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Hamza Yusuf (born 1958)[5] is an American Islamic scholar.[3][6][7][8][9] and co-founder of Zaytuna College.[2][10] He is a proponent of classical learning in Islam and has promoted Islamic sciences and classical teaching methodologies throughout the world.[11]

Hamza Yusuf
Yusuf at Yale University, 2016
Mark Hanson

(1958-01-01) January 1, 1958 (age 61)
CitizenshipUnited States
EraModern era
EducationSan Jose State University (B.A.)[2][3]
OccupationIslamic scholar, author
Muslim leader

He is an advisor to the Center for Islamic Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.[12] In addition, he serves as vice-president for the Global Center for Guidance and Renewal, which was founded and is currently presided over by Abdallah bin Bayyah.[13][14] He also serves as the vice-president of the UAE-based Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, where Abdullah bin Bayyah also serves as president.[15]

He is one of the signatories[16] of A Common Word Between Us and You, an open letter by Islamic scholars to Christian leaders calling for peace and understanding. The Guardian has referred to Yusuf as "arguably the West's most influential Islamic scholar,"[17] and The New Yorker magazine also called him "perhaps the most influential Islamic scholar in the Western world."[18]


Early life and educationEdit

Yusuf was born as Mark Hanson in Walla Walla, Washington to two academics working at Whitman College and he was raised in northern California.[2] He grew up a practicing Greek Orthodox Christian and attended prep schools on both the east and west coasts. In 1977, after a near-death experience in a car accident and reading the Qur'an, he converted from Christianity to Islam.[2][19] Yusuf has Irish, Scottish and Greek ancestry.[17]

After being impressed by a young couple from Saudi Arabia who were followers of Abdalqadir as-Sufi—a Scottish convert to Islam and leader of the Darqawa Sufi order and the Murabitun World Movement—Yusuf moved to Norwich, England to study directly under as-Sufi.[20][21] In 1979, Yusuf moved to Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates where he spent the next four years studying Sharia sciences at the Islamic Institute, more often on a one-on-one basis with Islamic scholars.[20] Yusuf became fluent in the Arabic language and also studied Qur'anic recitation (tajwid), rhetoric, poetry, law (fiqh) and theology (aqidah) among other classical Islamic disciplines.[20]

In 1984, Yusuf formally disassociated himself from as-Sufi's teachings and moved in a different intellectual direction having been influenced by a number of Mauritanian scholars residing in the Emirates. He moved to North Africa in 1984 studying in Algeria and Morocco, as well as Spain and Mauritania.[22] In Mauritania he developed his most lasting and powerful relationship with Islamic scholar Sidi Muhammad Ould Fahfu al-Massumi, known as Murabit al-Hajj.[20]

Zaytuna CollegeEdit

He and other colleagues founded the Zaytuna Institute in Berkeley, California, United States, in 1996,[2] dedicated to the revival of traditional study methods and the sciences of Islam.[23] In the early 2000s he was joined by additional colleagues Zaid Shakir and Hatem Bazian in further establishing what was then Zaytuna Institute. Eventually, in the fall of 2010 it would open its doors as Zaytuna College, a four-year Muslim liberal arts college, the first of its kind in the United States.[18] It incorporates Yusuf's vision of combining the classical liberal arts—based in the trivium and quadrivium—with rigorous training in traditional Islamic disciplines. It aims to "educate and prepare morally committed professional, intellectual, and spiritual leaders".[24] The Zaytuna Institute became the first accredited Muslim campus in the United States after it received approval from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.[25][26] Yusuf stated that "We hope, God willing, that there will be more such Muslim colleges and universities to come".[25]

Views and influenceEdit

Yusuf has taken a stance against religious justifications for terrorist attacks.[27]

Jordan's Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre currently places him 36th on its list of the top 500 most influential Muslims in the world.[28][29]

The magazine Egypt Today described him as a kind of theological rock star, "the Elvis Presley of western Muslims."[30]

In its 2016 edition Yusuf is described "as one of the foremost authorities on Islam outside of the Muslim world" by The 500 Most Influential Muslims, edited by John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin.[28]

9/11 attacks viewsEdit

He described the 9/11 attacks as "an act of mass murder, pure and simple". Condemning the attacks, he also stated that "Islam was hijacked ... on that plane as an innocent victim."[17]


