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Could Ramadan Affect Muhammad Ali’s Funeral Arrangements?

Ramadan, an Islamic holiday observed by the Muslim community, begins this Sunday, June 5, and carries through until Tuesday, July 5. NBC News confirmed one of the more prominently known members of the Muslim faith, Muhammad Ali passed away Friday evening. With Ali’s death, those not familiar with Muslim traditions may be questioning whether Ramadan could present a challenge in preparing funeral arrangements for the sports icon and devout Muslim.

Muslims gather for prayer on the final day of Ramadan, 2015. Image via Allison Joyce/Getty.

The Ramadan observance begins in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and continues for a month. Muslims who observe Ramadan fast from dawn until sunset with only the elderly, pregnant woman, breastfeeding women, or diabetics being excused from the practice. Ramadan was created to commemorate Allah’s reveal of the first verses of the Quran. The practice of fasting during Ramadan includes not only food and liquids but acts that may be deemed a sin such as sexual relations and smoking, among other things, in order to allow the participant to focus on prayer.

Muhammad Ali and fellow boxer and daughter Laila Ali. Image via Michael Hickey/Getty.

While Muhammad Ali was well known for the practice of his Muslim faith, not all of his children followed in the footsteps of Muhammad. In 2014, Muhammad’s daughter Laila addressed criticism by others that she didn’t dress as a traditional Muslim woman because she did not practice the faith. Conversely, Muhammad’s daughter Maryum Ali was recently featured in a moment of Islamic prayer on the reality show 60 Days In. So is there a possibility that Ramadan could affect how and when Muhammad Ali’s legacy will be celebrated?

According to the estate planning website Everplans, funerals may be held during Ramadan; however, their time may be shortened in an effort to keep the focus on prayer. Another part of the Muslim tradition is to bury their deceased relatively quickly after death. The swiftness of this tradition could either help the Ali family avoid conflict or be the cause of conflict between those who are practicing Muslims and those who are not within the Ali family.

A death during Ramadan can also affect how the family worships Ramadan itself. Typically, during a funeral, the family gathers at the home of the person who has passed away for three days so that friends and relatives can come pay their respects from earlier morning to late evening. Ramadan, however, forces that tradition to be moved until later in the day and late at night in order to allow proper prayer and reflection on Islam.

Muhammad Ali’s belief in the Muslim customs and religion is what prompted him to change his name from Cassius Clay. In fact, Ali used his Islamic faith to avoid the Vietnam draft. Muhammad Ali attempted to break the stigma associated with Islam, even up until just months before he passed away when Ali criticized U.S. Presidential hopeful Donald Trump for his call to ban Muslims.

Because of Ali’s strong beliefs, it is assumed that he would want his family to carry on with Muslim tradition and have his funeral, even during Ramadan. In fact, according to the Mirror UK, Ali had even fought one of his most prominent fights, the “Thrilla in Manila” against Joe Frazier during the 1975 observance of Ramadan.

Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier. Ali was in the midst of Ramadan for their Thrilla in Manila bout. Image via Hulton Archives/Getty

Fellow boxer and Muslim Amir Khan acknowledged to the Independent UK the fortitude it takes to train and fight during Ramadan and the toll that fasting takes on the body. Because many consider Ali’s third fight versus Frazier during the “Thrilla in Manila” as one of boxing’s greatest bouts, it is all the more impressive that Ali won this battle during Ramadan.

Perhaps a funeral during Ramadan would be just the right thing to send off a Muslim boxing legend after all.

[Cover image via Muhammad Ali Official Facebook]