The Story of Shamsud Din Ali: From Criminal Convictions to Community Leadership

Shamsud Din Ali, a noteworthy figure in Philadelphia’s history, lived a life filled with controversies and convictions. His journey from being a criminal to a community leader is nothing short of a roller-coaster ride. This article will delve into a thorough examination of his life, shedding light on his criminal activities, convictions, and subsequent transformation into a community leader.

Early Life and Criminal Convictions

Born as Clarence Fowler, United States, Shamsud Din Ali came into prominence in the early 1970s. Ali, at the time known as Fowler, was convicted for the murder of a rival religious leader. However, his conviction was overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, leading to his release from prison. Following his release, he changed his name to Shamsud Din Ali and rapidly established himself as an influential figure within Philadelphia’s Muslim community.

Leadership in the Muslim Community

On his release from prison, Ali swiftly positioned himself as the leader of the Philadelphia Masjid, a dominant mosque in Southwest Philadelphia. Here, he began his journey of transformation from a former hitman for the Black Mafia to a religious leader with substantial political ties.

Allegations and Controversies

Despite his transformation, allegations and controversies never seemed to leave Ali’s side. He was accused of using the mosque as a hub for illegal payoffs from drug dealers. Although Ali consistently denied these allegations, they continued to cast a shadow over his leadership.

Convictions and Sentencing

Ali’s life took a dramatic turn in 2005 when he was convicted on several charges, including fraud, racketeering, and extortion. He was accused of running several money-making extortion schemes and peddling influence involving high-ranking city officials.

He was sentenced to 87 months in federal prison on political corruption charges. Furthermore, Ali was ordered to pay back $365,440.34 to four victims of fraud and extortion, and to forfeit $286,646, a total exceeding $650,000.

Connections with the Drug Underworld

Ali’s connections with the drug underworld came under scrutiny during the racketeering trial of cocaine kingpin Kaboni Savage. It was revealed that Ali was the nexus between the drug underworld and city politics, with a foot in both camps.

Ties to Prominent Personalities

Ali’s ability to recreate himself and gain credibility in political and government circles, despite his criminal past, was seen as a reflection of the tolerant nature of politics in the city’s African-American community. He was known to be close to both Mayor Street and then Gov. Edward Rendell while running the mosque.

The Boxing Legend Connection

Ali’s ties to the boxing world have spanned decades. He was seen in a photo with boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Philly Black Mafia heavyweight Nudie Mims. His daughter, Lakiha, is married to another boxing legend, Mike Tyson.

Appeal and Release

Despite his convictions, Ali didn’t lose hope. His appeal was rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, yet he continued to fight his case. Finally, after serving his term, Ali was released in 2013.

Legacy and Impact

Despite his criminal past and controversies, Ali’s impact on the Muslim community in Philadelphia cannot be denied. His rise from being a convicted criminal to a community leader is a testament to his resilience and determination.


Shamsud Din Ali’s life is a story of transformation and resilience. Despite his criminal past, he managed to establish himself as a prominent leader in Philadelphia’s Muslim community. His life serves as a reminder that people have the capacity to change and make a difference in their communities.

Written by Alexander

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