By Daleel Jabir Muhammad and Nisa Islam Muhammad The Final Call @TheFinalCall
NEW YORK—Mention the name Student Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad of New York and a smile will come across the face of whoever you are talking to. Affectionately known to some as the ‘people’s pastor,’ ‘the relationship minister,’ who was a wise scholar of the teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, staunch defender of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, and East Coast regional representative of the Nation of Islam and Student Minister of the historic Mosque No. 7 in Harlem, passed away April 11. New York and the Nation of Islam mourns the passing of a brother, mentor and friend in Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad.
Student Min. Abdul Hafeez
In the heart of the United States, New York State has become the epicenter of the scourge of the coronavirus pandemic which has now claimed one of New York’s most prominent leaders to serve the Black community.
“I am praying and staying up through nights seeking that I might be able to understand more clearly God’s purpose for taking His servant at this time in this manner from this virus. As my spirit is troubled as I write these words, I will continue to seek the answer of Allah and be patient as the answer unfolds,” wrote the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in an official statement.
“But know this, he was not an ordinary man. His service in the Nation and to our people was not ordinary. His commitment to the total liberation of our people here and wherever they are on this planet, was not ordinary,” the Minister stated. (See complete statement on page 21.)
Words of condolences, memories of cherished moments and reflections of the great works of Student Minister Hafeez Muhammad poured out in New York City and throughout social media upon news of his passing. Hafeez Muhammad was 56 years old.
Many of his contemporaries expressed reflections on his love and work in the community including clergy, elected officials, activists and those who were touched by his untimely passing.
There are some men whose impact is so thorough that their absence hurts entire communities with such a searing pain. There are some men whose legacy is so completely intact and powerful, that it is a never-ending tribute. Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad was such a man.
“We are deeply saddened to inform you of the loss this morning of Student Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, Eastern Regional Minister and Representative of The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and The Nation of Islam as a result of the COVID-19, Coronavirus. Our beloved Brother and friend was a sincere, devoted, faithful servant of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad and The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in the Cause of Allah,” said an official statement released by Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad, national assistant to Min. Farrakhan on behalf of Min. Farrakhan and the NOI Executive Council.
“We mourn his loss and thank Allah for his dedicated service and sacrifice for our Nation. He will truly be missed. Our prayers and thoughts are with his lovely, faithful wife, Sister Loray Muhammad, his children and family. May Allah lift the burden of sorrow from our hearts, comfort his family and our Nation and grant us His Peace. Surely Allah is the Best Knower and to Him is our eventual return,” read the statement.
A life of humility and service
Abdul Hafeez Muhammad was a gentle giant of a man and lived a life of generosity, humility and a greatness of spirit. News of his passing sent shockwaves across the country and the Nation of Islam.
Student Min. Hafeez was described as “a Brother’s Brother.” He was a man of the community, a mentor, man of faith, an activist, a supporter of the oppressed and disenfranchised, a community treasure, counselor to the people, and an honest and open role model.
Whether it was for an event she was involved in, an article she was writing for the Daily Challenge, or the Amsterdam News; or for an interview for her Back to Basics radio show, Minister Hafeez, “was assured,” said Nayaba Arinde, editor of the New York Amsterdam News. “He was always just a phone call away. He always put his family and community first.
We thank him for his selfless service. We love him eternally for always giving of himself. Ase!” commented Ms. Arinde.
Imam Izak-El M. Pasha of Masjid Malcolm Shabazz in Harlem, said, “to Allah we belong and unto Allah we return. We send our condolences to the family and community of our beloved Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad and ask Allah to grant him an excellent and peaceful place in Paradise, for the good works he has done on the earth.”
Calling him a “leader, brother and friend,” Reverend Dr. Robert Waterman expressed condolences on behalf of the board and membership of the African American Clergy and Elected Officials Coalition.
“I am saddened that we have lost a great soldier. Minister Hafeez has served his community. He was a great man, an intellectual and a powerful Man of God. I was blessed to know him and work alongside him. He will truly be missed by all. While I am saddened by the loss of such a great brother, his commitment and love for his community and people were unmatched and I find comfort in knowing his memory will live on for generations,” said Rev. Waterman. “Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, Thank you for your courage, invaluable service, strength and resilience. May Allah be pleased,” he added.
Viola Plummer of the December 12th Movement expressed she had lost “another son.” “We, our movement, December 12th have lost one of our most precious brothers. I will always remember the young Kevin X, the mature Kevin Muhammad and our Student Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad. Our people at this time are experiencing his loss as almost incomprehensible. Minister Hafeez performed the marriage ceremony of one of my children and he officiated the funeral at the passing of my husband. We will never forget, I will pass to my children, the peppermint he said that would remind us always of the sweetness of life. In your faith, I know that Allah received him,” said Ms. Plummer.
