Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A00086 - Ali Mazrui, Author of The Africans

Mazrui, Ali 
Ali al-Amin Mazrui (b. February 24, 1933, Mombasa, Kenya — d. October 12, 2014, Vestal {Binghamton}, New York, United States) was a Kenyan American political scientist who was widely regarded as one of East Africa’s foremost political scholars.

Mazrui, the son of a prominent Islamic judge, received a scholarship to study in England at Manchester University (B.A., 1960). He continued his education at Columbia University (M.A., 1961), New York City, and Nuffield College, Oxford (D.Phil., 1966). He returned to Africa to teach at Uganda’s Makerere University (1963–73), but his opposition to Ugandan President Idi Amin and his often controversial views on African development obliged him to leave the region. From 1974 to 1991 Mazrui taught political science at the University of Michigan.  He then moved to the State University of New York at Binghamton (now Binghamton University, SUNY), where he founded (in 1991) and directed the Institute of Global Cultural Studies.

Mazrui also held faculty positions at other universities worldwide, was a consultant to international organizations, and wrote more than 30 books on African politics and society as well as post-colonial patterns of development and underdevelopment. Among his best-known works were Towards a Pax Africana (1967), The African Condition: A Political Diagnosis (1980), Black Reparations in the Era of Globalization (2002), and The African Predicament and the American Experience: A Tale of Two Edens (2003). He also wrote and presented the nine-hour BBC-PBS TV co-production The Africans (1986) and was featured in the documentary Motherland (2009). Mazrui’s honors included the Association of Muslim Social Scientists UK (AMSS UK) Lifetime Academic Achievement Award (2000).

A00085 - 'Abd Allah II ibn 'Ali 'Abd ash-Shakur, Emir of Harar

'Abd Allah II ibn 'Ali 'Abd ash-Shakur

'Abd Allah II ibn 'Ali 'Abd ash-Shakur, also known as Amir Hajji 'Abdu'llahi II ibn 'Ali 'Abdu's Shakur, (18??-1930) was the last Emir of Harar from 1884 (or 1885, various sources carry various dates) to January 26, 1887, when the state was terminated, following the defeat of the Harari troops at the Battle of Chelenqo (January 6).
Emir 'Abd Allah was the son of Muhammad ibn 'Ali 'Abd ash-Shakur by Kadija, the daughter of Emir 'Abd al-Karim ibn Muhammad.  To secure his hold on the emirate of Harar, his father had married 'Abd Allah to the daughter of Ahmad III ibn Abu Bakr, his predecessor. When the Egyptians evacuated Harar, 'Abd Allah became the logical choice to rule Harar, and was given a few hundred soldiers trained by one of the British officers, 300 to 400 rifles, some cannon, and munitions, a force barely sufficient to garrison Harar and Jaldessa, let alone police the trade routes and ensure the security of the state.
Emir 'Abd Allah grew paranoid of the growing Ethiopian threat to his domain, and accused the resident Europeans of co-operating with Negus Menelik II.  His situation deteriorated by July 1885.  The population grew uncontrollable, European traders became virtual prisoners in their homes and shops, and the adjacent Galla raided the town.  In response, Emir 'Abd Allah introduced a new currency which impoverished the local population.  The neighboring Oromo and Somali deserted Harar's markets and the town's economy collapsed.
Emir 'Abd Allah responded to the first Ethiopian military probe with a night attack on their camp at Hirna which included fireworks. The unmotivated troops panicked at the pyrotechnics and fled toward the Asabot and Awash Rivers. When the Negus Menelik personally led a second attack a few months later, the Emir misjudged the quality of these troops and attempted to repeat his earlier success of a second night attack. Had he allowed the enemy to attack the walled city, where his few Krupp cannon might have been effective, the Shoans might have suffered a defeat with serious political consequences. But that is not what 'Abd Allah did.  As a result, the battle at Chelenqo destroyed 'Abd Allah's army in fifteen minutes.
With his wives and children, the Emir fled into the empty country east of Harar, leaving his uncle Ali Abu Barka to submit to Menelik and ask clemency for Harar.
The former Emir 'Abd Allah later returned to the town to live as a Sufi or religious scholar.  'Abd Allah died in Harar in 1930.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A00084 - Hamad ibn Khalifa al-Thani, Emir of Qatar

Ḥamad ibn Khalīfa al-Thānī took power from his father, Sheikh Khalifa ibn Hamad al-Thani, who had become Qatar’s leader just months after the country won independence from Great Britain in 1972. In 2013, Ḥamad abdicated in favor of his son Sheikh Tamim.

