"We are only brave when we have something to lose and we still try. We can't be brave without fear." - Muhammad Ali
My parents have been fervent admirers of Muhammad Ali since before I can remember. My dad had a tape of one of the boxer's fights that he would sometimes watch over the weekend. Not understanding the appeal of a boxing match, I would leave the room. When Will Smith's Ali was released, my dad bought a copy of a documentary on M. Ali, and after watching it I half-understood what the deal was, but wasn't interested enough to watch the movie. I do remember the scenes in which he accepted Islam and refused to be drafted in the Vietnam War because it was against his beliefs.
Earlier this week, my sister shared a link of a short documentary on how Muhammad Ali played a pivotal role in the release of US prisoners of war released after Saddam Hussein's army captured them and others during the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. It was very moving, especially the concluding scene, and as it was pretty close to home I was overcome by a strong desire to know more about him.
And so I chanced upon his autobiography, Soul of a Butterfly: Lessons on Life's Journey, which is more of a narration of his spiritual journey, before and after he embraced Islam. No movie or actor can truly show you the man Muhammad Ali was—for that you must read his book. It is an infinitesimal glimpse into his soul. Every page I read strengthens my conviction of how a great a man he is. I'm not terribly interested in Muhammad Ali the boxer, although his achievements are remarkable. It's the man himself that has me captivated and awe-struck. His goodness, humility, selflessness, humour, compassion, unshakable faith in God, unwavering confidence in his abilities, his ideals...what I especially admire about him is how he always stuck to his guns, refusing to budge from his principles, even at the risk of imprisonment, consequently raising the ire of the US government and the general public. His license to box was rescinded and he lost over three prime boxing years, but he stood his ground and never regretted his decision.
The book has so many lessons we can learn from, wise words that we can inculcate into our lives to enrich them. The writing is simple, yet holds so much depth. I keep highlighting sentences that I'd like to look up and read again. I am sorely tempted to publish a post containing the dozens of quotes I've marked, but that wouldn't be fair to you (and would probably count as copyright infringement). I hope you read the book in its entirety and that it affects you as positively as it has me.
I'll leave you with one of his quotes that I love and try to live by.
"True success is reaching our potential without compromising our ideals."