A Legend Passes: Latifa Ilyas (1938-2014)

Sister Latifa Ilyas was among the pioneers of Baltimore Jamaat. Born on December 31st, 1938, she converted to Islam/Ahmadiyyat during her teens. She served the Baltimore Lajna in various capacities over the years. She was the first one to come to the mosque, on foot, during Ramadan and was ever ready to roll up her sleeves to keep Allah’s house clean. Sometimes after the Friday prayers, she would prepare free hot dogs for the homeless and needy. Whenever Khalifatul Masih visited USA, sister Latifa would typically serve on the security team for Hazrat Apa Jan. Her love for Islam/Ahmadiyyat was exceptional and her devotion to Khilafat was beyond reproach.Today, it feels like the Baltimore Jamaat has lost a mother figure. May her soul rest in peace and may Allah grant her an elevated status in Janat-ul-Firdous. Ameen.

Funeral Details

Wednesday March 12th @ 4406 Garrison Blvd., Baltimore, MD

  •  10:00 -11:00 am – Family time
  • 11:00 – 12:55 pm -Viewing for Jamaat members
  •  1:00 pm – Zuhr and Funeral prayers
  •  1:20 pm – Leave for burial
  •  2:00 pm – Burial at Lake View Memorial Park 2724 Liberty Road, Sykesville, MD

Do you have a fond memory of sister Latifa Ilyas that you would like to share with her grieving family? We encourage you to post your thoughts in the comment section below.

16 thoughts on “A Legend Passes: Latifa Ilyas (1938-2014)

  • Inalahe Wainaelaih Rajeon. She was a great person. I have had the privilege of serving with her on many occasion. She was a “spiritually fit soul”. In all the time I have known her she was always ready to serve, weather it was Hudur’s (ABA) visit or taking care of my mom (Sahibzadi Amatul Qayyum Begum Sahiba) she was on the job. She was a model in Taqwa and obedience for all of us to learn from. I remember my mom during her last days use to tell me, “mujeh Latifa se mela do” take me to meet Latifa, but off course, due to her weak health I could not take her over. May Allah bless her soul and elevate her status in the hereafter and may Allah bless her family and enable them and all of us to bear this loss. Here, I want to especially mention her son who is a true model of a dedicated son taking care of his mother in true spirit of a Ahmadi Muslim. With my love and prayers. WS. Zahir M. Ahmad

  • I always saw sister Latifa on the go in the mosque; serving food and cleaning the mosque. Most importantly, her willingness to serve fellow mankind was not bound to Ahmadis only, she would prepare food to serve the needy and poor outside the mosque on frigid days post Friday prayers.

    O my dear Lord, I am a witness to sister Latifa’s service to Your mankind, May You bless her soul and elevate her status in the heavens and keep her in the company of Your beloveds, Ameen!

    And may You give the strength to brother Ilyas and to all the Ahmadiyya Muslim family bear this huge loss and help all of us follow her footsteps, Ameen ya Rabbul Karim!

  • The passing away of Aunty Latifa Ilyas has left a vacuum in Baltimore Jamaat that will be hard to fill. I moved from Baltimore almost a decade ago, yet the memories are still fresh and reminiscing about those initial years in the US makes me nostalgic. Thinking about the Baltimore mosque on Garrison Street immediately conjures up images of Aunty Latifa and her tirelessness and steadfastness as she served quietly. Aunty Latifa epitomized the true spirit of Islam and her humility and kindness are two hallmarks of her personality that I wish I could emulate. She would go around the mosque, never still, helping out in various capacities. Yet, she did all that with a broad smile that greeted us all, always. Her fondest utterance was ‘Al-Humdullilah’. I know of only a few ways she served, because she talked little and was constantly dedicated to making best use of her time. Her love for humanity was visibly demonstrated outside the mosque as well. For years, she operated a free hot dog stand for the neighbors around the Mosque. Rain or shine, trust Aunty Aliya to be there to serve selflessly. She also loved to serve meals at a soup kitchen. She made it a point to give Eidi to ALL the kids- One dollar bills neatly placed in white envelopes.
    Her services did not end in Baltimore. She would be the first one we encountered at the Jalsa Salanas where she performed security duty with sheer diligence till her health permitted. My family had the fortune of visiting her in 2011. Her face lit up as she greeted us and hugged us. Her illness had not dampened her spirits and she expressed her love with extreme sweetness and warmth. Despite her frail health, she had no complains when asked how she was doing? Her reply was ‘Al Hamdullilah’ and this sums up her beautiful personality. She was ever inclined to God, through her deeds, words, gestures.
    She made it a point to visit Jalsa Salana 2013 in Harrisburg despite her deteriorating health. She had to be rushed to the hospital and when we visited her for the last time, she was lying in the hospital bed on her side and when I murmured in her ear to ask how she was feeling, she uttered ‘Al-Humdullilah’!
    Aunty Latifa, you touched my family in many ways. We will cherish the fond memories of the time spent with you. May we emulate your spirit and offer our services to our faith and community unconditionally, just like you. May we adopt your humble demeanor and immerse ourselves in the Love of our Creator. You showed us how that can be done, quietly and steadily. It will be hard to fill the vacuum created by your absence. However, we will strive to embody your spirit – that would be a befitting tribute to your towering personality. May your soul rest in peace. Ameen.