Omowale Clay, also of the December 12th Movement told The Final Call, “Hafeez is someone you think of in terms of his words and deeds. He is someone who used to say, ‘any day above ground is a blessing.’ He was always at service to people. Some people pass through life without leaving a mark. He left a mark,” said Mr. Clay.
“I’m proud to have lived in the time of Min. Hafeez. He made this time important. He’s in the category of important people. You can’t think of him without thinking of his words and deeds.”
Fredrica Bey, founder of Newark’s Women in Support of the Million Man March, worked with Student Min. Hafeez on many projects. “May Allah be pleased with our magnificent brother, servant and believer, Brother Minister Hafeez, who is one whom we could all call on anytime. He was always there for the Women In Support of the Million Man March. He ‘walked the walk,’ and his work speaks volumes to his well lived life,” said Ms. Bey.
New York’s Imam Abdul Malik was a longtime friend of Hafeez Muhammad. “I’ve known him for over 35 years. I visited him in his home. He was a warrior and a faithful servant. He was dedicated to the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He gave me the warmest greeting recently in Detroit,” during the Nation of Islam’s Saviours’ Day Convention in February, he said.
New York Assembly Member Charles Barron knew and worked with Student Min. Hafeez for decades. “Brother Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad and I marched in the streets of New York City together, along with Minister Henry Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 7C in my beloved East New York, Brooklyn, to protest police terrorism and self-destructive community violence. We sat on panels together that dealt with the issues of gentrification, education, health, poverty, housing, mass incarceration, homelessness and more. You name it, we were on it! The very last forum I shared with my beloved Brother Minister was when Minister Ava Muhammad came to New York to Temple No. 7 to deal with the topic of separation, which I support!” he said.
“Most importantly, he was my friend!! We were both into leadership training and not only did he love teaching leadership, he did it well. He was a model of effective leadership. I shared many stages with him and of all the speakers, he spoke the longest, and was the most charismatic and captivating to the audience. People tuned in to every word he spoke and so did I. My Brother Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad loved his people and the people loved him back even more. I will be encouraging my colleagues to co-name a street after him, so that his legacy will live on forever.”
Outpouring of love on social media
On social media, photos and collages of Student Min. Hafeez and excerpts from his various lectures were posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Thomas Jehad, a longtime Nation of Islam pioneer, posted pictures of Student Min. Hafeez on Facebook with the caption, “A magnificent soldier returns to Allah; he will be greatly missed, May Allah be pleased with him!”
Ayanna Muhammad also took to Facebook, writing in part, “You have touched the hearts of many and your spirit will never be forgotten.” Aqueelah Sabriyah posted that she would “never forget” Student Min. Hafeez and his wife “as a shining example of marriage” at the Nation of Islam Singles Retreat she attended.
“His words about the importance of marriage and proper courtship, demanding your rights always stuck with me. He was a great representative of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. I pray Allah’s peace be with his family,” she posted on Facebook.
Sentiments were expressed not only by members of the Nation of Islam, but others as well. Activist and author Marc Lamont Hill, hip hop legends Big Daddy Kane and Chuck D were among those that posted memories and tributes.
Businessman, hip hop producer and executive Russell Simmons, warmly reminisced about his fondness for Student Min. Hafeez on his Instagram page. “Our brother, Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad and his flock, stood strong at every community function, every rally; every action he made served his community. He was there when the community needed him and the Nation of Islam. He never sought the limelight or recognition. He was always in the back, yet he was the light that filled the room,” posted Mr. Simmons.
Source Magazine and The New York Amsterdam News also published articles about the passing of Minister Hafeez.
For Brooklyn historian Zaheer Ali, Hafeez Muhammad was a dear friend. He posted on social media: “Last year, while I was in the hospital in tremendous pain awaiting surgery, he called and left me a beautiful and uplifting voice mail message. Against my fears and anxieties, he fortified me with the belief that there was a righteous army with me!” wrote Mr. Ali.
“In 2018, he generously blessed me and the Brooklyn Historical Society with his oral history for the #MuslimsinBrooklyn project. It represents of course only a sample of his life’s work, but we are fortunate to have it as part of the permanent archive.”
A top soldier
Giving honor and sharing memories was also Student Min. Hafeez Muhammad’s longtime friend Bishop Johnny Ray Youngblood of Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Brooklyn. He poetically stated: “Heads are bowed, arms are wide stretched, hearts like flags fly at half-mast. Why? You must not know that a soldier has fallen. Brother Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad has been called from labor to reward,” said Bishop Youngblood.
