Oprah: You are known as the most famous person on the planet. Do you feel like the most famous?
Muhammad: It's surprising, but I never realized why I was so famous. The name Muhammad is the most common name in the world. In all the countries around the world—Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon—there are more Muhammads than anything else. When I joined the Nation of Islam and became a Muslim, they gave me the most famous name because I was the champ.
Oprah: Do you believe that had you not become a Muslim, your fame would not have been as great?
Muhammad: It would not have been worldwide.
Oprah: Would you be the greatest in the world if you hadn't become a Muslim?
Muhammad: I don't know. Before I became a Muslim, I ate pork and chased women—but all that stuff stopped.
Oprah: So you never chased women after you became a Muslim?
Oprah: But I understand. If you hadn't become a Muslim, you might not have had the concentrated spiritual power that sustained you. Did your greatness have to do with more than just your ability in the ring?
Muhammad: Yes. The teachings of [Muslim leader] Elijah Muhammad made me say, "I am the greatest." And back then, black people didn't talk or boast like that.
Oprah: Nobody had ever heard of anyone like you.
Muhammad: I would say things like "I am the greatest! I'm pretty! If you talk jive, you'll drop in five! I float like a butterfly, sting like a bee! I'm pretty!" When white people heard me talking like this, some said, "That black man talks too much. He's bragging."
Oprah: When were you first introduced to Elijah Muhammad?
Muhammad: Around 1961. He said, "Why are we called Negroes? Chinese are from China, Russians are from Russia, Germans are from Germany, and Indians are from India. What country is called Negro?" And I realized that Cassius Clay is a slave name—a European name that was given to me. Many of the blacks in this country have slave names.
Oprah: Had you been listening to the teachings of Elijah Muhammad long before you announced to the world that you had become a Muslim?
Oprah: Were you encouraged by Elijah Muhammad to announce that you were Muslim?
Muhammad: No, no, no. It was just me. You're not forced to believe or to be a follower. You just have to do what's in your heart.
We Hear You!