Muhammad Ali mourned at traditional Muslim funeral in boxer's hometown

Jenazah ceremony drew thousands of people to Louisville ahead of interfaith service

Muhammad Ali mourned at traditional Muslim funeral in boxer's hometown

Muslim women pray before Muhammad Ali's jenazah in Louisville | Photo: PA Images

Muslims from around the world have paid their last respects to Muhammad Ali at an Islamic funeral in Kentucky.

Thousands of people gathered for the jenazah, the Arabic word for funeral, in the boxing legend's hometown of Louisville.

The ceremony was held a day before 15,000 more are to gather at an interfaith service for the three-time world heavyweight champion.

Former US President Bill Clinton, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and comedian Billy Crystal are expected to speak during tomorrow's memorial at a sports arena.

Actor Will Smith, who portrayed Ali in a 2001 biographical film, and British former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis will be among pallbearers.

Ali died last Friday of septic shock in an Arizona hospital, aged 74.

Imam Zaid Shakir, a prominent US Muslim scholar who led Thursday's ceremony, said: "We welcome all of you here today.

"We welcome the Muslims, we welcome the members of other faith communities, we welcome the law enforcement community."


Muhammad Ali's casket is escorted by pallbearers | Photo: PA Images

Retired boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, Ali's former manager Don King and Reverend Jesse Jackson also attended.

Briton Abi Ajram, 48, made the 4,000-mile trip from London to pay respect to "a great man".

He said: "I feel Muhammad Ali deserved the world turning up for him.

"I thought it's the least I can do and I wanted to do it the moment I heard he had passed away."

Some mourners chanted and others held cameras and mobile phones above their heads as Ali's body was brought inside the Kentucky Exposition Center.

The short service, broadcast worldwide, consisted of prayers over Ali's coffin, with his head pointing towards Mecca.

The memorial included recitations of "Allahu Akbar", or "God is Great", and a reading from the first chapter of the Koran.

The boxer and Vietnam War opponent shocked white America when he dropped his birth name, Cassius Clay, and joined the black separatist Nation of Islam in 1964.

In the 1970s, Ali converted to Sunni Islam, before embracing Sufism, a mystical school of the faith, in later life.

Muslims usually bury their dead within 24 hours, but the timeline is not a strict obligation.

It has emerged that touts have been cashing in on Ali's death by selling free tickets for his memorial service.