Shoulder to shoulder, hundreds of friends and family members packed a south Kansas City gym to pray for the soul of Abdisamad Sheikh-Hussein in paradise.
Abdisamad, also known as Adam to his friends at Staley High School, died Thursday after he was run down in the street in front of his mosque at the Somali Center of Kansas City, 1340 Admiral Blvd.
Jackson County prosecutors have charged Ahmed H. Aden, a 34-year-old Kansas City truck driver, with first-degree murder in his death.
Aden, said to be a Somali Christian, also is the target of a federal civil rights investigation. The FBI is studying whether Aden’s alleged killing of Abdisamad, 15, was fueled by hatred of Islam and its adherents.
As worshipers filed into the Islamic Center of Greater Kansas City gym, Abdisamad’s body, wrapped in a white shroud, was moved in front of the crowd, standing in rows, men and boys in front, women and girls to the back.
Mustafa Hussein, the service manager for the center, said funeral prayers are open to anyone who feels drawn to attend. But this was one of the largest such events in recent memory, he said.
The Kansas City Somali community is very close, he said, and Abdisamad’s death has drawn the entire Muslim community together.
“It’s a devastating thing for a 15-year-old to die this way,” Hussein said. “The way this happened has attracted more people to come.”
Abdullahi Mohamud, the boy’s father, who teaches at the Somali Center, stepped to the microphone to lead the crowd in the four-part funeral, or Janaza, prayer, most of which is said silently by each in attendance.
The first two parts praise God and ask for blessings on the Prophet Muhammad, on Abraham and on their descendents.
The litany was unfamiliar to Nick Rocha, one of Abdisamad’s sophomore classmates at Staley. He attended to honor the memory of a good friend who broke down barriers.
“He didn’t care about your religion; he cared about you,” Nick said. “If you’re ever having a bad day, think about the bright side, like he did.”
The last two sections of the funeral prayer are calls for forgiveness, for the community and for those who have died.
“Purify him from his sins as a white garment is cleansed from dirt,” it reads in part.
Afterward, Aasim Baheyadeen suggested that the call for forgiveness could extend even to Aden, who members of the Somali community have said struggled with his own demons, as well as a hatred for Islam.
“There are people in this world with ills, and you have to find hope for them,” Baheyadeen said.