Ḥamad was born into a family that at the time had ruled the country for a century. He was educated in Qatar and in England at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and became a lieutenant colonel in Qatar’s military after graduating in 1971. He was promoted in 1975 to major general and commander in chief of the armed forces, and in 1977 he became minister of defense as well as heir apparent to the throne. Following the Persian Gulf War (1990–91), Ḥamad was, for most purposes, leading the country, and in 1995 he staged a coup and ousted his father while the latter was traveling outside Qatar. Ḥamad himself survived a number of subsequent coup attempts and succeeded in returning to the government a portion of the estimated $3 billion–$7 billion in gas and oil profits his father had held in personal bank accounts.

By 2000, Ḥamad had instituted a number of policies that transformed the country. He moved to allow Qataris to participate more actively in the government and to promote greater equality for women. After becoming ruler he announced plans to establish an elected parliament, appointed a committee to draft a permanent constitution, largely abolished censorship of the press, and in 1999 held the country’s first open general elections for a municipal council. For the first time, women not only were allowed to vote but, even more revolutionary, were also allowed to run for office. 

In June 2013, Ḥamad announced his abdication in favour of his 33-year-old son Tamim, the crown prince, citing the need to make way for a new generation of Qatari leaders. The transfer of power was seen as unusual for the Gulf Arab region, where rulers typically occupied their positions for life.

A00083 - Khalifa ibn Hamad al-Thani, Amir of Qatar

Khalīfa ibn Hạmad al-Thāni(b. September 17, 1932, Al-Rayyān, Qatar — d. October 23, 2016, Doha, Qatar) was the amīr of Qatar from 1972 to 95.  He came to power five months after Qatar became a sovereign independent state (September 1971).

In the 1950s and 1960s, Sheikh Khalīfa held numerous governmental posts, including chief of security forces, director of education, and minister of finance and petroleum affairs. He became amīr in February 1972 by deposing his cousin Sheikh Aḥmad, whose profligate spending habits had aroused popular opposition. Khalīfa’s family, including his sons and brothers, virtually controlled the government, holding 10 of 15 ministries in 1975.

As amīr, Khalīfa tried to direct and control the process of modernization stimulated by the boom in oil production. His economic policy was to diversify the economy by vastly expanding the agricultural sector and by building fertilizer plants and other new industries. Although political parties and labor unions were banned in 1976, Khalīfa ruled by decree within the framework of a written constitution and Islāmic law (sharia).

Following the Persian Gulf War (1990–91), in which Qatari troops participated, Khalīfa left daily governing to his sons, one of whom, Sheikh Hạmad ibn Khalīfa al-Thāni, installed himself as amīr by staging a peaceful coup in June 1995, while Khalīfa was traveling abroad.

Khalifa lived in France until he returned to Qatar in 2004 and led a low profile life. He died on October 23, 2016, a week after entering the hospital.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A00082 - Cecil Campbell, As "Prince Buster" Became Pioneer of Ska and Rocksteady Music

*Prince Buster, a pioneer of ska and rocksteady music, was born in Kingston, Jamaica (May 24).

