[This interview with Muhammad Ali was conducted by Shaheen Ahmed and Abdul Malik Mujahid almost exactly 20 years ago at his residence for "Young Muslim" magazine published by Sound Vision.]
About 20 years ago, Br. neQiniso Abdullah, may Allah have mercy on his soul, a former president of Muslim Community Center in Chicago, and Br. Abdul Malik Mujahid, the founder and president of Sound Vision, used to distribute a Dawa brochure, "Is Jesus really God?" on the 95th Street in the south side Chicago.
Muhammad Ali came to know about this particular brochure and showed up to the Muslim Community Center (MCC) with two rolling travel bags to pick up these brochures for distribution. Since MCC didn't have this brocure, they offered him other titles, but he refused to accept them. He was only interested in the "Is Jesus really God?" brochure, written by neQiniso Abdullah.
Later on he connected with Amir Ali from Institute of Islamic Information and Education, who would print these brochures for Muhammad Ali in bulk.
Muhammad Ali would carry around loads of these brochures in a rolling travel bag.
Whenever and wherever his fans approached for an autograph, Muhammad Ali would take out this brochure, sign it, and hand it over to the person. This is one way he did Dawa.
Muhammad Ali's mission of sharing the beautiful message of Islam continued throughout his life. If you visit Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY, you would find an entire exhibit on Islam and Muslim culture.
Young Muslim: What responsibilities accompany being talented?
Muhammad Ali: To lead a good life.
Lonnie: Muhammad believes that Allah made him famous so that he could do Dawa work. I've heard him telling people that the fame he obtained in the ring was all for his spiritual work.
Young Muslim:How do you do Dawa?
Muhammad Ali: Passing out pamphlets about Islam.
Howard: Every morning he wakes up and he's at the desk downstairs all day signing pamphlets. Everyone wants his autograph. He has presigned pamphlets that he is going to give away instead of signing what everyone gives him. [Muhammad Ali leaves in the middle of the interview and returns with a heavy crawling bag which he opens. There are hundreds of Islamic pamphlets in piles, each with his signature]
After 2 hours in New York, there will easily be about 1,000 people who have come up to see Muhammad Ali and who each go away with a signed pamphlet. They take it for the signature, but maybe they'll also read it when they get home. Another thing he's interested in doing are examining questions that the Bible brings up.
[Muhammad Ali shows us a booklet called Bible Contradictions]
Muhammad Ali: I wrote this.
Howard: He also has sheets with Bible verses on them and gives out Bibles to non-Muslims, telling one, "You read that verse," and telling another, "Read this verse." This way, he shows them the contradictions in the Bible. That's how he does his Dawa work.
Does that leave you any time for hobbies?
Muhammad Ali: No.
Howard: You know what, his only hobby is sitting downstairs at his desk, signing his pamphlets. I'm telling him, "Muhammad, you've got to get out, get some fresh air..." but he doesn't listen. He hates to run out of these [pointing to the autographed pamphlets] when there is an opportunity to give them out. He only says, "I should have signed some more."
Muhammad Ali: Every day. In two hours I can sign 500.