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The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey    by Muhammad Ali & Hana Yasmeen Ali order for
Soul of a Butterfly
by Muhammad Ali
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Muhammad Ali writes his memoirs in The Soul of a Butterfly, telling us that 'During my boxing career, you did not see the real Muhammad Ali. You just saw a little boxing and a little showmanship. It was after I retired from boxing that my true work began.' Of his journey into the Muslim religion, following the teachings of Sunni Islam, and of Malcolm X, Ali writes 'Malcolm was the first to discover the truth, that color doesn't make a man a devil. It is the heart, soul, and mind that define a person' and quotes from Sufism - 'Love is a net where hearts are caught like fish.'

When he defied the draft because of his religious beliefs, Ali was stripped of his boxing title and rights, and was shunned by the Nation of Islam. To support his family, he lectured at universities, took a role in a Broadway play, and opened a restaurant called Champ Burgers. Of the experience, Ali writes, 'When a man of great wealth and fame speaks out and tells the truth, he risks losing everything that he's worked for, possibly even his life, but he helps millions.' I was impressed by Hana Ali's 'The Boy Inside The Man', which states in part, 'This is the story of a boy who lived inside of a man / the boy and man were the same person, with one heart / but two minds between them. / When the boy wanted to run, the man would walk. / When the boy wanted to cry, the man would shout ... He knew that if he went, the innocent boy inside - his better self -would be lost forever.'

Through his poem 'The Silent Warrior', Ali openly apologizes to boxer Joe Frazier for words that were hurtful and harmful to Joe and his family. And I found Ali's account of his meeting with a twelve-year old boy with leukemia very moving. When he told Jimmy 'you're going to beat cancer', Jimmy responded from his deathbed, 'No, Muhammad, I'm going to meet God, and I'm going to tell him that you are my friend.' In his verse, 'Recipe for a Good Life', Ali advises, 'Take a few cups of kindness / One dash of humility / One sprinkle of laughter / One teaspoon of patience / One tablespoon of generosity / One pint of forgiveness / One quart of love / And a gallon of faith ... And serve it to each and every person you meet.'

Muhammad Ali and his daughter Hana Yasmeen Ali use analogies, quotes, prose, and verses effectively throughout the book. Readers cannot help but be affected by these memoirs. With humility, style, and grace, Ali writes from his heart of forgiveness, love, and his faith. He tells us 'Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something deep inside - a desire, a dream, and a vision, they have to have the skill and the will.' Ali won the Gold Medal in 1960 at the Olympic Games in Italy, three boxing heavyweight titles, carried the Olympic torch in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, and was named the 'United Nations Messenger of Peace' in 1998. The Muhammad Ali Center is scheduled to open in the fall of 2005 in Louisville, Kentucky. This international educational, and cultural center, will focus on 'what brings people together, not what sets them apart.' (

I recommend The Soul of a Butterfly to all audiences as a memoir of a man's career, family, wisdom, humility, courage, illness, and most of all, his belief in 'a greater power behind the creation of all life'. Al-salaam alaikum, Mr. Ali (God's peace be upon you.)

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