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Muhammad Ali’s son walks out on wife and daughters just after inheriting millions
Muhammad Ali’s daughter-in-law has told how the boxer’s troubled son walked out on her and their two daughters just days after he inherited his share of his father’s millions.
In an exclusive interview with Daily Mail Online Shaakira Ali, 47, spoke of her disbelief and pain.
She described how her husband trashed their apartment before he left, told of his fractured relationship with his famous father and long term substance abuse but said she was prepared to forgive the man she still loves in spite of it all.
Speaking from her parents’ home in Chicago, where she and daughters Ameera, eight, and Shakera, seven, are currently living she said: ‘We’ve had our problems and I’m doing my best to see if we can work things out.
‘All I know is that I came home and everything was gone. Just like that. No warning call, “I’m leaving. I’m gone”.
‘I really don’t know what’s going on and I do care for him. He’s the father of my kids and right now he’s just lost his dad and I’m sure he’s still hurting over that. But the way it looks, it looks bad.’
According to Shaakira’s mother, Raheema, who looked on as her daughter spoke, Muhammad Jr ‘punched holes in the wall, tore the doors off’ the couple’s apartment and ‘took what little there was’ when he left two weeks ago.
Shaakira admitted: ‘He just blows up like that sometimes.’
Since he walked out on his life and apartment in Chicago’s notorious Southside, Muhammad Jr, 44, had not returned any of his wife’s desperate telephone calls until the very day that Shaakira sat down with Daily Mail Online.
Daily Mail Online was present when Shaakira received the call during which Muhammad Jr screamed at his wife incoherently leaving her distraught and bewildered.
After the call she said: ‘I just don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know where he is. I haven’t heard from his family – nothing.’
Fighting back tears she said: ‘He’s left before. He was gone for eight months. He went to California to be with his sister. That was three, maybe four years ago and he came back.
‘But this is different. He just lost his father and all. I don’t know if he has money but they say he has money. I’m not after that. I just want to keep my marriage together. I don’t want my kids growing up without their father.
‘I just want some closure. I don’t know if he wants a divorce. If he does I need him to be a man and say so. But it’s not what I want.’
Reports have suggested that Muhammad Jr has struggled with addiction to crack cocaine, marijuana and heroin.
Shaakira, at pains not to bad mouth her husband, declined to detail the extent of Muhammad Jr’s substance abuse but admitted: ‘He does struggle with substance abuse. Has he ever tried to get help? No.
‘And I know people have said he’s been “drugging it up”. But I don’t know about that.’
Sighing, she continued: ‘There’s so much negativity out there, people say break up your family, move on. But I don’t want to. My parents have been married for 50 years. I like being married. I want to be married.’
Yet the fact that Muhammad Jr appears to have abandoned his family just days after inheriting his share of his late father’s fortune is a particularly bitter pill for Shaakira to swallow, given that as a couple they struggled financially for years.
Throughout their 11 year marriage, she admitted, they have lived on the poverty line – barely keeping their heads above water as nurse technician Shaakira was the only one working while Muhammad Jr failed to hold down a steady job.
She said: ‘Our problems were mainly due to financial reasons. I was the only one working. He really didn’t have a paying job where you could pay the rent.
‘He had odd jobs, cutting grass, but it wasn’t enough to support the family or pay a bill.’
As a couple they used to talk about how their lives would change if they ever came into money.
Shaakira said: ‘The sad part about this is that before his father passed away we used to talk about it. He would say, “If I ever get hold of some money I’ll get us a home”.
‘That’s what’s got me really all choked up. He would say he would get us out of where we are, a bad neighborhood with lots of shooting, and get us a home somewhere good.
‘I guess people say things when it’s not in their hands but when they have things it’s different.’
Reflecting for a moment, she continued: ‘He cares for me. He cares for the kids. I care for him. But financially the only help we had was from my parents. We never got any help from his end at all.
‘I think back in the beginning I may have asked for something but sometimes you ask just to get a little help – not for someone to take care of you.
‘But it would come out like, “Oh you want money. You’re a gold digger”. You ask and people look at you in a different way but I was thinking we’re family.
