Muhammad Ali's New Spiritual Quest

He's given up religion in favor of spirituality and he's embraced Sufism, says Hana Ali of her father.

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All of that contributes to his spiritual growth. He's so grounded, even though he's had so much fame and love and admiration. He says it's constant work, especially when you've got the world at your feet.

How does your dad practice Islam-does he pray five times a day?

My dad feels guilty when he doesn't get to pray five times a day. Sometimes it's more difficult for him to actually get down and pray. When the Parkinson's accelerated, he stopped getting up at 5 a.m. to pray.

But he used to?

Oh, yeah. Are you kidding? He never missed prayer. And if he did, he felt guilty about it. He probably hasn't actually done the formal prayer for a few years regularly-five times a day. He just takes moments out when he sits in his chair and prays. And he reads constantly. His life is like a prayer. God is constantly on his mind. It's not in a preachy way. It's subtle, but you feel like you're in the presence of angels around him--especially now because he's so patient.


Is he able to attend a mosque?

Yes, he does go to the mosque, but not regularly. He goes to the one in Chicago when he can. And there's a small mosque about 20 minutes away. The only problem is it's so crowded, and that's hard for him. And he won't turn anyone away.

How did your dad come to embrace Sufi Islam, and what attracts him to it?

My father has a collection of books by a man named

Hazrat Inayat Khan

. They're Sufi teachings. He read them front to cover. They're old and yellow and the pages are torn. They're amazing. He always says they're the best books in the world.

My father is very spiritual-more spiritual now than he is religious. It was important for him to be very religious and take the stands he did in earlier years. It was a different time. He still tries to convert people to Islam, but it's not the same. His health and his spirituality have changed, and it's not so much about being religious, but about going out and making people happy, doing charity, and supporting people and causes.

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