National

Thousands gather to farewell grand mufti

By AAP Newswire

Thousands of mourners have paid their respects to Australia's top Islamic leader, a day after his death in Melbourne.

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Azeem al-Afifi, 48, was farewelled by about 3000 people on Thursday during a service at Al-Taqwa Mosque in Truganina, where he had been a teacher.

About 2000 friends, family and colleagues then attended his burial at Fawkner Memorial Park.

The sheikh died in a Melbourne hospital before dawn on Wednesday, after battling cancer.

Islamic Council of Victoria executive director Nail Aykan told AAP the sheikh often quoted a hadith, (a saying), of the Prophet Muhammad: "The best of you are the ones who are most beneficial to others".

This summed up the sheikh's impact across Australia as a community builder, Mr Aykan said.

"He represented good Australian values and good Australian citizenship."

Top Muslim leaders from across the country attended the service as well as a throng of locals.

"A lot of ordinary citizens turned up because he was a grassroots person," Mr Aykan said.

"As mufti, that's why he was popularly elected because people knew of him."

While the sheikh's passing was sad, Mr Aykan said Muslims were philosophical about death.

"It's only a transition to another life. We'll all be reunited in the hereafter."

He said the sheikh was of Egyptian background but was proud of his identity as an Australian Muslim.

The sheikh was a founding member of the Australian National Imams Council and was elected grand mufti in March.

The council executive committee will act in the role of mufti of Australia until a meeting is held within 15 days to determine a new leader.