Service for Australia's top Muslim leader

Australian's top Islamic cleric Abdul Azeem al-Afifi has died in Melbourne
Australian's top Islamic cleric Abdul Azeem al-Afifi has died in Melbourne

Hundreds of mourners are expected to pay their respects to Australia's top Islamic leader a day after his death in Melbourne.

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Azeem al-Afifi, 48, will be farewelled on Thursday at a service at Al-Taqwa Mosque in Truganina, where he had been a teacher.

Friends, family and colleagues will then attend his burial at Fawkner Memorial Park, where his body is expected to be wrapped in a white cloth and placed in the ground - without the coffin - in accordance with his faith.

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

Islamic Council of Victoria executive director Nail Aykan told AAP his friend was a "real gentleman" who found common ground among people.

"He was a peacemaker, a bridge builder ... that is what he will be remembered for," Mr Aykan said.

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.

The sheikh's death was noted by federal and state parliamentarians, with acting Victorian premier James Merlino acknowledging his strong leadership and spiritual guidance.

"His eminince loved our nation and its people, and as a state, Victoria will miss his genuine and heartfelt friendship."

Australian Associated Press