'We Sent Him off in a Very Peaceful Way': Muhammad Ali's Daughter Laila
By Katie Kindelan
Muhammad Ali's daughter Laila Ali said that her dad was surrounded by all nine of his children when he died and that “we sent him off in a very peaceful way.”
"All of us kids ... were all at the hospital, and all had the opportunity to be with him when he passed away," Laila Ali, 38, said on " Good Morning America ." "We all were there, and that doesn't always happen, when everybody has the opportunity to be there, so that was very nice."
The world-famous boxer died Friday night at the age of 74 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Laila Ali said her sisters honored their dad's Muslim faith as he died.
"My sisters were saying Islamic prayers," she said. "It was a very peaceful time, and we sent him off in a very peaceful way."
Muhammad Ali was hospitalized before his death for respiratory issues. He had fought a decades-long battle with Parkinson's disease, and Laila Ali said she felt "comfort" in knowing her father is now at peace in his body.
"I can say that I'm obviously really sad, but I've been sad for a long time just watching my father struggling with Parkinson's disease," she said. "You know, you hold your head up, and you say, 'Yeah, he's doing great,' but, you know, I felt like he was trapped inside of his body, so I have comfort in knowing that he's not suffering anymore. So that's what makes me feel better."
Laila Ali, who followed her father into professional boxing, remembered her dad as a "fighter inside and out of the ring" who spoke for people who "couldn't speak up for themselves."
"I just have so much respect for him because you just don't see that. You don't see that anymore, not only in just athletes. I mean, there's just not that many men that you can compare to my father," she said. "When I think of my father, I think of people like Nelson Mandela and people like that."
She also recalled the iconic moment at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta when her dad lit the Olympic flame, 12 years after his Parkinson's diagnosis.
"It amazes me how just the presence of my father, whether he was lighting the torch or not, brings so many people to tears because he stands for so much without even speaking," Laila Ali said. "He's an angel. Just to hold that torch and be shaking and not be hiding his sickness and just showing that strength that he still has. He embodies so much, and it was just all in that one moment, and people just weren't expecting it.
She added, "This man just transcends everything there is, and everybody just loves him. There isn't anybody else like him. I don't think there ever will be. That makes me sad too. He's passing on, and I'm just like, man, what does this next generation have?"
Laila Ali said she is now explaining to her two young children that the man they knew only as Poppa has died. The family has happy memories of gathering in January in Arizona to celebrate his 74th birthday.
"All his kids and grandkids were there, we were with him in Arizona, and he was bright-eyed and alert and had a great day," she said, adding of her two kids, "I have to stay strong and teach them about celebrating life and moving on and all of that, because it's a part of life."
The family will remember him on Thursday in a private ceremony in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Members of the public will be able to pay their respects on Friday at an interfaith memorial service and a procession through the streets of Louisville.
The remembrance will be one that he planned himself, according to his daughter.
"He said he wanted it in an arena so everybody can come and be there," Laila Ali said of her famously attention-grabbing dad. "It's like, trust me, if 10 million people come, that's not going to be enough for him. He's going to be like, 'That's it?'" - Good Morning America
Ways to Honor Muhammad Ali's Legacy
As part of our efforts to amplify American Muslim voices on important current affairs, MPAC, along with other national Muslim leadership, has coordinated a national American Muslim response to the historic loss of Muhammad Ali -- a champion for us all.
The following are ways that we are collectively asking local communities to honor the legacy of Muhammad Ali.
1. Attend The Janaza: Make preparations to attend the funeral prayer (salat al-janazah) for Muhammad Ali scheduled to be offered at noon Thursday in Louisville, Ky. The location of the prayer will be announced as plans are finalized.
Communities that are unable to send representatives to the Louisville funeral prayer are being asked to organize local prayers, called “salat al-ghaib," which are performed for Muslims who have died in a distant place. Those prayers could be offered either before the nightly Ramadan taraweeh or after jummah prayers on Friday.
2. Share Your Story: Muhammad Ali inspired us all. Participate in the social media campaign #GenAli to share how you will honor Muhammad Ali's legacy in your life.
3. Donate : Invest in youth changemakers from around the world that embodied Muhammad Ali's vision of public service by supporting the Youth Leadership Scholarships at the Muhammad Ali Center through LaunchGood .
4. Reflect on His Legacy : Later this week, a suggested sermon (khutba) outlining Muhammad Ali’s importance to the American Muslim community and to the way Islam is viewed in our nation will be distributed to Islamic prayer leaders (imams) who will conduct the normal congregational prayers (jummah) this Friday. Please feel free to share it with your local mosque.
If you have any questions, please contact me at Rabiah@mpac.org.
Media & Public Affairs Director
Muslim Public Affairs Council