Muslim Prayers Recited for Muhammad Ali at Private Memorial
Entertainment| | By Sara Wilkins
Thousands of Muhammad Ali fans gathered in the late sports legend’s native Louisville, Kentucky on Thursday to pray for the boxer as part of an Islamic memorial service.
The icon passed away from septic shock in Phoenix, Arizona on June 3, and his body was flown home to Louisville this week.
On Thursday, 14,000 people joined his family members to celebrate his life at Freedom Hall, the same venue where Ali made his professional debut and the site of the legend’s last Louisville fight in 1961.
The funeral service, known as jenazah in Arabic, was headed up by Imam Zaid Shakir, who led mourners of all creeds and colors in prayers as Ali’s casket lay in the center of the complex, covered with a black and gold cloth.
“The passing of Muhammad Ali has made us all feel a little more alone in the world,” Sherman Jackson, a Muslim scholar, told the crowd at the memorial. “Something solid, something big, beautiful and life-affirming has left this world.”
Ali, born Cassius Clay, converted to Islam in 1964.
The star, who battled Parkinson’s disease for 32 years, is said to have planned his own funeral arrangements over the last 10 years of his life, as he wanted to ensure the service embraced his Muslim faith.
A second, larger funeral is set to take place at Louisville’s KFC Yum Center on Friday, when former U.S. President Bill Clinton and actor/comedian Billy Crystal will be among those delivering eulogies to the man known as the “People’s Champion,” and Will Smith, who portrayed the fighter in 2001 biopic Ali, will serve as one of eight pallbearers.
Tickets for Friday’s event were made available for free to the public, but some are now being sold online at extortionate prices – and the despicable action has left Ali’s relatives outraged.
Family spokesman Bob Gunnell issued a statement to the Associated Press on Thursday, insisting the selling of the tickets went against the heavyweight champion’s final wishes.
“I’m personally disgusted and amazed that someone would try to profit off of Muhammad Ali’s memorial service,” Gunnell wrote. “I hope that those buying tickets or trying to buy tickets would stop those efforts by not purchasing. Muhammad Ali wanted this to be a free event, an event that was open to all.”
Selling a ticket for more than its face is illegal in the state of Kentucky and carries a fine of up to $250.
“It is deplorable that some people are trying to profit off of the solemn service as we celebrate the life of Muhammad Ali,” Gunnell added.