Cecil Bustamente Campbell (b. May 24, 1938, Kingston, Jamaica – d. September 8, 2016, Miami, Florida), known professionally as Prince Buster, was a Jamaican singer-songwriter and producer. He was regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of ska and rocksteady music. The records he released in the 1960s influenced and shaped the course of Jamaican contemporary music and created a legacy of work that later reggae and ska artists would draw upon.
Cecil Bustamente Campbell was born on Orange Street in Kingston, Jamaica, on May 24, 1938.  His middle name was given to him by his family in honor of the Labour activist and first post-Independence Prime Minister William Alexander Clarke Bustamante.  In the early 1940s Campbell was sent to live with his grandmother in rural Jamaica where his family's commitment to the Christian faith gave him his earliest musical experiences in the form of church singing as well as private family prayer and hymn meetings. Returning to live at Orange Street while still a young boy, Campbell attended the Central Branch School and St. Anne's School.
While at school Campbell performed three or four times a week at the Glass Bucket Club, as part of Frankie Lymon's Sing and Dance Troupe.  Rock 'n' roll-themed shows were popular during the 1950s, with the Glass Bucket Club establishing a reputation as the premier music venue and social club for Jamaican teenagers at that time. Upon leaving school, Campbell found himself drawn to the ranks of followers that supported the sound system of Tom the Great Sebastian.  Jamaican sound systems at that time were playing American rhythm 'n' blues and Campbell credits Tom the Great Sebastian with his first introduction to the songs and artists that would later influence his own music: the Clovers' "Middle of the Night", Fats Domino's "Mardi Gras in New Orleans", the Griffin Brothers featuring Margie Day, and Shirley & Lee.
Campbell became more actively involved in the operational side of running a sound system after he was introduced to Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd, a musically inclined businessman who operated one of Kingston's most popular sound systems. Campbell found himself fulfilling a variety of roles for Coxsone: providing security, handling ticket receipts, identifying and sourcing music as well as working in the essential role of selector. The knowledge he gained about the financial and logistical aspects of staging a sound system dance was put to good use when Campbell made the decision to start his own sound system called 'Voice of the People'. Campbell approached his family and a radio shop owner called Mr. Wong for financial backing.  They all agreed. Campbell's 'Voice of the People' sound system was soon operational and within a short time had established itself as a rival to the sound systems of Coxsone and Duke Reid. Campbell applied to the Farm Work Program (a guest worker program for the United States agricultural sector) with the intention of buying music for his sound system but on the day of departure was refused entry into the program. Knowing that he would not be able to personally source records from the United States, Campbell decided to record his own music. He approached Arkland "Drumbago" Parks, a professional drummer at the Baby Grand Club who had arranged and recorded a special (exclusive recording) for the Count Boysie sound system. Drumbago agreed to help and Campbell immediately began rehearsing with the musicians at the Baby Grand Club, including the guitarist Jah Jerry, who played on Campbell's first recording session.
In 1961, Campbell released his first single "Little Honey"/"Luke Lane Shuffle" featuring Jah Jerry, Drumbago and Rico Rodriquez recording under the name of Buster's Group. In that same year, he produced "Oh Carolina" by the Folkes Brothers, which was released on his Wild Bells label. The drumming on the record was provided by members of the Count Ossie Group, nyabinghi drummers from the Rastafarian community, Camp David, situated on the Wareika Hill above Kingston.  After becoming a hit in Jamaica, "Oh Carolina" was licensed to Melodisc, a United Kingdom (UK) label owned by Emil Shalet. Melodisc released the track on their subsidiary label Blue Beat.  The Blue Beat label would go on to become synonymous with 1960s ska releases for the UK market.
