As a Black American Muslim convert, Ali was a resounding political voice and activist as much as he was world heavyweight champion. He stood as a symbol to his generation of standing up to power in the face of societal oppression.
"As a child, the first action figure my parents got me was of Muhammad Ali. For my generation, he was perhaps the largest and most influential pop culture icons for African-Americans and Muslims," Dawud Walid, from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told Al Jazeera .
"In the civil rights era, he stood against the discrimination we've all faced in the U.S. He crystallized that mindset of resistance and a feeling among many Muslims not to submit to stereotypes; that being Muslim is just as American as being Christian or Jewish."
Ali constantly remained an active political voice in the United States, vocally speaking against extremism and right-wing politics that demonize Islam.
"Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is" Ali said in response to inflammatory attacks against Muslims by American politicians, according to The Guardian .
While Ali may be remembered as a fighter, its important to note that he ardently opposed the violence his government inflicted on others, particularly within the context of the Vietnam War. He refused the U.S. military draft in 1967 – even though it cost him greatly – relating his personal struggle as a Black man and his religious convictions as the justification for his decision.
"I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality," he famously said at the time.