NEW YORK — Islam is one of the world’s largest faith traditions. It originated in the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century and is centered around the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims regard him as the last prophet in the Islamic tradition.
Islam has more than 1.8 billion followers worldwide, making it the second-largest religion on the planet. In recent decades, a growing number of Americans have converted to Islam. There are many reasons why people choose to convert to Islam — but some factors include a desire for spiritual fulfillment and to connect to the larger Muslim community.
Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in the world. Some notable American athletes have converted starting in the 1960s, a trend that continues to this day. For some, especially African Americans, belief in Islam provides a chance to emphasize personal responsibility in their lives and social justice. In addition, Islam encourages charity and compassion toward others.
During Ramadan, Islam’s holy month, adherents observe a daily fast — a practice that has posed some challenges for pro athletes — from sunup to sundown. Nonetheless, many successfully navigate this practice each year in order to remain faithful to Islamic teaching.
Here are five notable athletes who converted to Islam and how the decision impacted American society:
Perhaps the greatest boxer of all time, the man born Cassius Clay converted to Islam in the 1960s. He was born in Louisville in 1942 and grew up in a predominantly Baptist community. However, as he gained fame and success as a boxer, Ali began to explore different spiritual practices.