Campbell recorded prolifically throughout the 1960s.  Notable early ska releases include: "Madness" (1963), "Wash Wash" (1963, with Ernest Ranglin on bass), "One Step Beyond" (1964) and "Al Capone" (1964). The documentary This is Ska (1964), hosted by Tony Verity and filmed at the Sombrero Club, includes Campbell performing his Jamaican hit "Wash Wash". In 1964 Campbell met World Heavyweight Champion boxer Muhammad Ali who invited Campbell to attend a Nation of Islam a talk at Mosque 29 in Miami. That year Campbell joined the Nation of Islam and also started to release material, including a version of Louis X's "White Man's Heaven is a Black Man's Hell," on his own imprint label called "Islam". In 1965 he appeared in Millie in Jamaica (a film short about Millie Small's return to Jamaica after the world-wide success of "My Boy Lollipop") which was broadcast on Rediffusion's Friday evening pop show Ready, Steady, Go!. Campbell had a top twenty hit in the UK with the single "Al Capone" (no. 18, February 1967). He toured the UK in the Spring of 1967 appearing at the Marquee Club in May and later toured America to promote the RCA Victor LP release The Ten Commandments (From Man To Woman). "Ten Commandments" reached #81 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming his only hit single in the United States. By the late 1960s Campbell was once again at the forefront of a musical change in Jamaica.  The new music would be called rocksteady. Campbell tracks like "Shaking Up Orange Street" (1967) were arranged with the slower, more soulful rocksteady template as used by Alton Ellis ("Rock Steady") and many others. The album Judge Dread Rock Steady was released in 1967, and the title track "Judge Dread" with its satirical theme and vocal style proved to be popular to the point of parody. In 1968, the compilation album FABulous was released, opening with the track "Earthquake" (which revisited the theme of Orange Street) and including earlier hits.
Campbell's career slowed up in the 1970s as the predominant style moved away from ska and rocksteady towards roots reggae, in part because as a Muslim he found it difficult to tailor his style towards a Rastafari audience.  However, he did make an appearance in the 1972 movie The Harder They Come, which featured Campbell in a cameo role as a DJ.
Campbell subsequently moved to Miami to pursue business interests including running a jukebox company.  From 1973 Campbell effectively retired from the music business, with only a handful of compilation albums issued.  Even with the revival of interest in his music following the 2-Tone led ska revival in the UK in 1979 he remained out of the limelight Towards the end of the 1980s he resumed performing with the Skatalites as his backing band, and resumed recording in 1992.
In 1994 a UK court ruled in favor of John Folkes and Greensleeves after they brought a lawsuit against Campbell and Melodisc (CampbelI by this time had acquired Melodisc) concerning authorship of "Oh Carolina".  
Campbell had a top 30 hit in the UK with the track "Whine and Grine" (no. 21, April 1998) after the song had been used in an advertisement for Levi's.
In 2001 Campbell was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican Government for his contribution to music. He performed at the 2002 Legends Of Ska festival in Toronto. Other appearances include:  Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in 2003; the 2006 Boss Sounds Reggae Festival in Newcastle upon Tyne, the 40th Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland with the Delroy Williams Junction Band, and the 2007 UK Rhythm Festival.
The UK ska revival at the end of the 1970s that started with the 2-Tone label from Coventry introduced Campbell's music to a new generation of listeners. In 1979 the band Madness released their first single on 2-Tone, a tribute to Campbell called "The Prince".  The B-side was a cover of the Campbell song "Madness" from which they took their name. Their second single, released on the Stiff label ("The Prince") would be the only single released by Madness on the 2-Tone label, and was a cover of Campbell's "One Step Beyond", which reached the UK Top 10.  On their self-titled debut album, the Specials  covered "Too Hot" and borrowed elements from Campbell's "Judge Dread" (in the song "Stupid Marriage") and "Al Capone" (in the song "Gangsters"). The Specials also included a cover of "Enjoy Yourself" on their second album More Specials.  The Beat covered "Rough Rider" and "Whine & Grine" on their album I Just Can't Stop It.  Campbell's song "Hard Man Fe Dead" was covered by the U.S. ska band the Toasters on their 1996 album Hard Band For Dead.
Campbell died on the morning of 8 September 2016, in a hospital in Miami, Florida.

