Muhammad Ali mourned with traditional Muslim funeral

Thousands gather in Louisville to attend a traditional Muslim prayer service for Muhammad Ali.

The coffin of Muhammad Ali arrives for the traditional Muslim Jenazah service [Lucy Nicholson/Reuters]

Muslims have travelled from all over the world to Louisville, Kentucky, to attend a traditional Muslim prayer service for Muhammad Ali, the record-setting world heavyweight champion, who passed away last week.
More than 14,000 people bought tickets for Thursday’s service in
Kentucky Exposition Center, which will also be broadcast worldwide and
streamed online, according to Ali’s wishes.

Organisers say the service is meant especially as a chance for Muslims to say goodbye to a man considered a hero of the faith.

Louisville honours hometown hero Muhammad Ali

“Muhammad Ali began his transition to becoming a Muslim in 1964 when
he was 22 years old,” said Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo reporting from
“For over 50 years he has been one of the most recognisable Muslims, at least in the US.”
US Muslims hope the service for the boxing legend will help underscore that “Islam is fully part of American life”.
“Muhammad planned all of this,” said Imam Zaid Shakir, a prominent US Muslim scholar who will lead Thursday’s prayers.
“And he planned for it to be a teaching moment.”

A global representative of the faith

Ali, who died on Friday at 74, famously joined the Nation of Islam,
the black separatist religious movement, as a young boxer, then embraced
mainstream Islam years later, becoming a global representative of the
faith and an inspiration to Muslims.
“One reason Muhammad Ali touched so many hearts, he was willing to
sacrifice the fame, the lights, the money, the glamour, all of that, for
his beliefs and his principles,” Shakir told the Associated Press news
“That’s moving and that touches people.”

Women attend the Jenazah for the late boxing champion Muhammad Ali [Lucy Nicholson/Reuters]

Timothy Gianotti, an Islamic scholar at the University of Waterloo in
Canada, worked for years with the Ali family to plan the remembrances.

Gianotti said that he and three others – two Phoenix-area Muslims and
Imam Zaid Shakir – washed, anointed and wrapped Ali’s body. In Islam,
the body is typically wrapped in three pieces of simple fabric.
He said the service will consist of short, standing prayers said over the body, which will be in a coffin facing Mecca.
The traditional Muslim Jenazah service lasts only a few minutes, with
people customarily standing in lines as they recite prayers.
At Ali’s service, Muslims lining up to join the recitation will be
separated by gender, but the wider audience will not, Gianotti said.
The faithful will stand shoulder-to-shoulder, row after row, Gianotti said.

The service is composed of four recitations of “Allahu Akbar” or “God
is Great”, with silent prayers in between a reading from the first
chapter of the Quran, a blessing for Abraham, a general prayer for the
well-being and forgiveness of the deceased for the next life, and a
prayer for everyone at the funeral, Gianotti said.
It will take about 15 to 20 minutes, with additional remarks from prominent Muslims in attendance.
An interfaith memorial service is planned for Friday, which will
include representatives of several religions, including Jews and
Muslim organisations are asking mosques around the country to participate by saying a special prayer for Ali this week.
Tickets are still available for the Thursday service, but all 15,500
tickets for Friday’s memorial at the KFC Yum! Center in downtown
Louisville were claimed within an hour.