‘Eventually I just stopped asking. Me and my mom, we took the initiative. We do what we got to do but it’s a struggle.’
According to Shaakira much of her husband’s issues stem from his fractured relationship with his own father – a disconnect between him and his family that impacted on Shaakira’s relationship with the clan.
She said: ‘I know his father left when he was about five and he used to talk about that and struggle with that but there comes a point when you’ve got to say the past is the past. Move on. Make your own family.’
And where Shaakira would have loved her children to have a close bond with their famous grandfather she admitted that Muhammad Jr’s conflicted relationship with his father saw him put up barriers between him and his grandchildren.
She said: ‘He always seemed to want to keep them away from his father. Like he was jealous of them having a relationship or something so they really didn’t know their grandfather very well and really don’t have much of a relationship with the family at all.’
According to Shaakira’s mother ‘this was never a marriage where two families came together. It was a marriage where two families got further and further apart.’
Shaakira said that the first indication that familial tensions would be an issue came on the very day of their wedding.
Shaakira and Muhammad Jr were married in Chateau Bu-Sche in Alsip, just outside Chicago.
Pictures from that day show her a blissful bride with her husband very much in love with her.
She recalled: ‘We met at an Islamic convention and we were just attracted to each other form the start. He gave me his number but I lost it, the he called me a couple of weeks later and it all started from there.’
They dated for around six months she remembered before becoming engaged.
‘But right from the day of the wedding something wasn’t right,’ she said. ‘Usually at a wedding people bring gifts and they leave them on a table but I noticed that some gifts were going straight into Muhammad’s pocket.
‘But I just brushed it off because I wanted to be married and happy.’
Over the years Shaakira has come to accept that her relationship with her in-laws is far from perfect.
But she admitted she was unprepared for how quickly it would deteriorate following Muhammad Ali’s death on June 3.
She said: ‘It just got worse after that. To that point the kids’ great grandmother would send them something on their birthday – $10, $20. But after he died that all stopped.’
And tensions and distrust were writ large at Muhammad Ali’s funeral and in its immediate aftermath.
In the days after she attended the funeral, Shaakira received a text from Muhammad Jr’s sister, Maryam.
It read: ‘I just got a call that law enforcement will be arresting the person that is trying to sell a videotape of my father’s burial. Only two people taped the burial.
‘We know you did and another lady that was standing close to my mother. It would be sad to see you go to jail so I hope it’s not you. Beware of this.’
Shaakira is adamant that she did nothing of the sort and did not reply to the text.
Later she received a further text: ‘I’m appalled you would stoop so low to disrespect our father at his burial. I know now why you never sent me the video because you were negotiating the price of it.
‘I feel so sorry for your soul especially during this Glorious month of Ramadan. Allah sees all and he is all knowing.’
Again Shaakira insisted she had no knowledge of any attempt to sell video footage and that the only reason she had not been able to send the video she took was that she couldn’t figure out how to transfer and send it.
Whatever the truth the allegations show just how damaged Shaakira’s relationship with her husband’s family truly is.
And it is a distance she feels most keenly now that he has gone and she is left, helpless and in the dark, unable to reach out to family members who, she is certain, know where her husband is and know what his intentions are.
For now all she can do is sit and wait. She is hesitant to seek legal advice though has considered it and acknowledges that she may, in the end, have little option.
She said: ‘I’ve never been through nothing like this in my life. I just don’t know. I’m hurting.
‘I’ve got to try to get myself together for these kids ’cause we do need a house to live in and I can’t just breakdown. If I do what will they do?
‘I have to be strong for them but it’s not easy, what I’m going through. I try to look like I’m okay and hold it together but I’m struggling and I don’t know what to do.’
She said: ‘As far as I know we’re still married but I don’t know what’s going on. I haven’t done anything to him. I’ve never been unfaithful. People have their misunderstanding but they work them out.
‘Am I bitter right now about this whole ordeal? Yes I am. I’m upset about it but I’m trying to keep myself together for my kids.
‘The whole situation’s just sad. Can we work things out and move forward? I don’t know. I just want him to do the right thing. Whatever’s done is done. You can’t change the past. I’m still in disbelief – like, is this real?