Publications and works by Hamzah Yousuf
Title Description Type
Beyond schooling: building communities where learning really matters Also includes essays by John Taylor Gatto, Dorothy L Sayers and Nabila Hanson. Re-edited in 2010 as Educating Your Child in Modern Times: How to Raise an Intelligent, Sovereign & Ethical Human Being. 2003 Books and Pamphlets
Agenda to Change our Condition Co-authored with Zaid Shakir Books and Pamphlets
Caesarean Moon Births: Calculations, Moon Sighting, and the Prophetic Way Available in 2008 Books and Pamphlets
Imām Busiri, The Burda: Poem of the Cloak (2003) Includes a CD of performances by The Fez Singers feat. Bennis Abdelfettah. Translations
Imām Mawlūd, Purification of the Heart: Signs, Symptoms and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart (2004, 2012). Translation and commentary of the poem Maṭharat al-Qulūb composed by a 19th-century Mauritanian scholar. Translations
Shaykh Al-Amin Mazrui, The Content of Character (2004) Foreword by Ali Mazrui, son of the author. Translations
Imām Ṭaḥāwī, The Creed of Imam al-Tahawi (2007). Translations
Imām Muhammad bin Nasir al-Dar'i The Prayer of the Oppressed (2010). Includes a CD of performances by The Fez Singers. Translations
Imām al-Zarnūjī, Instruction of the Student: The Method of Learning (2001). Translated by G.E. Von Grunebaum. Books with a foreword or introduction
Mostafa Al-Badawî, The Prophetic Invocations (2003) Books with a foreword or introduction
Reza Shah-Kazemi, Common Ground Between Islam and Buddhism: Spiritual and Ethical Affinities (2010) Books with a foreword or introduction
Asad Tarsin, Being Muslim: A Practical Guide (2015). Books with a foreword or introduction
Joseph Lumbard, Submission, faith and beauty: the religion of Islam (2009). Co-edited with Zaid Shakir. Edited Books
Caesarean Moon Births Part 1

Caesarean Moon Births Part 2

Climbing Mount Purgatorio



  1. ^ Grewal, Zareena (2014). Islam Is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority. New York University Press. p. 129. ISBN 1479800562.
  2. ^ a b c d e E. Curtis, Edward (2009). The Columbia Sourcebook of Muslims in the United States. Columbia University Press. p. 405. ISBN 0231139578.
  3. ^ a b Cesari, Jocelyne (2004). When Islam and Democracy Meet: Muslims in Europe and in the United States. Pelgrave MacMillan. p. 150. ISBN 1403978565.
  4. ^ "Prominent Malikis in the American milieu include the founder of the Zaytuna Institute Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson". Jocelyne Cesari, Encyclopedia of Islam in the United States, p 23.
  5. ^ "إضاءات :. حمزة يوسف".
  6. ^ Lumbard, Joseph E. B. (2009). Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition: Essays by Western Muslim Scholars. World Wisdom, Inc. p. 40. ISBN 1933316667.
  7. ^ Al-Rasheed, M. (2005). Transnational Connections and the Arab Gulf. Psychology Press. p. 175. ISBN 1134323999.
  8. ^ "Islam 'hijacked' by terror". BBC. London. October 11, 2001. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  9. ^ Khan, Riz (June 17, 2007). "Sheikh Hamza Yusuf The American Islamic scholar discusses building bridges between Islam and the west". al-Jazeera. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  10. ^ Grewal, Zareena (2014). Islam Is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority. New York University Press. p. 377. ISBN 1479800562.
  11. ^ Cesari, Jocelyne (2007). Encyclopedia of Islam in the United States. Greenwood Press. p. 643. ISBN 0313336253.
  12. ^ "Carnegie Workshop Biographies". 10 May 2012.
  13. ^ "Introducing global center for renewal and guidance «  Bin Bayyah". Archived from the original on 2012-11-12.
  14. ^ Haque, Mozammel. "Introducing global center for renewal and guidance". Saudi Gazette. Archived from the original on December 19, 2014. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  15. ^ Yusuf, Hamza (2016-06-24). "Opinion | The Orlando shooter Googled my name. I wish he had reached out to me". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-01-20.
  16. ^ "Signatories - A Common Word Between Us and You".
  17. ^ a b c O'Sullivan, Jack (October 7, 2001). "If you hate the west, emigrate to a Muslim country". The Guardian. London. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
  18. ^ a b Romig, Rollo (May 20, 2013). "Where Islam Meets America". New Yorker. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  19. ^ O'Sullivan, Jack (October 7, 2001). "If you hate the west, emigrate to a Muslim country". The Guardian. London.
  20. ^ a b c d Grewal, Zareena Islam Is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority p 160-171
  21. ^ Ukeles, Raquel The Evolving Muslim Community in America: The Impact of 9/11 p 101
  22. ^ Grewal, Zareena (2014). Islam Is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority. New York University Press. p. 161. ISBN 1479800562.
  23. ^ Daniel Brumberg, Dina Shehata, Conflict, Identity, and Reform in the Muslim World: Challenges for U.S Engagement, p 367
  24. ^ "Zaytuna College". Retrieved 2017-10-26.
  25. ^ a b Song, Jason (March 11, 2015). "Muslim college gains accreditation". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
  26. ^ "US gets its first accredited Muslim college". The Express Tribune. March 12, 2015. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
  27. ^ Cohen, Charles L.; Numbers, Ronald L. (2013). Gods in America: Religious Pluralism in the United States. Oxford University Press. p. 186. ISBN 0199931925.
  28. ^ a b "The 2016 Edition is Here!" (PDF).
  29. ^ Esposito, J. (2009). The 500 Most Influential Muslims. Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre. p. 86. ISBN 978-9957-428-37-2.
  30. ^ "Modern Lessons from an Ancient Faith - Elmhurst College".

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