Yusuf Wazeerud-Din spoke a number of languages in addition to his native English. In addition to French, Spanish, and some Arabic he also communicated in the never-spoken language of smiles. When words failed him, Wazeerud-Din would tap into a language that needed no translation, friends and family members said.
“His personality could communicate where there might be a language barrier,” said Plemon El-Amin, imam emeritus of Atlanta Masjid.
Wazeerud-Din’s daughter, Arlandria Rasheed of Fayetteville, said not only did her father use smiles to communicate, but also as a type of currency. His philosophy was that people should smile at one another so they might connect with others, regardless of their religious affiliation or faith tradition, she explained.
“He found life to be full of smiles,” she said.
Wazeerud-Din was well known in many Muslim communities across the country as one of a few Americans who arranged and guided post-Ramadan pilgrimages to Mecca, the retired imam said. It was during these journeys, known as Hajj, that Wazeerud-Din employed his use of various languages. Though he wasn’t fluent in Arabic, he was revered as one of the most capable guides, El-Amin said.
“Yusuf thought the best guide was the one who was the most human, not necessarily the one who spoke the most languages,” the imam said. “People everywhere just seemed to fall in love with him.”
Wazeerud-Din not only arranged trips to Mecca, but he also led guided tours in other parts of the world. Just last month he was in Ghana, doing prep work for an upcoming tour of Americans. It was on that trip however, that he contracted malaria, said his son, Dr. Sulieman Wazeerud-Din. Soon after his return home to Decatur, he fell ill. He died from complications of cerebral malaria June 8. He was 64.
A funeral was held Wednesday at Atlanta Masjid and he was buried in Salaam Garden, Atlanta. Young Funeral Home, Atlanta, was in charge of arrangements.
A native of Los Angeles, Calif., Wazeerud-Din converted to Islam as a teen, his son said. While living in L.A., Wazeerud-Din sold Bronner Bros., hair products and came to Atlanta in 1969 for an event.
“He got here, loved it and decided he wasn’t going back to L.A.,” said his son, who lives in Decatur. “I think he sent for my mother, they’d just gotten married that year, and she moved here and this is where they stayed.”
For more than 25 years the elder Wazeerud-Din worked as an over-the-road truck driver. As he traveled across the country, he also took the time to visit mosques everywhere he went, El-Amin said.
Rasheed said her father, made his first Hajj, with his wife Edwina, in 1982. After he completed that sacred pilgrimage, the title of El Hajji was bestowed up on him, she said.
Wazeerud-Din began guiding Hajj journeys in 1989 and helped usher some 2,000 people through the 3-week long religious experience the imam said. It was an expensive trip for many, but Wazeerud-Din attempted to structure the travel and lodging in a way that was cost effective, the retired imam said.
“It is a trip that many Muslims take when they were older in life, something they want to do before they pass,” El-Amin said. “And because of the cost, many are unable to do it for some time. But Yusuf’s philosophy was that you don’t ever know when you are going to pass, so you should go when you are able.”
In addition to his wife of 44 years, his son and daughter, Wazeerud-Din is survived by son, Yusuf Wazeerud-Din Jr. of Atlanta; daughters, Dr. Elisha Buckley of Marietta, Adilah Wazeerud-Din of Decatur, and Ikhlas Wazeerud-Din of Columbus; brother, Darryl Thompson of Indianapolis, Ind.; 17 grandchildren; and 2 great-grandchildren.