LOUISVILLE: A Muslim funeral for Muhammad Ali on Thursday drew thousands of admirers to the boxer’s hometown, where mourners prayed over the body of a man who battled in the ring and sought peace outside it.
The jenazah, or funeral in Arabic, was held at a convention space in Freedom Hall, the complex where the former heavyweight world champion defeated Willi Besmanoff in 1961 in his last fight in Louisville.
An estimated 14,000 people, representing many races and creeds, attended the service, where speakers repeatedly referred to Ali as “the people’s champion.”
“The passing of Muhammad Ali has made us all feel a little more alone in the world,” said Sherman Jackson, a Muslim scholar at the University of Southern California. He praised Ali for advancing the cause of black Americans during and after the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Ali, known for his boxing prowess, showmanship, political activism and devotion to humanitarian causes, died on Friday of septic shock in an Arizona hospital. He was 74.
Ali and his family planned his funeral for 10 years, making sure it would honor his Muslim faith while also adapting to the demands of Western media-driven culture.
A final goodbye for Ali will take place on Friday, when thousands will gather for an interfaith service at the KFC Yum Center.