Australia's most senior Muslim cleric Sheikh Abdel Aziem Al-Afifi has died of cancer. He was 48.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel Aziem Al-Afifi has died of cancer aged 48, only four months after he was appointed to be Australia's most senior Muslim cleric.
The Australian National Imams Council on Wednesday morning announced the Sunni Muslim leader had died shortly before dawn in Northern Hospital, Epping, in Melbourne. He had been ill for some time.
"Sheikh Abdel Aziem Al-Afifi has dedicated himself to serving the Australian Muslim Community for over 20 years," the council said in a statement.
"Sheikh Abdel Aziem Al-Afifi has widely been recognised and respected by the Australian Muslim community and wider Australian society.
"We ask Allah to have mercy on the soul of Sheikh Abdel Aziem Al-Afifi and grant him the highest level of Jannah."
Jannah is the literal term for paradise in Arabic.
The Sheikh was a founding member of the Australian National Imams Council and served two terms as president before being elected as Mufti of Australia.
He was announced as the new Grand Mufti in March, vowing to do his “best to benefit the Muslim community and the broader Australian community”.
Following his election, he spoke with SBS News, saying he hoped to impart his learnings to the wider Australian community to mend any issues.
Born in Egypt, Al-Afifi held a masters degree in Quranic recitations and a degree in Islamic Studies and arrived in Australia in 2000.
Initially coming to Australia to lead a Ramadan sermon, he fell in love with the country and decided to stay in Melbourne.
More than 5000 people are expected to attend the funeral of Al-Afifi, remembered as a popular visionary.
His death has been marked across the faith spectrum, with the Anglican national assembly paying its respects with a minute's silence.
Australian Multicultural Foundation executive director Hass Dellal said the Grand Mufti was a "great person" with his youth work and promotion of Australian Muslims' contributions to leave "a lasting legacy".
"He was really a very genuine person and was really respected by many Muslims and the wider Australian community. It (his death) was a shock even though we had known he was ill," Dr Dellal OAM said.
The Executive Director of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Nail Aykan, said the Grand Mufti's commitment and service to the community will not be forgotten.
"Sheikh Abdul Azeem is someone who has over 20-years of community service and leadership. I think he will be remembered by many as a genuine Muslim community leader who has served both the Muslim communities and the wider Australian society very well."
Victorian Minister for Multicultural Affairs Robin Scott tweeted: "My condolences to the family of his Eminence the Grand Mufti of Australia Sheikh Abdel Aziem Al-Afifi and Muslim community. May he rest in peace".
Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Minister Alan Tudge also expressed his sympathy.
"His ability to build relationships with a wide range of people saw him regarded as an effective leader and as a man of peace and good will," he said.
"His dedication to the Australian Muslim community over 20 years and work with young people was appreciated by Muslims across Australia."
In the interim, the council will take on the Mufti's role until an emergency meeting decides on a new leader.