Humza al-Hafeez, born Leonard Ernest Weir on Feb. 28, 1931, and formerly known as Leonard 12X Weir, was an Islamic minister, author and social activist most notably recognized as being the first Black Muslim NYPD officer whose rise to prominence came in the late 1950s, when he founded and served as president of the National Society of Afro-American Policemen, an organization that sought to improve work conditions for Black law enforcement officers; expand employment opportunities; and strengthen relationships between the NYPD and members of the Black and Muslim communities. Over the course of al-Hafeez’s career, he received countless commendations and awards, including citations for outstanding community service.
Born in Queens, N.Y., to Asa Moss Weir, a West Indian immigrant (Jamaica, West Indies) and Rosa May Danielson of mixed Caribbean ancestry (Dominican Republic and St. Croix, Virgin Islands), young Leonard attended New York City public schools, where he demonstrated an early aptitude for history and politics. The demands of his young life forced him to quit high school in his early years of enrollment.
Yet, as a dropout, his innate proclivity for service was fueled amidst an environment that was often biased against minority youth. Even so, he wanted to make a difference. In 1957, he took the New York City Police Exam and passed. However, to qualify for appointment, a High School Diploma or General Equivalency Diploma was required. He arranged to take the GED examination, which took place in Manhattan on a Saturday at Washington Irving High School. He earned a passing score, was awarded a diploma and entered the New York Police Department in February 1959, where he sought to improve work conditions for Black uniformed officers and the community at large.
Over the course of his employment, he worked as a special investigator (undercover) for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and as special investigator for the Knapp Commission, where he investigated corruption in the New York Police Department.
In the early 1970s, he joined the the Nation of Islam, Temple No. 7, headquartered in Harlem. In 1975, he changed his name to Humza al-Hafeez. His first book, “Some Things to Think About,” is based on his experiences coming of age during the 1940s and 1950s, his acceptance of Islam and his advocacy as a law enforcement officer in the 1970s.
As a literary activist and social entrepreneur, al-Hafeez worked in the publishing industry and also served as editor-in-chief of Your Muhammad Speaks newspaper. Within his lifetime, he lectured at many universities and institutes of learning around the country, including: New York University, Princeton University, Pace College, University of Chicago, Thomas Jefferson High School, Wallkill Correctional Facility, Green Haven Correctional Facility, Fishkill Correctional Facility, Arthur Kill Correctional Facility and United States Penitentiaries at Ray Brook, New York, Terre Harute, Indiana and Lewisburg, Pa.
Al-Hafeez’s funeral service was held at Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah in Brooklyn, N.Y., on the morning of Dec. 3. Several hundred of al-Hafeez’s family and friends gathered to pay respects. Resident Imam Adib Rashid officiated the service. A special tribute was written and performed by literary artist Dr. Deatema L. Abdul-Latif.
Al-Hafeez died Nov. 27 at his home in Brooklyn, N.Y., at the age of 84. Al-Hafeez has one deceased son, Habib Al Zaid. He is survived by five sons, Rasul Hafeez, Bismillah Abdul-Hafeez, Yuhanna Hafeez, Larry Weir, Don Ibn Hafeez, and three daughters, Rosemarie Weir, Mariama Tene Williams and Jackye Maxey.