“For 30 years plus he and I and others of the Greater Metropolitan Area of New York City have negotiated, celebrated, protested and prayed that the will of God would be known, heard and headed toward the lives of our people. Brother Minister Hafeez was tall, stood tall and spoke up on every occasion. Certainly, we are shaken by our loss but just imagine had we never had the privilege of knowing him, hearing him and working side by side,” he continued.
“In this moment, there is basic business to be carried out, which must be done. Just remember that the Will of God must everyday be done, hope must never be allowed to go on holiday and there was a time when my brother was a physical assurance that the struggle continues. Absent from our midst, always in our hearts and memories. Thanks be to God for the life and memory of Brother Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad.”
Newark, New Jersey Mayor Ras Baraka called Student Min. Hafeez “a good man and a top soldier.”
“His friendship and support never faltered, and he worked tirelessly for our people. He will truly be missed, and it will take ten brothers to stand in his stead, I pray God welcomes him with open arms and comforts his family knowing his job was well done,” said Mayor Baraka.
Abdul Hafeez came to the famous Mosque No. 7 in Harlem as a member of the Five Percent Nation of Gods and Earths.
“We were both in high school and the Five Percent Nation,” music producer Haqq Islam told The Final Call. “We came to the mosque and we were under Brother Minister Abdul Karriem. He asked Brother Hafeez if he wanted to be in the ministry. Brother Hafeez always had the gift of gab. He was loquacious. He loved the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and that started with the Five Percent Nation,” said Mr. Islam.
“He always had perfect logic. When he spoke he always commanded an audience. Even as a high schooler, when he led a cipher in the evening on the street there was a crowd. All the way back then he had a command of Islam and the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.”
But who brought Haqq Islam and Hafeez to the mosque? That was Steve Jackson, also a Five Percenter. Now Dr. Steve Jackson, former principal at Washington, D.C.’s Dunbar High School, he told The Final Call: “I’ve known him since he was just a kid. I came to the mosque first. Hafeez was brilliant. He knew his Lessons very well. We would have long conversations about the Nation. He had questions. He has always been a fighter for Islam. I’ve watched him grow,” he added.
“We were student ministers together. Brother Minister Karriem sent me to Baltimore as the youngest minister and Hafeez was sent to Brooklyn. He was an excellent orator and his heart was always in the right place. Everyone loved him.”
Minister Hafeez’s first teacher and mentor in the Nation of Islam, since 1980, was Minister Abdul Karriem Muhammad, aka “The General,” who described his brother as a “great worker in the cause of Islam.”
In the early ‘80s during the rebuilding of the Nation of Islam, Abdul Karriem Muhammad was the Eastern Region minister of the Nation of Islam. He told The Final Call, “We are hurting for him and his family. Hafeez was a great helper for Minister Farrakhan. From the day I saw him walk in the door, he has been a helper to the resurrection of the Black man, woman and child. My heart is aching. We take the work of the Nation of Islam very seriously and this is painful.”
Brother Kevin, became Kevin X, Kevin Muhammad then was given his holy name Abdul Hafeez Muhammad by Min. Farrakhan. Abdul means “servant,” Hafeez means “protector or guardian.” He was born September 20, 1963 and became a registered member of the Nation of Islam in 1981.
“Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad was a great lover of Master Fard Muhammad, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. I never met a finer human being. May Allah bless his family and us with peace,” said Abdul Karriem Muhammad.
Student Min. Hafeez consistently soldiered in the streets with the Fruit of Islam (men of the Nation of Islam) of Mosque No. 7. Whether it was engaging with young people, consoling families who had lost loved ones to violence or just lending a helping hand, he was a positive and uplifting voice of leadership.
Student East Coast Regional MGT and GCC Captain, Johnna Muhammad knew Student Min. Hafeez for 37 years. “During this time, we have worked in various capacities, and the last 20 years serving as laborers over New York City. I will remember fondly his huge presence, great sense of humor and refreshing candor. I have always appreciated his huge heart and deep love for Master Fard Muhammad, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, and the believing community. His vast knowledge and representation of the teachings of Islam were profound. He embodied Islam and made it his mission to spread this truth to all whom he encountered,” said Johnna Muhammad.
“The resurrection of the mentally and spiritually dead was at the forefront of his mind at all times. He touched so many lives, near and far. He was a soldier in the army of Allah working till the very end,” she said.
“For my big brother—Original Salute! We are fighting for Islam! The mission continues!” said Johnna Muhammad.
Student Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad is survived by his wife Loray Muhammad, their children: Shahmel, Amirah, Amin, Salimah and Nadira; grandchildren Kalilah Iman and Amai True, a host of family, friends and the Nation of Islam.
(J.S. Adams contributed to this report.)