Based on the true account of a robust bond between Malcolm X and Mohammad Ali.
Malcolm X found a great potential in Ali to spread the message of Nation of Islam (NOI) and Ali found the anchor he had been looking for.
Cassius Clay, decided to declare his faith to the whole world once he became the world boxing champion. He did and started being known as Mohammad Ali. The man behind this major change was Malcolm X. Struggling with his religion from a very long time, Mohammad Ali went to attend one of the lectures of Malcolm X and his prior beliefs turned topsy turvy. Malcolm X found a great potential in Ali to spread the message of Nation of Islam (NOI) and Ali found the anchor he had been looking for.
They became very close in a very short period of time. Ali was deeply moved by the teachings of NOI but could not declare his faith to the world as he was a black, though a budding boxing star, in a dominant white world. At that time, NOI was notorious for promoting hatred and rage among the young black population. Malcolm’s intentions resonated with many but not his ways. He absolutely despised the white race. To some extent, it was justified given the black population of America had been subjected to atrocities due the prevalent prejudice against race. Malcolm did not promote violence but did not deny using it if needed.
Ali’s inclusion in NOI was crucial since he was rapidly gaining popularity in the boxing world and would mean Malcolm having a wider reach. Ali and Malcolm started spending a lot of time together and reflecting on the teachings of NOI and decided to bring a revolution in the civil rights movement in America. They believed Islam had the answer to the plaguing problem of racism in America. The only solution, they deciphered then, was a complete segregation of the black and white community.
During Hajj, Malcolm realized that not all white people were the blue eyed monsters that Elijah always preached against. He was a transformed man.
At that time, Elijah Muhammad was leading the NOI. Turned out, Elijah was not such a pious man as he claimed to be. He had turned his back on his own teachings and was in violation of many. When Malcolm X found out, he couldn’t digest the fact that a person claiming to be the prophet could commit such grave sins. Malcolm found out that he had fathered children with the secretaries of NOI. Malcolm soon realized, NOI was as corrupt as any political institution. Many senior members of NOI became hostile towards Malcolm since he was gaining more popularity among other members and Elijah Muhammad himself. They got a chance to throw him out of the NOI when he opposed Elijah Muhammad and their insecurities, for the time being, were put to rest. However, this exclusion was a major blow on the friendship of Malcolm and Ali. Elijah had a great influence over his followers and due to lack of proper and authentic sources to propagate the knowledge of Islam, Elijah Muhammad was able to forge and alter the teachings of Islam beyond recognition in the few prevalent ones. In truth, he didn’t even know the five obligatory prayers which is one of the five pillars of Islam and a mandatory practice in the religion. Ali was still under the illusion that Elijah Muhammad’s ideas to create a separate black nation was a sure shot solution in putting the century long suffering of black people under the hands of the white to rest. Malcolm had realized that the leader they were following was a corrupt and ignorant man sans any good intentions in mind for the black people who were blindly following him.
It dawned on Malcolm, that the solution to end racism was not a complete segregation of black and white communities but the opposite. humans don’t have the right to create a hierarchy based on their skin color or social status.
At that time, Malcolm to travel the Middle East and perform hajj (pilgrimage). It was there that he was transformed for good. He realized that not all white people were the blue eyed monsters that Elijah always preached against. It was during this pilgrimage that he realized just how wrong Elijah Muhammad’s teachings were. He was a transformed man. He figured out that in reality, Muslims all over the world are bound by the common love for their Creator and His messenger. They don’t differentiate on the basis of caste or color nor any other category created and imposed by man. Malcolm saw in Mecca how people from all over the world would gather at one place to worship the one true God. It amazed him to see how they all prayed at one place and ate together. It was a whole new world for Malcolm. It dawned on Malcolm then, that the solution to end racism was not a complete segregation of black and white communities but the opposite. Every human being is equal and humans don’t have the right to create a hierarchy based on their skin color or social status. That trip to Mecca had transformed Malcolm from an aggressive activist to a compassionate human being who wanted the welfare of his people by treating everyone as equal.
Leaders will always be corrupt and power hungry and even the well-read people can fall into the illusion that these misleading so-called leaders want the welfare of people.
When Malcolm left NOI, he expected Ali to follow him. However, that didn’t happen since Ali turned his back on him like everyone else in the nation. That was the final blow to the iconic friendship of two of the most influential men in the west. Ali remained Elijah Muhammad’s follower until his death. And later, just like Malcolm, he too converted to Islam.
After the assassination of Malcolm X, Ali realized that Malcolm X was a visionary and that their friendship could have changed the face of the western world. Leaders would always be corrupt and power hungry and even the well-read people can fall into the illusion that these misleading so-called leaders want the welfare of the people. Malcolm X and Mohammad Ali were iconic figures, but they too fell prey to Elijah Muhammad’s falsities and facade. It’s upto the young people of a nation to bring about a revolution to crush a system that has no regards for its citizens.
Turning his back on Malcolm remained one of Ali’s biggest regrets.
Written by : Azra Jabin
Edited by : Zarafshan Shiraz