Credit: Bill Moore photo

New York City and the Nation of Islam were rocked just after dawn on Saturday April 11, 2020, when it was announced that Student Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, 56, had succumbed to his battle with the coronavirus. This gentle giant of a man was Nation of Islam’s Min. Louis Farrakhan’s  popular and beloved Eastern Regional Minister and Representative.

Known as a “Man’s Man” and a “Brother’s Brother,” he was a man of the community, a mentor, a man of faith, an activist, a supporter of the oppressed and disenfranchised, and a practicing counselor to the people.

“I mourn with all who knew and loved him,” said Min. Louis Farrakhan in a statement. The head of the Nation of Islam added, “Words are inadequate to express the pain, the shock, the turbulent thought processes that the passing of Brother Abdul Hafeez Muhammad has stirred in me, in my family, in his family and the members of Mosque No. 7 and in the Nation in general.”

Whatever this coronavirus pandemic really is, it is cited as his cause of death.

The breaking news on Saturday morning seemed to cause a social media avalanche. The responses expressed sorrow, pain, gratitude and heartbroken tributes flowed across social media platforms.

Natinonal Janazah for Min. Abdul Hafeez Muhammad

The national Janazah (funeral prayer) for late Student Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad was held on Sunday, April 19 at the headquarters for the Nation of Islam, Mosque Maryam, in Chicago.

Hundreds of posts encapsulating fond memories, condolences and remembrances talked about Muhammad being a man who lived a life of generosity, humility, and yet such a greatness of spirit that news of his passing on April 11, 2020 sent shockwaves across this nation, and of course the Nation of Islam.

The December 12th Movement’s Omowale Clay told the Amsterdam News, “OUR nation was fortunate indeed to have such a brother among us, whose words and service to our people will be forever remembered.”

As well as Farrakhan’s East Coast representative, Muhammad also held positions such as the Assistant East Coast Regional Minister encompassing the tri-state region as well as Canada through South Carolina from 1998 to 2000. In 1993, he lead the launching of Muhammad Mosque No. 7C in Brooklyn, and serving six years there as the minister.

Muhammad supported and spoke at thousands of events, forums, rallies, protests, services, marriages and memorial service over the decades. He had a radio show, he had relationship and community counseling meetings. A father of five, Muhammad was very much community minded and motivated. A brilliant mind, and a true believer in Black folks’ self-determination and independence. Whether a guest or keynote on TV, radio, or at community organization forums listed by groups such as CEMOTAP, or (the old) United African Movement, December 12th Movement, Muhammad’s impact was palatable.

“The death of Brother Abdul Hafeez has affected me like no other; like the passing of Kobe Bryant, that the shock of his passing sent me to Allah to try to grasp the meaning of his life, the meaning of his death and how it directly affects me and the Nation of Islam,” said Farrakhan.

Saying that he was struggling to comprehend “more clearly God’s purpose for taking His servant at this time in this manner from this virus,” the 85-year-old head of the NOI, said that his Fruit of Islam soldier “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.”

Farrakhan noted in this time of COVID-19, funeral services are particularly affected. “The fact that he died like the passing of the great pastor from Alabama, Rev. Joseph Lowery and those who were affected by Joe Lowery and those who were affected by Brother Hafeez have no opportunity to express it at this time. But when the indignation of God has passed maybe then we can have a proper memorial service for him, and for some others who have passed that cannot have a proper burial at this time.”

Brooklyn Assembly Member Charles Barron said, “My wife Council Member Inez Barron and I were shocked and deeply saddened when we heard of the passing of my beloved Brother Min. Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, whom we have known and worked with for decades in New York City. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, Loray, and family. Brother Min. 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.”

As the Barrons are currently self-isolating as they both recover from being COVID-19 positive, the assemblyman 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.”

Viola Plummer, co-founder of the December 12th Movement, mourned the loss telling the Final Call newspaper, “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. Min. 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.”

Student Minister Hafeez is survived by his wife Loray Muhammad, their five children Shahmel, Amirah, Amin, Salimah and Nadira; and two grandchildren Kalilah Iman and Amai True.

Looking forward, Barron added, “My Brother Min. 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.”

Brooklyn-based activist and District Leader in East New York A. T. Mitchell told the Amsterdam News, “The passing of Bro. Minister Abdul Hafeez as a result of the COVID-19 has rocked my World. He was such a respected giant in our city and grassroots movement. So much so he will be deeply missed and irreplaceable. He was truly one of a kind to us next level leaders. I will continue to fight the good fight of faith against COVID-19 and any other form of structural racism in my Minister and Big Brother’s name. Long Live the Spirit and name of Abdul Hafeez.”

For my own personal tribute I will say, full disclosure, I have known Min. Hafeez, from way back when he was called Min. Kevin Muhammad. And, whether it be for an event I was involved in, an article I was writing for the Daily Challenge or the Amsterdam News, or for an interview for my “Back to Basics” radio show, he was an assurity. He was always just a phone call away. He always put his family and community first.

There are some men whose impact is so thorough that their absence hurts entire communities with such a searing pain, that it is a tribute in of itself.

There are some men whose legacy is so completely intact and powerful, that it is an never-ending tribute. On a May 2018 appearance on my “Back to Basics” radio show (DiasporaRadio.com), Min. Abdul Hafeez Muhammad chose Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day,” as his song.

Withers, the legendary singer and songwriter passed away just two weeks ago, on March 30 (reportedly from cardiovascular disease).

Daleel Jabir Muhammad, Nation of Islam East Coast Regional Protocol Director, told the Amsterdam News, “The passing of our beloved brother and friend, East Coast Regional Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad has left so many people who admired his great stature, works and genuine spirit at a loss as they pay their  respects. Out of an abundance of caution, It will only be befitting to have a proper memorial for him after this pandemic has subsided in New York State and elsewhere.” Muhammad added that Min. Haft had been a mentor, trainer, and close friend. “Please visit noinewyork.org for future memorial service information, updates and to make a charitable contribution for his family in lieu of flowers and cards.”