Friday, July 29, 2016

A00081 - Malick Sidibe, First African Photographer to Receive the Hasselblad Award

Sidibe, Malick
Malick Sidibe, a Malian photographer who was the first African photographer to receive the Hasselblad Award, was born in Soloba, French Sudan.

Malick Sidibé (b. c. 1935, Soloba, French Sudan [now Mali]—d. April 14, 2016, Bamako, Mali) was a Malian photographer whose images captured the essence of the newly independent youth of Bamako, Mali.
Sidibé’s first home was a Peul (Fulani) village. After finishing school in 1952, he trained as a jewelry maker and then studied painting at the École des Artisans Soudanais (now the Institut National des Arts) in Bamako, graduating in 1955. In 1956, he was apprenticed to French photographer Gérard Guillat and began to photograph the street life of Bamako, capturing the spirit of the city’s inhabitants as Mali made the transition from colony to independent country. In particular, Sidibé chronicled the carefree youth culture at dance clubs and parties, at sporting events, and on the banks of (or in) the Niger River. His remarkably intimate shots show exuberant young Africans intoxicated with Western styles in music and fashion.
Although he continued his street work and close association with young Malians for another 20 years, in 1958 Sidibé opened his own commercial studio and camera-repair shop. There he took thousands of portraits, of both individuals and groups, creating dramatic images of subjects eager to assert their post-colonial middle-class identity, often with exaggerated idealized versions of themselves. After 1978, he worked exclusively in his studio.
Sidibé’s work was unknown outside his own country until the early 1990s, when European art critic André Magnin, who was in Bamako to visit another Malian photographer, Seydou Keita, was taken to Sidibé’s studio by mistake. Magnin began to publicize the photographs of Sidibé, and he published a monograph on the photographer in 1998. There followed an impressive number of group and solo exhibitions in Europe, the United States, and Japan. In 2003 Sidibé received the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography. He was also awarded the Venice Biennale art exhibition’s Golden Lion Award for lifetime achievement; he was the first photographer and the first African to ever receive the honor.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A00080 - Abbas Kiarostami, Iran's Greatest Director

Abbas Kiarostami(b. June 22, 1940, Tehrān, Iran — d. July 4, 2016, Paris, France) was an Iranian director-writer known for experimenting with the boundaries between reality and fiction.
Kiarostami studied painting and graphic arts at the University of Tehrān and spent a period designing posters, illustrating children’s books, and directing advertisements and film credit sequences. He was hired in 1969 by the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults to establish its film division. The institute produced his first film as a director, the lyrical short Nān va kūcheh (1970; Bread and Alley), which featured elements that would define his later work: improvised performances, documentary textures, and real-life rhythms. His first feature, Mosāfer (1974; The Traveler), about a rebellious village boy determined to go to Tehran and watch a football (soccer) match, is an indelible portrait of a troubled adolescent. In the 1980s, Kiarostami’s documentaries Avalihā (1984; First Graders) and Mashq-e shab (1989; Homework) offered insight into the lives of Iranian schoolchildren.
In the Koker trilogy, named for the village where much of the trilogy takes place, Kiarostami moved from his traditional subject matter of the moral lives of children to explore the overlap between films and reality. In Khaneh-ye dust kojast? (1987; Where Is the Friend’s Home?), an eight-year-old boy must return his friend’s notebook, but he does not know where his friend lives. The second film, endegi va digar hich (1992; And Life Goes On…, or Life and Nothing More), follows the journey of the director (played by an actor) of Where Is the Friend’s Home? to Koker, damaged by a severe earthquake since the first film, to find the young boy who starred in that movie. And Life Goes On… was also the first of Kiarostami’s films centered around a car trip, a motif he would return to often in his career. The final film in the trilogy, ir-e darakhtan-e evton (1994; Through the Olive Trees), is about an actor’s difficult romantic pursuit of a fellow actress during the filming of And Life Goes On…. During this period Kiarostami also made Namay-e nadik (1990; Close-Up), which tells the true story of a film buff who swindled an upper-class Tehrān family by pretending to be noted director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. The film buff, the family, and Makhmalbaf all played themselves. The Koker trilogy and Close-Up brought Kiarostami international acclaim. 
Kiarostami's screenplay for Jafar Panahi's Bādkonak-e sefīd (1995; The White Balloon), a look at life through the eyes of a seven-year-old girl, further increased his reputation.
In Taʿm-e gīlās (1997; Taste of Cherry), a man drives around the hills outside Tehrān trying to find someone who will bury him after he commits suicide. Much of the film’s action unfolds in long scenes of conversation set in the protagonist’s car. Taste of Cherry shared the Palme d’Or with Imamura Shohei's Unagi (The Eel) at the 1997 Cannes film festival. Bād mā rā khāhad bord (1999; The Wind Will Carry Us) tells the story of an engineer who travels with a film crew to a remote mountain village to document a funeral ceremony. The film is told in an elliptical style, with many characters remaining offscreen entirely.
ABC Africa (2001) is a documentary about Ugandan orphans whose parents died of AIDS or were killed in the civil war, and it was the first of several features Kiarostami shot entirely by using digital video. With 10 (2002) Kiarostami took advantage of the creative freedom offered by lightweight digital video equipment to do a film of 10 scenes set entirely in the front seat of a car. A young divorced woman drives around Tehrān and has conversations with her son and a diverse group of women who form a cross section of contemporary Iran. Five: 5 Long Takes Dedicated to Yasujiro Ou (2003) is five scenes of a seashore shot without camera movement in a style inspired by that of Japanese director Ou Yasujiro, and it began a period of Kiarostami’s work in which he made films that eschewed narrative. In Shīrīn (2008) members of an audience of women watch a film inspired by Nezami's romantic epic poem Khosrow o-Shīrīn (“Khosrow and Shīrīn”). The film consists, except for the credits, of close-ups of the women, and the film-within-the-film about Khosrow and Shīrīn is heard but never shown.
Copie conforme (2010; Certified Copy) was Kiarostami’s first narrative feature film since 10 and the first he shot outside Iran. In Tuscany a gallery owner (played by Juliette Binoche, who appeared in Shīrīn) invites an art historian (William Shimell) to tour the countryside with her. However, the true nature of their relationship is ambiguous in that sometimes they act as a long-married couple and sometimes they seem to have just met. Like Someone in Love (2012), which was shot in Japan, is about a young prostitute, her fiancé, and one of her clients, an elderly writer, and is another of Kiarostami’s films that features many driving scenes.
Kiarostami’s films garnered numerous awards throughout his career. In 2004 he received the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale prize for theatre/film.