  • Aunty Latifa was one of the first few lajna members who caught my eye when we moved down from New York 12 and a half years ago. She lived a couple of blocks from the mosque and always preferred to walk for friday prayers and other events. Even if anyone offered her a ride in the bitter cold she’d refuse quoting the hadith that every step one took towards the mosque is a source of blessings. As a new member to the Jamaat I found her ever ready to clean up afterwards. She would bring her cleaning supplies and clean the doors and other areas more than 2-3 times, reciting ‘lailaha il Allah’ all the time. Because of a pre existing heart condition, she could not fast but ensured our utmost comfort. She would be there a couple of hours before fast would break and prepare the mosque with incense, arrange date plates, washed serving spoons, and of course “paani” as she called it. Aunty Latifa would get quite upset if we quickly whisked our dirty pots and pans away so that she did not have to wash them. She said she could not fast but this was her way to earn blessings. At lajna ijtema, she made sure that she went to each and every stall and bought stuff from there. From 2002-2006, Aunty Latifa served as my Khidmat e Khalq Secretary. She lived to provide for the needy around the Garrison neighborhood and enjoyed shopping for school supplies, food baskets, canned food drives and preparing a meal in local Brown Shelter. She carried this passion to her very last breath. One of our lajna members and her husband provide sandwiches, juice and a couple of snacks to the homeless in downtown Baltimore. They usually end up feeding 150 people if not more. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was working with them and the lajna member told me that day the whole drive had been sponsored by Aunty Latifa. Even in the worst of health, she always looked out for the less fortunate.
    I was out of country in 2009 when Aunty Latifa had a massive heart attack and collapsed at work. There after she had her good and bad days, though physically weak she continued to be the strong Ahmadi soul that she was. She loved to get her hair and nails done and had a personable conection with everyone she met. Aunty Latifa loved crab cakes and shrimp and loved when her son Brother Jamal took her to Mo’s Place for Mother’s Day. She was very happy with how Brother Jamal visited her almost every day, took care of her and she always prayed for him. Aunty Latifa held the family of the Promised Messiah (as) in high esteem and as long as she was healthy she stood guard over Hazrat Bibi Qayuum Begum Sahiba, who would recline in this one particular corner of BaituRehman Lajna Hall. When Bibi Sahib passed away, it was very hard to break the news of her demise to Aunty Latifa. Aunty Latifa looked up to many African American pioneer sisters and was very fond of Aunty Aliya Shaeed. As a convert you do need someone to cling on for the rest of your lives no matter even if you became an Ahmadi half a century ago. Along with some other pioneer members,Aunty Latifa was to me what Aliya Shaeed was to her. She was such a strong independent woman, and never owned a car. When I asked her as to how she goes to work she pointed out that a personal cab picks her every day. Jokingly she referred to the bus at the corner of our mosque.
    13 days ago, she was hospitalized for the last time. When my husband and I went to see her in the ICU, she was awake, intubated and her arms were in restraints. She looked at me and tears rolled down her cheeks. My first impulse was to hug her but she became agitated. A couple of days later she was transferred to a room and on thursday afternoonI learned the she was in hospice care. When I went to see her, Brother Jamal sought leave from her, and told her he’d come and see her next day. At once Aunty Latifa said, ” InshahAllah.” By Allah’s Grace we were able to sit by her side a couple of hours before she departed this world.
    Two of my beloved Aunties are no more with me any more— Aunty Amina Parker, who after coming to know that my family had abandoned me, never forgot to call me at every Mother’s Day to wish me a “Happy Mother’s Day babe’ and Aunty Latifa Ilyas who was a pillar of commitment and sacrifice to Ahmadiyyat.
    May Allah Taa’la bless her soul and enlighten her path with nur and as is mentioned in a hadith, ” At the time of death of a righteous soul, angels descend and flock upon that person and then the Angel of Death comes and pronounces to the person that O dear soul depart towards your Maker. At this the sould spills out from the body as water drops out of a water skin. It ascends the heavens and upon reaching its final exalted station it is wrapped in silks and fragrances and kept alongside other such souls.” May Allah Taal’a ease Aunty Latifa’s fial destination and grant her a lofty station in paradise, ameen.

