To Allah We Belong, and To Allah We Return

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This week, I received sad news regarding Linda D. Delgado (pictured above), a dear on-line friend, sister, and publishing mentor, who passed away on September 27, 2017 at the age of 70.

Sister Widad, as she was known to the Muslim community, was the founder of both the Islamic Writers Alliance (IWA) and Muslim Writers Publishing, which she established as a means to publish and promote English-language Islamic Fiction (which she called ELIF and worked to have recognized as a fiction subcategory of adult and juvenile fiction under the Book Industry Standards and Communications coding system known as BISAC).

Widad was herself a published author who wrote numerous books, poems, stories, and comic strips for children and adults after her conversion to Islam in the year 2000. I wrote a brief summary of her story back in 2008:

An American Police Officer Finds Islam…In her Home!

Linda Delgado had been reading the Bible every day since she was nine. Although she was a Christian, she believed that Jesus (peace be upon him) was not God, but a prophet.

At age 52, Linda was just getting ready to retire from the police force when she and her husband agreed to host a pair of Saudi police officers who were in the United States for training.

Linda had never talked to a Muslim and was curious about the beliefs of her new houseguests. At her request, the Saudi police officers provided Linda with a Qur’an and spent many hours answering her questions about Islam. Linda observed the men’s behavior and admired the way they prayed, interacted with others, and respected her home. Linda soon came to feel that the teachings of Islam were compatible with her own beliefs about God, Jesus, the concept of original sin, and personal responsibility.

“As a cop of 26 years, truth and justice were (always) an integral part of my persona,” recalls Linda, who says she instantly recognized the truth of God in Islam.

Linda embraced Islam and wrote an award-winning series of books based on her family’s experiences with the Saudi police officers. She now dedicates her time to promoting literacy among Muslim youth.

The full story of Widad’s conversion (authored by her) is extremely interesting, and I suggest you read it. As mentioned above, she actually went a step further to share this amazing story by authoring an entire set of books describing her journey to Islam! The Islamic Rose series is a work of fiction, but is also based on her real-life experiences. I once asked her which parts were real and which were fiction, but she did not provide specifics.

I credit the Islamic Rose series for teaching my daughter to read English. Sister Widad had part of this series translated to Arabic (my daughter’s native language), and my daughter was so interested in learning what happened next in the story that she pushed herself to start reading the rest of the books in English. As a result, her vocabulary greatly expanded, and she began writing stories of her own in both languages. She read the Islamic Rose series dozens of times.

It was not only the books which inspired my daughter, however. It was also Sister Widad’s willingness to correspond with her and provide her with encouragement, support, motivation, and feedback. As a fun exercise, she even allowed my daughter to illustrate some of her (unpublished) work.

Sister Widad encouraged my daughter to grow her talent as a young artist.

Sister Widad had a knack for recognizing and nurturing talent. She published many of America’s top Muslim authors, including urban fiction writer Umm Juwayriyah, the late Amatullah Al-Marwani (author of Star Writers), and the late Jamilah Kolocotronis (author of the Echoes series of novels). I performed editing work for Muslim Writers Publishing, and I also recruited Widad to work with me when I was the managing editor of a Seattle-area Muslim family magazine.

When Sister Amatullah (who also worked with the magazine) required a bone-marrow transplant for her leukemia (may Allah SWT grant her the highest ranks of Jannah), Sister Widad started a worldwide fundraising drive that resulted in $50,000 in donations for the operation. Note that this was in 2004, way before the many on-line fundraising tools available to us these days.

If you did not know Sister Widad, this really only provides a small glimpse into her amazing drive to make things happen. She was relentless in her desire to help others and gave what little she had to improve people’s lives. She regularly donated books to Islamic schools and was constantly pursuing new and beneficial projects. She was always a step ahead and knew that e-books were eventually going to be much more important than the rest of us could comprehend at the time.

Two of Widad’s e-books include Catch Me If You Dare and Gotcha! She wrote these adult murder mysteries featuring Muslim characters under the pen-name L.D. Alan.