A00079 - Mohamed Khan, Egyptian Filmmaker

Khan, Mohamed
Mohamed Hamed Hassan Khan (Egyptian Arabicمحمد حامد حسن خان‎‎ ; b. October 26, 1942, Cairo, Egypt – d. July 26, 2016, Cairo, Egypt) was an Egyptian-British film director, screenwriter, and actor. He was a well-known member of the "1980s generation" in Egyptian cinema, along with directors such as Khairy Beshara, Daoud Abdel Sayed, Atef El-Tayeb and Yousry Nasrallah. His main aesthetic credo, in line with directors from his generation, was a reinvigorated realism seeking direct documentation of everyday life in Cairo, beyond the walls of the studio.
Khan was born on October 26, 1942 in Cairo, Egypt. After completing his high school education in Egypt, he went on to study at the London School of Film Technique (now known as The London International Film School) between 1962 and 1963. While in London, Khan directed several 8mm films. In 1963, he returned to Egypt and worked in the script department of the General Egyptian Film Organization. Between 1964 and 1966, Khan worked as an assistant director in Lebanon. He then moved again in England, where he wrote his book "An Introduction to the Egyptian Cinema" published by Informatics in 1969. He edited another Book entitled “Outline of Czechoslovakian Cinema”, which was also published by Informatics in 1971.
His 1983 film The Street Player was entered into the 13th Moscow International Film Festival.  According to a book issued by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in December 2007, Khan's Ahlam Hind we Kamilia (1988) is one of the 100 landmarks in the history of the Egyptian cinema. 
He had one daughter, Nadine, a film director, and one son, Hassan. He was married to Wessam Soliman,  an Egyptian scenarist who wrote three of his movies: Banat Wust el-Balad (Downtown Girls), Fi-Sha'et Masr el-Guedida (In a Heliopolis Apartment), and Fatat el-Masna' (The Factory Girl).

