LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- An Islamic prayer service was held for the late boxing legend Muhammad Ali Thursday afternoon.
Thousands are attending the service. Some chanted and some held cameras and cellphones above their heads as Ali's body was brought inside a wing of the Kentucky Exposition Center.
Imam Zaid Shakir, a prominent U.S. Muslim scholar, is leading the Jenazah prayer service. He told the crowd:
"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. We welcome our sisters, our elders, our youngsters."
"All were beloved to Muhammad Ali."
In an introductory prayer, Shakir said: "Oh God, Almighty God, don't deprive us of his reward, don't cast us into tribulation after his departure. Forgive us and forgive him."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson says Muhammad Ali set an example for athletes to "use the high platform of championships" to make a difference beyond sports.
Jackson was interviewed before the prayer service Thursday in Louisville for Ali. He said Ali's "dignity in the ring and his sense of heroism beyond the ring made him a living legend."
The civil rights leader said Ali will be remembered not only as a boxing champion but also as a human rights activist.
"He never stopped winning battles, whether it was in the ring or outside the ring," Jackson said.
Former boxer Sugar Ray Leonard is attended the prayer service for his friend, Muhammad Ali, whom he called "a man of great character and courage."
He said Ali's most important contributions were as a humanitarian and a fighter for civil rights and social justice. Leonard said Ali "impacted the world."
Leonard believes Ali's most memorable moment as a boxer was when he defeated George Foreman to reclaim the world heavyweight boxing title in 1974. Leonard said he "was so afraid that George was going to kill him."
He said Ali "meant the world" to him: "He was my idol, my friend, my mentor. He was someone that I looked up to and someone who I tried to emulate during my boxing career."
Those waiting in line for tickets this morning traveled from all over the world.
"Look around as this crowd starts building up," said Abdul Malik, who was attending the event. "I've never attended a funeral four hours early. Never. I've been up all night, and I've canceled different engagements because this will never happen again. You only get one Muhammad Ali."
Ali's obituary is expected to be released this afternoon.
Additionally, a total of 31,500 people are expected to show up for funeral services on Friday -- including 15,500 ticket holders. The rest are invited guests and speakers. The arena is at capacity.
Thursday afternoon officials will announce the lineup of the funeral. Lonnie Ali is going to allow each of the children to speak.
Ali's official obituary is expected to be released Thursday afternoon.
The Ali Center is closed Friday for a private reception with 1,000 invited guests. A pool camera will be allowed to get video of Mayor Greg Fischer speaking and the presentation of two gifts. The family will be presented with a gift from the U.S. Olympic Committee and from the U.S. Boxing Council.
President Obama will not attend the memorial, but White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett will represent him at the service. The president can't attend because he needs to stay in Washington, D.C. to attend his daughter's high school graduation.
Anyone who has a ticket to the funeral at the Yum! Center can park for free at the Kentucky Exposition Center beginning at 7:30 a.m. on Friday. Shuttle service will be provided for people with tickets between the Kentucky Exposition Center and the KFC Yum! Center. Shuttle service starts at 8:30 a.m.
People with tickets can also take TARC for free to get to the KFC Yum! Center. On Friday, there will be traffic control for the procession, as well as security at Cave Hill Cemetery and at the KFC Yum! Center.
For more information about the upcoming memorial services, parking, shuttles and bus routes go to www.AliLouisville.com.
Many roads will be closed Friday for the 19 mile procession and memorial service downtown. For a list of road closures, CLICK HERE.
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