off the way he did. No one else really deserves that great of a send off, to be honest.  I was so proud that he firmly stood for his beliefs in life and death. I was so proud that for once an Islamic view was on television that showed prayers, not violence, which was on tv for two days. There was absolutely no report about violence in those two days.  He made sure that he got a proper Islamic funeral (Janazah) and that everyone could see Islam for what it really is. He openly spoke of his faith no matter the consequences.  His wife mentioned in her speech during the Memorial that Muhammad Ali wanted his funeral to be a teaching moment and that’s exactly what it was.

As a Muslim, Muhammad Ali’s death reminded me of a story of when the Prophet (PBUH) himself died. The gist of it was that a companion, Umar (rA) came out in the street so emotional and was shouting that whoever said the Prophet had died, Umar wanted to kill. Then another companion, Abu Bakr (rA) came out and had to calm him down and remind him that The Prophet was just a man and that God was alive and could never die. This story reminded me that people die, no matter how great they are. I honestly for a time I didn’t think Muhammad Ali could die. I was just like, he’s fine, nothin’s gonna happen. Boy, did I get my reality check last week.

Everyone knew how proud Muhammad Ali was of his identity. They knew how much he stood up for it as well. He stood up for who he was no matter the consequences.  This is not easy even to this day.  He also never threw himself a pity party because of his illness. Unfortunately, this was the type of person I used to be. I never used to let things get to me. I say “unfortunately” because now I do let those things get to me.  I used to be called “Brave” and “strong” and a “fighter”.  I actually hated being called those things.  Now, I’m realizing that those adjectives were a part of who I am. I’ve only just forgotten.  Muhammad Ali has now made a final attempt to make sure that kids who want to quit, don’t.  It’s not easy picking up the pieces to your life when you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom, but Muhammad Ali did it when he came back after he had to quit boxing for 3 years.  He reminded me that if he can do it, so can anyone else.

With all the diverse groups of people watching both his Janazah and his Memorial either on a live stream video or from actually being there, I’m reminded of one final lesson from Muhammad Ali that resonated with me.  His wife acknowledged all the diverse groups of people and one of the speakers, a university student named Natasha (whose speech I loved), mentioned that Muhammad Ali would help anyone who needed it whether they were Muslim, Christian, Jewish, disabled, able-bodied, white, black, or LGBT.  Muhammad Ali wanted to leave one final message of peace regarding his religion. This reminds me of the verse in the Qur’an (49:13) that says, “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”  All Muhammad Ali wanted was for people to get along and for everyone to be happy in their own skin no matter what.

This brings me to the events that unfolded just two days after his memorial service.  It’s very frustrating that Muhammad Ali spent his entire life refuting violence and promoting peace and just two days later someone commits an act of violence against people in a gay club.  No matter what someone’s views are, killing is wrong period.  Muhammad Ali would not have stood for this and neither should anyone else. If someone kills one person it’s as if he’s killed all of humanity, if he saved one person it’s as if he’s saved all of humanity (Qur’an 5:32).   The one thing I was quite proud of and quite relieved of was how the general public handled the situation. I was expecting tons of hateful comments on various social media outlets, but I didn’t see any! Literally, like none. I did see discussions regarding gun control, but I’m not getting into that.  When I woke up this morning and saw the news, my initial reaction was sadness that this had to happen in the wake of a funeral of a man who represented peace and tolerance and also how much backlash this would cause. Hopefully, in the coming weeks it doesn’t cause any. It seems that social media are doing what Muhammad Ali would’ve wanted and acknowledging that the actions of a few don’t determine the whole.  This is only the beginning of the struggle for peace and learning from one another, but hopefully Muhammad Ali’s legacy remains.  Muhammad Ali defended his religion and promoted peace for everyone til his funeral.  In light of recent events, in addition to praying for peace and for the lives lost, we as an American people should remember the lessons of an American icon. Muslims can’t stress this enough, but if we want to see peace it’s not enough to say peaceful words or even blog about them, we need to live them.  Actions speak louder than words.  No one knew this better than Muhammad Ali. ‘On the authority of Abu Sa’eed al-Khudree (ra) who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (saw) say, “Whoso- ever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.”’ Muhammad Ali changed evil with his actions and his words. He lived and died showing peace for all communities.  Even if condemning one act of violence after another gets exhausting, there is no way I will never stop fighting violence with love because that is what Muhammad Ali did and that’s what made him The Greatest.  Muhammad Ali taught us lessons of peace for all communities including LGBT and various religions.  So if someone asks me how I’m handling the latest crisis, I’ll just tell them to think of The Champ.  Maybe thinking of him and all the peace I could create in this world will help make Ramadan easier for myself.

**I welcome discussion on this or any of my blogposts.

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