A SEA of mourners attended a Blackburn mosque yesterday as friends, colleagues and relatives stood in the early afternoon sun to pay their final respects to Bilal Saddique.
Traditional Arabic prayers echoed from the minarets of Jamia Ghosia Mosque as people from all sections of the community attended the moving ceremony.
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Mr Saddique’s white coffin, draped with a black and gold Islamic flag, stood behind a podium from which sermons were read to the gathered crowd.
The 29-year-old died from a single stab wound to the leg following an incident at a house in Revidge Road on Monday, August 18.
Teenager Sarah Jade Willis, who friends said was in a relationship with Mr Saddique, has been charged with his murder.
Mr Saddique’s death has left the community united in grief and shock.
Around 5,000 friends, family members and colleagues who worked with Mr Saddique at BT in Blackburn town centre came to say their last goodbyes at the mosque near to Mr Saddique’s family home in the Audley area.
The male mourners spilled out on to the car park, as there was not enough space to hold them inside the mosque.
The men lined up to pray opposite Mr Saddique’s white coffin, with his father, brothers, and other family members standing at the front and centre.
The mourners then came together to form a circle around the casket, which was adorned with an Islamic flag.
In another part of the mosque, thousands more women gathered to pay their respects.
One friend, Rashid Ditta, said: “We'll miss the lad. He was the best lad ever. He never, ever would have caused harm to anybody. He was a 29-year-old good, decent, helpful, lad. He will be well missed.”
Another friend, Asif Hussain, said: “He was a really good guy. I went to primary school with him, and high school, and college, and I worked with him at BT.
“It’s a big loss to the community.”
People travelled to the Chester Street mosque from as far afield as Manchester, Halifax, Birmingham, and London.
Blackburn councillor Hussain Akhtar said the turnout was one of the largest he had ever seen at a funeral.
He said: “So many people have come to pay their respects. It’s the first time I've seen so many ladies and gentlemen in Blackburn come to pay their respects.
“We want Blackburn to be a safe town. We want it to be a safe place.
“The police have worked hard. People have been pressing them for answers but I want to thank the police.”
Former Mayor and Queen’s Park councillor Salim Mulla said: “People have turned out in their hundreds and hundreds to pay their respects.
“Everybody was making very nice comments about his contribution to the community.”
Councillor Arshid Mahmood said: “It’s been a traumatic experience for his family over the last few weeks.
“His family are going to miss him, his mother especially, and his father is absolutely distraught.
“Hopefully they can move on with their lives.”
Prayers at the funeral service were heard in Arabic, and sermons were read in Urdu and English, with one preacher condemning murder in every form, giving reference to Islamic terrorist organisation Isis.
He said: “Any form of murder we condemn.
“Everybody standing here today is feeling sad.
“This is a reminder that death will come to each and every one of us standing here today."
Mr Saddique's father offered charitable donations of £700 in his son's name, and his friends made charitable gifts of £1,410.
After prayers came to a close at the mosque, close friends and relatives accompanied Mr Saddique’s body to the ceremony for burial, while hundreds of the mourners ate together as they remembered Mr Saddique.