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‘I Resisted His Kisses as Well as His Religion’: Muhammad Ali’s Daughter Laila Ali ‘Dreaded’ Her Father’s Faith as a Child

Published 12/23/2022, 8:00 PM EST

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Laila Ali stands tall among the greatest and most pioneering female boxers. She may not have reached the heights where he father stood. However, her place among the luminaries of boxing remains unmarred. But, it was not easy for the two-division title holder—the former champion shakes out impressions from her childhood in her best-selling autobiography. Significantly, how the adopted religion of The Greatest and family life affected her beliefs and sense of self despite his worldwide celebrity status.

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Laila Ali; growing up as Muhammad Ali’s daughter

Pages eleven and twelve of the second chapter in her book Reach! Finding Strength, Spirit, and Personal Power reveal some profound details of her growing up as a kid in the Ali household. Pieces from her youth show a Muhammed Ali, in many ways, a child at heart. He was full of the sensitivity and innocence of a young person.


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She picks random incidents from her life while recounting her time with her father. Muhammad Ali insisted on observing the duties of a pious follower of his adopted faith. But it forced a sort of hesitancy and withdrawal on a young Laila.


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She mentions, “I resisted his kisses as well as his religion. I dreaded those early mornings when he woke us up and led us into our living room…”

Confessing about reciting foreign words she barely understood, Laila just wished when she could go back and catch up on her sleep, “I never felt pious or inspired, only tired.”

Laila Ali; going against her father Muhammad Ali

One of the pivotal moments of Muhammad Ali’s incredible life was his 1964 public conversion to Islam. A couple of years later, he applied for ‘conscientious objector status‘ and refused to serve in the Vietnam War. It clashed with his religious beliefs. His arrest and subsequent conviction for draft dodging resulted in losing all the boxing titles. An order from the Supreme Court ultimately overturned the judgment.

By that time, almost four years had passed since Muhammad Ali fought the last time.


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Nearly a decade later, Laila Ali expressed opposition to her father’s faith, “My father and I, at a very young age, had to deal with the fact that I didn’t want to be Muslim…” 

Watch Out for More: Muhammad Ali’s daughter Laila Ali and her lifestyle


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Laila Ali refused to follow her father’s faith in favor of a more spiritual and less dogmatic belief. Muhammad Ali was upset by his daughter’s decision at first, but he eventually accepted it.


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Written by:

Jaideep R Unnithan


One take at a time

After completing 18 years in the corporate sector, Jaideep decided to make a move out of the comfort zone and follow his heart's calling to becoming a writer. His understanding of Boxing began with Iron Mike's debut as an 18 year old in 1985. Like anyone and everyone else, he holds Muhammad Ali as the greatest, though his personal favorite remains the 'PacMan' Manny Pacquiao for his speed and sheer toughness.
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Edited by:

Arijit Saha