Personal Development

Muhammad Ali – A Legacy in breaking barriers

A few hours ago, the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali passed away at the age of 74. We ask Allah to accept his good deeds, forgive his shortcomings, and enter him into Paradise.

Muhammad Ali


Muhammad Ali left the world today, and people from all walks of life are united in their sadness at the passing of this legendary sportsman. But Muhammad Ali’s legacy is not defined by sports alone.

The love that people have for Muhammad Ali comes from a much deeper place. It comes from his courage, his passion, his compassion, his humanitarianism, his sense of accountability to God, and his determination to accomplish goals that seemed impossible.

Initially, I was going to write a list of my favorite Muhammad Ali quotations. However, being that Muhammad Ali had the gift of speech, there are simply too many to write about. I decided then to write about what Muhammad Ali represented to me.

For me, Muhammad Ali’s legacy was proof that there is no barrier we cannot break, no stereotype that cannot be overcome, and no goal too high to achieve. The exception being things outside human control, like health and death.

Think about it. Here is a Muslim African American named Muhammad who has just passed away. Yet people all over the world are saddened by his loss. When you think about all the racism, Islamaphobia, and other forms of bigotry that still are so prevalent in modern society, this is amazing that the death of a Muslim could cause such universal sadness. When you think about the racism that existed at the time in which he rose to fame, it seems almost impossible that someone could achieve what he did.

Achieving the impossible was always a challenge that Muhammad Ali love. After all, he was the one who said:

“Impossible is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

Muhammad Ali overcame every barrier people put in front of him. He proved that Muslims and African Americans can accomplish their dreams and goals, despite all the bigotry that exists in the world. He showed us that we should simply push through towards our goals and ignore, or better yet, challenge those who promote hatred and intolerance. To put it in his own words, Muhammad Ali said:

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

Courage was a way of life for him. This can be clearly seen in his defining moment, when he refused to enlist in the army and fight in Vietnam. In that moment, Ali showed us that you can say no, and that you should said no and bear the consequences, when pressurized to do something wrong. From his entire life, this is the moment I remember him most for. He showed me that having the courage to say no is one of the best things a believer can do.

Pleasing God by caring for his creation

One of the biggest tests of life is fame and wealth. Muhammad Ali had achieved the highest level of fame, and the wealth that goes along with it. Often this much fame and wealth can lead people into living selfish indulgent lifestyles. Yet Muhammad Ali dedicated his retirement to serving humanity and making this world a better place.

Once during an interview, he was asked about what he would do when he retired. Ali replied, “When I retire from boxing, I want to focus on meeting God, and serving the community,” He also said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” These statements indicate the kind of man Muhammad Ali was deep down inside.

Beyond the flashy charismatic athlete, he was a humanitarian who feared His Creator and prepared for the Afterlife. He did  not allow worldly success to distract him from the ultimate success. He spent his retirement in helping people, guiding people, and uplifting society.

Muhammad Ali truly a gifted athlete, and a gifted speaker, but his legacy is much more than that. From Ali, we learned:

  1. Dedicate your life to meeting Your Creator
  2. Serve humanity and make this world a better place
  3. Aim high, aim to be the best at everything you do, and don’t let cultural and racial barriers get in the way of success
  4. Don’t let worldly success distract you from the ultimate goal
  5. Be brave, and do the right thing, even if there are consequences for doing so
  6. and finally, constantly grow and evolve.

I’ll end with one last quote from Muhammad Ali on that last point:

“The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

Written by Shaykh Ismail Kamdar, author of Guidelines for Confused Muslims. Learn how to distinguish true Islamic teachings from false teachings with this new eBook. Purchase your copy today.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Leadership, Positive Thinking

Discovering Personal Development

Personal Development

Discovering Personal Development

This is the story about how I discovered Personal Development. It was around the beginning of 2011 that I found myself in a dilemma. I had a really wonderful new job as a TA at the Islamic Online University but was a bit overwhelmed by the workload and found myself dealing with people from cultures which were foreign to me, and thus making a lot of mistakes in my interaction with them. I was reflecting over the situation and trying to think up solutions.

Keep in mind that back then, I was just teaching four courses for IOU and some local Arabic classes for Deen Class, which is nothing compared to my current workload which includes teaching five courses for IOU (which much larger student numbers), being the Head TA at IOU, blogging, writing books, running this website, formulating strategies to attain my goals, lecturing weekly on Radio Al-Ansaar, writing for Al-Ummah Magazine and IOU Insights, and homeschooling my children, Alhamdulillah.