    • Most heartfelt tribute giving a very vivid picture (to those of us who did not have the honour to know her) of the departed soul.

      May Sister Latifa’s soul be elevated to higher stations in Paradise. Ameen.

  • Inna lilla hay wa inn ilayhay rajeoon. There can probably be a book written about the person that our dear Sister Latifa was in her life, spiritual, kind, compassionate, open-minded, loving, etc. However, the one thing you did notice when you were around her and that was that God was all around. Her spirituality spoke volumes about the person she was and it was comforting to be around her. She emanated noor (light) from her character and being. She spoke to you like a mother and comforted you like one too. I am saddened that jewels like her are slowly disappearing from our midst and I pray that many more like her are created in their absence. I pray to Allah to follow in the guidance and example that she left behind for all of us and I pray that she is accepted in the highest echelons of the hereafter. Ameen!

  • Sister Latifa was a “Gentle Giant”. Her heart was as big as she was tall. As her name, Latifa depicts, she was gentle, pleasant and generous. Her gentleness was apparent in her speech, in her demeanor, and in her prayers for others. Moreover, her gentleness was always apparent in her smile and laughter. Never a harsh word came out of her mouth. She would always be the first one to greet or hug her fellow Lajna members as well as the younger girls of our Jamaat. Always a meaning full hug that made one feel wanted and loved. Not the artificial, dutiful hug. That is because whatever Latifa did came from her heart.

    Sister Latifa had a soft yet purposeful voice. This was apparent when she performed “Discipline Duty” at the Jalsa or other Jamaat events. She would smile and place a finger on her lips to quiet the talkative individual ,never scold, whenever she performed this duty. When Sister Latifa walked down those aisles her demeanor let one know that she commanded respect. And that is what she got. In the latter days when she was ill, many women from Bait ul Rahman would come and ask me” where is that woman, the one who was tall, you know, the one who wore that turban? She was really nice, we miss her.” This, from complete strangers whom she touched.
    Her generosity was overwhelming. Her smile was generous and full of goodness. I can never recall one instant that she did not smile. In the hospital visits when she would be too weak to talk she would blow kisses to me. Just to let me know that she loved me. As she did to all those who encountered her, because she had so much love to dole out. We spent many times on the porch of her assisted living home after she had become ill. Not one time did she complain. She would say “This is what Allah wills”. Her smile was contagious and healing to others.

    Many years ago, I was sitting in the mosque for Juma prayers and there was Sister Latifa with a huge grin on her face. Well, I looked around and smelled new paint and the place looked wonderful. I asked her about it and she replied “ssh, don’t tell anyone I had some workers come and paint this place. It looks good, huh ?”. She was so very happy every summer when the hot dog/free lunch stand was up. She was the key individual motivating us all to donate our time after Juma services to help her with this stand. The neighbors would come by and be thrilled with the free hot dogs, chips and drinks. She was well known to give gifts at Eid. Children would get $1.00 in white envelopes, or small gifts. Lajna would get either a beautifull scented bar of soap, a moisturizer, a loofa, etc.. One time she totally surprised me by giving me a beautiful pair of gold earrings, which I still have and wear very proudly. Not because of the value of the earrings, but because of the love behind it. Oh, yes, her love for helping others once took us to a voyage to the local soup kitchen, where we doled out homemade spaghetti, bread and drinks to the homeless. There again was Sister Latifa, doing what came natural to her, thinking of others and taking action. I was so very proud of this generous woman. Unselfish, in a world which is so centered on itself and its achievements. By the Grace of Allah she has done justice to her name.

    Khalifa Salis, (ra), said that he had studied the Holy Quran in depth, and from beginning to end it embodies nothing but love. I have known Sister Latifa for the last 23 years, since I have resided in Baltimore. I testify that she lived her life to the best of her abilities, with complete love of Allah, the Holy Quran, Prophet Mohammmmad (saw), and Hadhrat Masih Maoud (as). Her undying love for Khalifat was a gift to us all, as was her love for mankind. She lived an exemplary life. Her son Jamal Ilyas is the legacy of this wonderful godly woman. May Allah raise her status and count her among his choicest people. And may Allah, bring solace to Jamal’s life.Ameen.

  • Alhamdulillah!! After reading the comments above, what can i say? She was a Ahmadi woman who practiced and lived her faith by her deeds.

