Ali, Muhammad (məhămˈəd älēˈ), 1942–2016, American boxer, b. Louisville, Ky. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, he was a 1960 Olympic gold medalist. Shortly after upsetting Sonny Liston in 1964 to become world heavyweight champion, he formalized his association with the Nation of Islam (see Black Muslims) and adopted the Muslim name Muhammad Ali.
Ali's flamboyant boxing style and outspoken stances on social issues made him a controversial figure during the turbulent 1960s and early 1970s. After beating Liston, he defended his title nine times, brashly proclaiming himself the “greatest of all time.” In 1967 he refused induction into the armed services and became a symbol of resistance to the Vietnam War. The boxing establishment stripped Ali of his title and prevented him from fighting until the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971 upheld his draft appeal on religious grounds. Before retiring in 1981 Ali compiled a 56–5 record and became the only man to ever win the heavyweight crown three times. His fights with Joe Frazier and George Foreman were among boxing's biggest events.
In retirement, Ali was one of the most recognized world figures. The 1984 revelation that he suffered from Parkinson's disease renewed debate over the negative effects of boxing. His appearance at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, to light the Olympic flame, moved an international audience.
See his Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey (with H. Y. Ali, 2013) and The Greatest: My Own Story (with R. Durham, 2015); memoir by T. Shanahan (with C. Crisafulli, 2016); T. Hauser, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times (1991) and Muhammad Ali: A Tribute to the Greatest (2016); biography by J. Eig (2016); G. Early, ed., The Muhammad Ali Reader (1998); D. Remnick, King of the World (1998); R. Roberts and J. Smith, Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X (2016); Sports Illustrated, Muhammad Ali: The Tribute (2016).
Muhammad Ali, pasha of Egypt
1769?–1849, pasha of Egypt after 1805. He was a common soldier who rose to leadership by his military skill and political acumen. In 1799 he commanded a Turkish army in an unsuccessful attempt to drive Napoleon from Egypt. As pasha he was virtually independent of his nominal overlord, the Ottoman sultan. He modernized his armed forces and administration, created schools, and began many public works, particularly irrigation projects. The cost of these reforms bore heavily on the peasants and brought them few benefits. In 1811 he exterminated the leaders of the Mamluks
, who had ruled Egypt almost uninterruptedly since 1250. With his son, Ibrahim Pasha
, Muhammad Ali conducted successful campaigns in Arabia against the Wahhabis. In 1820 he sent armies to conquer Sudan. He scored great successes fighting for the Ottoman sultan in Greece until the British, French, and Russians combined to defeat his fleet at Navarino in 1827. The sultan, Mahmud II, to win his intervention in the Greek revolt, had promised to make him governor of Syria. When the sultan refused to hand over the province, Muhammad Ali invaded Syria with great success. In 1839 he attacked his overlord in Asia Minor, but was forced to desist when he lost the support of France and was threatened by united European opposition. In a compromise arrangement the Ottoman sultan made the governorship of Egypt hereditary in Muhammad Ali's line. He retired from office in 1848. Muhammad Ali is credited for his many domestic reforms, which hastened the foundations for an independent Egypt.
See H. H. Dodwell, The Founder of Modern Egypt (1931, repr. 1977); A. Marsot, Egypt in the Reign of Muhammad Ali (1984).
Muhammad Ali, shah of Persia
1872–1925, shah of Persia (1906–9), son of Muzaffar ad-Din
Shah, of the Qajar dynasty. Muhammad Ali, who was an opponent of constitutional government, began to rule at a critical period just after the constitution of 1906 had been granted. His struggle with the nationalists led to the bombing of the newly established parliament. He called in the aid of the Russians, who organized a Cossack brigade for him. His attempt to overthrow the constitutional government brought on two short civil wars (1908–9). Muhammad Ali was finally forced to abdicate in favor of his son, Ahmad Mirza
. Later he attempted with Russian help to regain his throne, but he failed and afterward lived in exile in Russia.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.