The Prince of Wales and Prime Minister Tony Blair led tributes to the influential Muslim cleric, Dr Zaki Badawi, who died yesterday.
Dr Badawi, aged 83, was praised for his commitment to building bridges between all faiths and for speaking out on behalf of Muslims across the UK.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and Sir Iqbal Sacranie also joined those saluting the sheikh's work.
The Prince and Dr Badawi became friends through Prince Charles's passionate interest in the Muslim faith.
Prince Charles said in a statement: "The sudden loss of Zaki Badawi is a devastating blow to this country and to me personally.
"His brand of wisdom, scholarship, far-sightedness and above all humour has ensured that Zaki played an extraordinarily important role in the life of this country and amongst the Muslim community."
Dr Williams praised the cleric as a personal friend.
He said: "I shall miss him very greatly as a friend who has contributed immensely to the continuing labour of building bridges between the Christian Church and the Muslim world - but also simply as someone whose company was a delight and whose commitment was an inspiration."
Sir Iqbal, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, offered his "heartfelt condolences" to Dr Badawi's family.
He added: "We are deeply shocked and saddened by his sudden demise.
"Dr Badawi's passing constitutes a major loss for British Muslims.
Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament, said Dr Badawi always opposed fundamentalism and extremism and would be "greatly missed".
Dr Badawi's work saw him forge links with all faith lead-ers and he was instrumental in uniting religious groups following the London bombings last year.
The cleric, who was chairman of the Council of Mosques and Imams, issued a statement with other religious leaders after July 7, saying they were united in "resisting and overcoming the evil of terrorism".
But he sparked controversy a month later when he urged women to stop wearing Islamic veils for safety reasons following the London attacks.
He told them to abandon the traditional hijab head scarf amid fears of a backlash against the Muslim community. It followed concern over rising low-level crime against Muslims, including verbal abuse in the street and attacks on mosques.