    She was my wife’s friend. She was a good and true friend. We will miss her, we visited a few weeks ago during the funeral of Haji Lateef and she was in good spirits enjoying our brief visit.

    May Allah have Mercy upon her and grant her peace. May the family find peace and comfort knowing that her soul is free and that she was loved and is remembered by many.

  • Inna Lillahe Wa Inna Alaihe Rajeoon. Sister Latifa was a true inspiration to us all, especially in Lajna. May Allah provide her with a very high status in Paradise, Ameen.

  • May Allah grant her an exalted status in paradise and grant steadfastness to her family. We will truly miss her, her love for all of us, and her comforting hugs. She will always remain a model of righteousness for us.

  • I feel humbled and honored for having known my dear dear sister Latifa Ilyas virtually from the moment of her acceptance of Islam-Ahmadiyyat.
    Whenever we met, an unspeakable feeling of love and attachment emanated for each other due to decades of memories which would come to the forefront.
    She was indeed a tower of true dedication and service to the jamaat.
    May Allah elevate her soul in the highest of heavenly abodes. Ameen
    Khullat Nasir Alladin

  • Oh Allah! Shower your mercy on the Jamaat of your Messiah. Continue to raise among us quiet working angels, who are ever ready to make every sacrifice only for the sake of Allah. Who desire no worldly gain or praise. Who are a constant source of strength, comfort and joy to the people around them.

    Allah, grant sister Latifa a high status in heaven!

  • Sister Latifa’s demise is indeed very sad news for Lajna Baltimore. Her service and devotion will not be forgotten. She was a pillar of faith and a symbol and recognition of Baltimore lajna. Her tall personality was tall enough to represent us singlehandedly in regional and national events. She use to be the first to volunteer for any kind of duty and she took every job very seriously. I remember, it was March 2009 when she got sick suddenly. Prayers, sadqas and appeal for prayers to Huzur were made so instantly all over the country and Allah the Almighty answered the prayers and we had the priviledge of having a few more years with her. Shemwill always be remembered in our history. May Allah the Almighty elevate her status in heaven and provide solace and patience to her dear son Jamal and all her family and friends. Ameen.

  • Truly a noble and humble woman who exuded love for and dedication to Islam. I have been blessed to have known Sister Latifa Ilyas for over 35 years. My childhood memories are of Sister Latifa, Sister Amina Parker, Sister Haleema Aina, and other dedicated Ahmadi Muslim women preparing food for the brothers and sisters and serving it in the basement of the Baltimore Mission House. The children would be served on long tables and Sister Latifa would be in the forefront as a server. Little did I know that this Mission House would become my home for several years when my father Missionary Mubasher Ahmad received his assignment to reside with his family there in 1987. As I reflect now on what the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community represents in terms of sisterhood and brotherhood, I am compelled to recognize that the four years of my life at the Baltimore Mission House were among the most enriching.

    Sister Latifa was a gentle but powerful presence in every Lajna meeting. I was 18 at the time and somehow, the ladies of the Baltimore Mission House decided to elect me as their Lajna Sadr. I had little knowledge of what I was doing, but I clearly remember Sister Latifa always being at the meetings, giving her support and volunteering for any of the social service activities that were organized. She was at the forefront of organizing food drives for the homeless in the front yard of the mission house, and providing yard sales and donation drives for those in need. With Sister Latifa as an integral part of the Baltimore Lajna, we were able to do so much. Her love, support, and constant dedication to helping members in her community was evident through her actions. She “walked the walk” and lived a truly Islamic life.

    I vividly recollect how Sister Latifa would walk to every Lajna meeting and be there to learn. When she spoke to me, I felt like she was my family. Her kind humor was so captivating. Even after marriage and relocating to another city, I continued to visit Baltimore Mission House with my young children. Sister Latifa would always inquire about my children and specifically ask me about my little son Sulaiman whom she referred to as “Little Musa” (my husband’s name). She knew my husband since his conversion to Ahmadiyya with his brothers and his mother, the late Zainab Asad (may she rest in peace), so she treated us like her own children.

    In sum, Sister Latifa has left a lasting impression on me. There will never be another Sister Latifa that can fill her shoes. May Allah open the doors of Paradise for her and elevate her status. My prayers go out to her and her son Jamal. May Allah shower His loftiest blessings on her and may she rest in peace.

  • one day I asked her why are you still guarding at jalsa, her reply was ,I will work for Allah until I die, so I said most people your age are sitting, she didn’t care, when I was a child, I remember her with all the old pioneers working, cooking, at what we then called the conventions she always had a smile on her face for any one children, adults it didn’t matter who you where, I am going to miss you my sister ,rest in peace with your Lord.

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