Greater than the Greatest
ONE, Sunday 26 May, 10.55pm
a career spanning over two decades, Muhammad Ali was probably the
greatest boxer the world has ever seen and an inspiration to generations
of young black men.
behind the floating and the stinging was something that changed
the course of Ali's life as fundamentally as his boxing. In Greater
Than The Greatest, narrator Chris Eubank looks at the impact Islam
has had on Ali's colourful life and career.
mark the Islamic festival of the Birthday of the Prophet, this documentary
looks at Ali's secret conversion to the Nation of Islam and the
impact his conversion had on public perceptions of the faith.
exclusive interviews with Ali's friends and family, including his
first wife Sonji Roi and daughters Maryum, Rasheda and Jamillah,
the programme reveals the strong influence the Nation of Islam had
over him in the early years.
met Sonji through the Nation - he'd been praying for a wife when
she walked in. He proposed immediately and they were married the
same day. However the relationship faltered when Sonji refused to
follow the Nation's strict dress code.
says: "Our fighting was never really over clothing - it was
a mental fight. I wasn't going to be programmed... I felt like he
was programmed sometimes... almost like brainwashing." When
Sonji started to ask difficult questions about what was happening
to Ali's money, he was persuaded to divorce her.
Nation of Islam had some unorthodox teachings - Ali refused to buy
a house because he'd been taught to believe that a spaceship was
coming to save him and God's chosen people. But after the death
of the Nation's founder, Elijah Muhammed, in 1975, Ali followed
the example of Elijah's eldest son Wallace and changed direction,
embracing the teachings of mainstream Islam.
continues to act as an ambassador for Islam and, in recent years,
his faith has helped him to cope with the onset of Parkinson's Syndrome.
Rasheda says: "The Parkinson's has definitely drawn him closer
to God... I think it made him more religious... it's a blessing."