Sister Widad was in poor health for much of her time as a Muslim. She suffered multiple heart attacks and had other health problems as well. When things became too difficult, she gave up her business and became less active in the IWA. She no longer wrote lengthy e-mails or messages and only rarely checked in to let group members know how she was doing.

I wrote to Widad personally in 2015 but did not hear back – and I knew the reason was because she was too weak. She came up in conversation a couple of weeks ago at home, and I remembered that I should write to her again. The sad truth, however, was that she had already passed away when that conversation took place.

Widad passed away under the care of her husband and granddaughter, both of whom Widad loved dearly and frequently praised. Regrettably, they may not have been familiar with Islamic funeral practices, and the Muslim community in her area was not informed of her passing until later. Not wishing to be a burden on her family, she requested cremation to save on burial costs.

I am not one to recall the morbid details of one’s death, but I was greatly saddened by this particular issue – not because I blame her family (I don’t), but because it is the responsibility of Muslims to bind their communities together and provide for them when important needs arise. Considering all that Sister Widad did for Muslims all around the world (I have not even really touched upon her many good deeds and accomplishments, which are too numerous to list here), I believe we failed her on this issue and feel very sad thinking of Sister Widad in her final days making this type of sacrifice for her family.

If you’re wondering, funerals are pretty expensive in the United States (a basic, no-frills burial can be as much as $10,000), while cremation is much cheaper. Funerals are big business in this country, and one of my earliest unpleasant childhood memories involves my grandmother (under enormous stress) flipping through various catalogues at the funeral home in order to choose my deceased grandfather’s coffin and all of the other paraphernalia they sell along with it. I find this “business” aspect of funerals absolutely disgusting, and I think we should all be questioning why it has become such a burden for the average person to lay their loved ones to rest.

Sister Widad’s family had numerous expenses, including medical costs for Widad. In addition, it appears that Widad’s son also passed away in April, which added to the hardships. A fundraiser to meet these expenses has been established by Widad’s granddaughter. If you are able to help, I urge you to do so. These are good people who cherished our dear sister in Islam and took good care of her.

Since there was no Islamic burial for Widad, I assume (but do not know for sure) that there may not have been any funeral prayer as well. It is thus very important that we all make dua for her on our own and remember her in our prayers.

I feel very blessed to have known Sister Widad and pray that her work acts as Sadaqah Jariyah (perpetual charity) for her in the Hereafter. May Allah SWT bless her with the highest ranks of Paradise, forgive her sins, and ease her family’s burdens.

If you have read this far, my hope is that you will recognize the important lessons this post contains:

  1. Make the most of every day. Our time here is short, and we do not know when we will lose the ability to perform good deeds. Remember the words of the Prophet (PBUH) in this regard:

“Take advantage of five before five: Your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free time before you are preoccupied, and your life before your death.”

  I quote this hadith often – and for good reason.

  1. Be kind to others. Sister Widad entered Islam through the kindness of others, and there are many other stories of this type. Never underestimate the impact of your kind behavior.
  2. Get your affairs in order. Learn from Sister Widad’s example, and do not leave things to chance. Sister Widad was actually pretty concerned about her business and other projects and took steps to ensure that the IWA and her publishing company could survive a tragedy. She also cared deeply about her family and planned for the inevitable. But some of her work was lost when her various websites ceased operation – and some other things, including her funeral, required more thought and planning as well.

To Allah We Belong, and To Allah We Return…

When I first met Widad, I considered her “old” as she was in her 50s at the time. Now that I am myself in my 40s, I realize that she wasn’t as old as I thought – and even 70 no longer seems that far away. I would now consider someone in their 70s a peer. The truth is that we are all drifting through this life a lot faster than we can imagine.

Did you know Sister Widad? Please share your memories by posting a comment below.

Also read this interview with her on Ummah Reads: Part One, Part Two

The interview contains writing tips and valuable insights about Muslim publishing.

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Amel is an experienced freelance writer, editor, and Arabic to English translator. She started the Muslim Writers Club as a means of sharing useful information about the art (and business) of writing.
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