What Thomas Merton and Muhammad Ali Had in Common

17 January 2017 would have been the 75th birthday of Muhammad Ali.


To mark the occasion, his widow, Lonnie Ali, wrote a fascinating op-ed in the New York Times in which she draws parallels between her late husband and Thomas Merton, beginning with two streets named after both in Louisville, Kentucky: Muhammad Ali Boulevard and Thomas Merton Square.

More importantly, she reflects on the convergence of their combined message of peace, tolerance and love of all humanity:

“… Muhammad’s deep, evolving devotion to God, whom as a Muslim he called Allah, came to be rooted in his love of all people. Boxing had taken him around the world and it opened his eyes to the beauty in diversity. Akin to Merton’s revelation, Muhammad was fond of saying, “the key to a man’s soul is in his heart.”

“Like Merton, whom he never met, Muhammad was naturally drawn to the power in all faiths and at his direction his memorial service included an imam and an Islamic scholar, two Baptist ministers, two Jewish rabbis, a Roman Catholic priest, a Native American tribal chief and faith leader, and a Buddhist monk. Muhammad famously said, “Rivers, ponds, lakes and streamsthey all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions dothey all contain truths.”

Lonnie Ali’s full op-ed piece can be accessed here:

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