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A00078 - Muhammad Ali, The Greatest

Muhammad Ali (b. Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., January 17, 1942, Louisville, Kentucky — d. June 3, 2016, Phoenix, Arizona) was a professional boxer and social activist. Ali was the first fighter to win the world heavyweight championship on three separate occasions. He successfully defended this title 19 times.
Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., grew up in the American South in a time of segregated public facilities. His father, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr., supported a wife and two sons by painting billboards and signs. His mother, Odessa Grady Clay, worked as a household domestic.
When Clay was 12 years old, he took up boxing under the tutelage of Louisville policeman Joe Martin. After advancing through the amateur ranks, he won a gold medal in the 175-pound (light heavyweight) division at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome and began a professional career under the guidance of the Louisville Sponsoring Group, a syndicate composed of 11 wealthy white men.
In his early bouts as a professional, Clay was more highly regarded for his charm and personality than for his ring skills. He sought to raise public interest in his fights by reading childlike poetry and spouting self-descriptive phrases such as “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” He told the world that he was “the Greatest,” but the hard realities of boxing seemed to indicate otherwise. Clay infuriated devotees of the sport as much as he impressed them. He held his hands unconventionally low, backed away from punches rather than bobbing and weaving out of danger, and appeared to lack true knockout power. The opponents he was besting were a mixture of veterans who were long past their prime and fighters who had never been more than mediocre. Thus, purists cringed when Clay predicted the round in which he intended to knock out an opponent, and they grimaced when he did so and bragged about each new conquest.

On February 25, 1964, Clay challenged Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship of the world. Liston was widely regarded as the most intimidating, powerful fighter of his era. Clay was a decided underdog. But in one of the most stunning upsets in sports history, Liston retired to his corner after six rounds, and Clay became the new champion. Two days later Clay shocked the boxing establishment again by announcing that he had accepted the teachings of the Nation of Islam. On March 6, 1964, he took the name Muhammad Ali, which was given to him by his spiritual mentor, Elijah Muhammad.

For the next three years, Ali dominated boxing as thoroughly and magnificently as any fighter ever had. In a May 25, 1965, rematch against Liston, he emerged with a first-round knockout victory. Triumphs over Floyd Patterson, George Chuvalo, Henry Cooper, Brian London, and Karl Mildenberger followed. On November 14, 1966, Ali fought Cleveland Williams.  Over the course of three rounds, Ali landed more than 100 punches, scored four knockdowns, and was hit a total of three times. Ali’s triumph over Williams was succeeded by victories over Ernie Terrell and Zora Folley.
Then, on April 28, 1967, citing his religious beliefs, Ali refused induction into the United States Army at the height of the war in Vietnam. This refusal followed a blunt statement voiced by Ali 14 months earlier: “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.” Many Americans vehemently condemned Ali’s stand. It came at a time when most people in the United States still supported the war in Southeast Asia. Moreover, although exemptions from military service on religious grounds were available to qualifying conscientious objectors who were opposed to war in any form, Ali was not eligible for such an exemption, because he acknowledged that he would be willing to participate in an Islamic holy war.

