It was not the bodyguard as planned, but the show went on. It was a scholar of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, Muhammad Ali fan and fellow Muslim, Nazir Al-Mujaahid, who stood in a room full of college students and gave a lecture about a man who was called simply, “The Greatest.”
Muhammad Ali passed last year. The Muslim Student Association organized an event in remembrance of him beside a fireside on Wednesday evening. Students and non-students gathered in the fireside lounge to discuss many memorable moments of this important figure with a man who has called Ali his “idol” since childhood.
Nazir grew up idolizing Ali like many of us, and he told a story about Ali like so many of us wish we one day could. In one hour, Nazir introduced himself as “not the bodyguard,” then he really introduced himself by his name, Nazir Al-Mujaahid formerly known as “Butler” prior to becoming a Muslim, and finally, he introduced facts about Ali, which included his famous opposition to the Vietnam War.
In another hour, the last hour of the eventful night, Nazir took questions from the audience in an inspirational Q&A session. Students were eager to learn about Nazir Al-Mujaahid’s upbringing and how it relates to Ali. Nazir was just as eager to answer, as he stared into the eyes of everyone who spoke and said “thank you” after each question was complete.
He began his answers by standing up and talking about others, such as Malcolm X, MLK, and James Baldwin. “No one,” he said loudly, however, impacted him the way Muhammad Ali did after a visit to a local library with his Mother where he grabbed a biographical work on Muhammad Ali from the shelf. The crowd basked in the memories with Nazir.
One non-student in attendance recalled standing in a room with Ali when he was 4-years-old at a lecture that Ali gave to a school. He was in awe of all the things the world has been in awe of about Ali; his presence, poise, and confidence. Students looked on in amusement as several others shared stories about Ali.
Time had finally gotten away, and Nazir once again stared into the eyes of his audience and thanked everyone. Nazir retreated to his four children seated in the front row, whom he often mentioned throughout the lecture. A member of the Muslim Student Association took the mic and thanked everyone as well.