ATLANTA - Hundreds gathered at the Atlanta Mosque where Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali would pray when in town. It was an interfaith service at Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam, where the first thing people saw was a video of a younger Ali, asked what are you going to do after boxing.
“God is watching me. He wants to know how do we treat each other how do we help each other. When I get out of boxing or when I'm through I’m going to do all I can to help people,” Ali said in the video.
Clergy, activist, journalists all spoke of brushes with Ali, his wit, social impact and generosity.
“We gather here not to praise Muhammad Ali but to praise God for Muhammad Ali. And to remind each other of how his legacy has impacted so many different communities,” said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the event organizer.
One of those communities was Atlanta, where Ali returned to boxing after being stripped of his title for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War. He also returned later, showing signs of Parkinson's disease, to carry the Olympic Torch during the 1996 Olympics. And he made various other appearances including at a race bearing his name, the Muhammad Ali Road Race.
Sulieman Wazzerud-din, stood by the picture of he and Ali. It was snapped in 1990 when he was 15 years old and won the Muhammad Ali Road race in his division. He was greeted at the finish line by Ali. The picture hangs in the Mosque library. Wazzerud-din is now a doctor at Atlanta Medical Center.
“I’m able to be in that position of, be that burden bearer, something that Muhammad Ali was but he didn't let that stop him,” said Sulieman Wazzerud-din.
Ali was last in Atlanta in 2005 for the Butterfly Ball, a fundraiser for the Ali Center in Louisville. FOX 5's George Franco reported on the story. The Ali foundation later sent me back signed pictures of Ali and Franco in a brief encounter.
Whether they met him or not, hundreds participated in a Janazah in absentia, a prayer service at the mosque for the great one, Muhammad Ali.
“And to be able to see him withstand what came against him without losing his faith and his principals, what a model for most of us,” said Imam Ibrahim Pasha of the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam.
At the service, state lawmaker Vincent Fort pledge to do his part to name a street in the area after Muhammad Ali.