Ali was stripped of his championship and precluded from fighting by every state athletic commission in the United States for three and a half years. In addition, he was criminally indicted and, on June 20, 1967, convicted of refusing induction into the United States armed forces and sentenced to five years in prison. Although he remained free on bail, four years passed before his conviction was unanimously overturned by the United States Supreme Court on a narrow procedural ground.
Meanwhile, as the 1960s grew more tumultuous, Ali’s impact upon American society was growing, and he became a lightning rod for dissent. Ali’s message of black pride and black resistance to white domination was on the cutting edge of the civil rights movement. Having refused induction into the United States Army, he also stood for the proposition that “unless you have a very good reason to kill, war is wrong.” As civil rights activist Julian Bond later observed, “When a figure as heroic and beloved as Muhammad Ali stood up and said, ‘No, I won’t go,’ it reverberated through the whole society.”
In October 1970, Ali was allowed to return to boxing, but his skills had eroded. The legs that had allowed him to “dance” for 15 rounds without stopping no longer carried him as surely around the ring. His reflexes, while still superb, were no longer as fast as they had once been. Ali prevailed in his first two comeback fights, against Jerry Quarry and Oscar Bonavena. Then, on March 8, 1971, he challenged Joe Frazier, who had become heavyweight champion during Ali’s absence from the ring. It was a fight of historic proportions, billed as the “Fight of the Century.” Frazier won a unanimous 15-round decision.
Following his loss to Frazier, Ali won 10 fights in a row, 8 of them against world-class opponents. Then, on March 31, 1973, a little-known fighter named Ken Norton broke Ali’s jaw in the second round en route to a 12-round upset decision. Ali defeated Norton in a rematch. After that he fought Joe Frazier a second time and won a unanimous 12-round decision. From a technical point of view, the second Ali-Frazier bout was probably Ali’s best performance in the ring after his exile from boxing.
On October 30, 1974, Ali challenged George Foreman, who had dethroned Frazier in 1973 to become heavyweight champion of the world. The bout (which Ali referred to as the "Rumble in the Jungle") took place in the unlikely location of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Ali was received by the people of Zaire as a conquering hero, and he did his part by knocking out Foreman in the eighth round to regain the heavyweight title. It was in this fight that Ali employed a strategy once used by former boxing great Archie Moore. Moore called the maneuver “the turtle” but Ali called it "rope-a-dope". The strategy was that, instead of moving around the ring, Ali chose to fight for extended periods of time leaning back into the ropes in order to avoid many of Foreman’s heaviest blows.
Over the next 30 months, at the peak of his popularity as champion, Ali fought nine times in bouts that showed him to be a courageous fighter but a fighter on the decline. The most notable of these bouts occurred on October 1, 1975, when Ali and Joe Frazier met in the Philippines, 6 miles (9.5 km) outside Manila, to do battle for the third time. In what is regarded by many as the greatest prizefight of all time (the "Thrilla in Manila"), Ali was declared the victor when Frazier’s corner called a halt to the bout after 14 brutal rounds.
The final performances of Ali’s ring career were sad to behold. In 1978 he lost his title to Leon Spinks, a novice boxer with an Olympic gold medal but only seven professional fights to his credit. Seven months later Ali regained the championship with a 15-round victory over Spinks. Then he retired from boxing, but two years later he made an ill-advised comeback and suffered a horrible beating at the hands of Larry Holmes in a bout that was stopped after 11 rounds. The final ring contest of Ali’s career was a loss by decision to Trevor Berbick in 1981.
Ali’s place in boxing history as one of the greatest fighters ever is secure. His final record of 56 wins and 5 losses with 37 knockouts has been matched by others, but the quality of his opponents and the manner in which he dominated during his prime placed him on a plateau with boxing’s immortals. Ali’s most-tangible ring assets were speed, superb footwork, and the ability to take a punch. But perhaps more important, he had courage and all the other intangibles that go into making a great fighter.
Ali’s later years were marked by physical decline. Damage to his brain caused by blows to the head resulted in slurred speech, slowed movement, and other symptoms of Parkinson syndrome.  However, his condition differed from chronic encephalopathy, or dementia pugilistica (which is commonly referred to as “punch drunk” in fighters), in that he did not suffer from injury-induced intellectual deficits.
Ali’s religious views also evolved over time. In the mid-1970s he began to study the Qurʾan seriously and turned to Orthodox Islam. His earlier adherence to the teachings of Elijah Muhammad (e.g., that white people are “devils” and there is no heaven or hell) were replaced by a spiritual embrace of all people and preparation for his own afterlife. In 1984, Ali spoke out publicly against the separatist doctrine of Louis Farrakhan, declaring, “What he teaches is not at all what we believe in. He represents the time of our struggle in the dark and a time of confusion in us, and we don’t want to be associated with that at all.”
Ali married his fourth wife, Lonnie (née Yolanda Williams), in 1986. He had nine children, most of whom avoided the spotlight of which Ali was so fond. One of his daughters, however, Laila Ali, pursued a career as a professional boxer.
In 1996 Ali was chosen to light the Olympic flame at the start of the Games of the XXVI Olympiad in Atlanta, Georgia. The outpouring of goodwill that accompanied his appearance confirmed his status as one of the most-beloved athletes in the world. His life story is told in the documentary film I Am Ali (2014), which includes audio recordings that he made throughout his career and interviews with his intimates.