So what happened that helped me make this transition and fill my day with even more projects than I thought was possible? I discovered the joy and excitement of personal development.

It was in early 2011 that I decided, after ten years of almost only studying Islamic material, that it was time to focus on other fields of study. More specifically, to focus on developing habits and skills to help me become more efficient and a better person. This focus on continuously striving for excellence is actually a forgotten Sunnah called Ihsaan, but that is the subject of another post, inshaa Allah.

The first thing I did was read two self-help books which every young person should read, ‘How to win friends and influence people’ by Dale Carnegie and ‘The 7 habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey. In these two books alone, I had learned such life-changing ideas that I became addicted to personal development. So began what is now a life-long journey of personal growth, as every year I find myself discovering things which help me to accomplish more and more on a daily basis.

In the past five years, I have read books and studied courses in Leadership, Inspirational Leadership, Psychology, Management, Social Psychology, Counseling, Educational Theory, Public Speaking and many more fields and every step helps me in my quest to become a better person.

Let me give you just three examples of things I learned that changed my life forever:

1. Scheduling

This is something heavily emphasized as one of the 7 Habits in Stephen Covey’s book and it has become a crucial part of my lifestyle. I have designed a weekly and daily schedule breaking down the day in hourly chunks and scheduling everything from sleep time, to family time, to personal time.

As a result, I am able to utilize every hour of the day in a productive manner, because even getting adequate sleep is productive. It is truly amazing how much time is wasted on movies, video games, surfing the internet, etc if we don’t hold ourselves to a tight schedule. Scheduling is now a permanent part of my lifestyle and something I encourage everybody to do.

2. Delegating

This process was highly emphasized in many books that I read so I decided to give it a try. My website is a result of delegation. Every aspect from the recording of the MP3s, the editing of the MP3s, the logo design, the website design and the hosting of the website were all done by other than myself. By delegating these tasks to people who are good at them, I was able to focus on other projects while knowing these things are getting done, and professionally too.

Even now, I have many of my important projects delegated to people I trust, thus allowing me to accomplish even more in a day than I thought was possible. Learning to delegate has bought me a lot of time which to me is the most valuable commodity.

3. Speed-listening

I ha’ve already been speed-reading since I was a child, Alhamdulillah. However, in December 2012 at a leadership retreat, life coach Junaid Bayat taught us that if you listen to a lecture at speed 2X (you can do this using VLC Player), you still hear everything clearly, remember everything, and accomplished the task in half the time. I was really excited to learn this so I went straight back to my room to try it out.

The result: I never went back to listening to lectures at normal speed again, and am now able to listen to four hours of lectures in two hours and still benefit from every minute. This is a huge time saver, and has helped me to study twice as much in a day than I previously thought was possible!

The above three are just three examples of the many things I have learned over the past three years. I hope it is enough to get you interested in personal development too. Focusing on constantly improving yourself is a choice you can never regret.

To end, here is a list of some resources to help you get started on personal development. Please feel free to add your own as I am always looking for more resources:

1. Dale Carnegie Training

The books and courses offered by Dale Carnegie institutes are amazing resources for personal growth. I was initially introduced to this institute by my late friend Feroz Ganie. (May Allah reward him for all the good I gained through his suggestion) Although I never attended any of their courses yet, I have benefited greatly from the books published by them, especially ‘How to win friends and influence people’.

2. The books of Stephen Covey, especially ‘The 7 Habit of Highly Effective People’ which is guaranteed lifestyle changer.

3. The books of Mirza Yawar Baig, especially ‘An Entrepreneur’s Diary’, ‘The Business of Family Business’ and ’20.10.2010-55′ (strange name but amazing book).

4. Productive Muslim – This website is an amazing resource for Muslims who want to improve productivity.

5. Mind Tools – another amazing website with many great articles on personal development in multiple fields.

6. Coursera – This website contains hundreds of free courses in every field of study. I usually sign up for a course of interest to me, download all the lectures and listen to them at speed 2X. Thus far, from this website I have studied Inspiration Leadership, Psychology, Public Speaking, Educational Theory and many more interesting courses.

7. Islamic Self Help – Home to my  articles and books all dedicated to sharing my tools and techniques for personal development the Islamic way.

I hope this post convinces you to invest in yourself. Remember that money and time spent on improving ourselves is never wasted, and we always end up profiting multiple times over. Feel free to share your personal stories, tools and resources in the comment section so we too can benefit.

Shaykh Ismail Kamdar is the author of Having Fun the Halal Way, Getting The Barakah, and Best of Creation: an Islamic Guide to Self-Confidence.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Goal Setting, Time Management