Hamza Yusuf was born to two academics in Washington State and raised in Northern California. In 1977, he became Muslim and subsequently traveled to the Muslim world and studied for ten years in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, as well as North and West Africa. Hamza Yusuf spent four years studying in the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere in the Middle East. Later he traveled to West Africa and studied in Mauritania, Medina, Algeria, and Morocco under such scholars as Murabit al Haaj; Baya bin Salik, head of the Islamic court in Al-'Ain, United Arab Emirates; Muhammad Shaybani, Mufti of Abu Dhabi; Hamad al-Wali; and Muhammad al-Fatrati of Al Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. After more than a decade abroad, he returned to the United States and earned degrees in nursing from Imperial Valley College and religious studies at San José State University. 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. 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.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. 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. In Mauritania, he developed his most lasting and powerful relationship with Islamic scholar Sidi Muhammad Ould Fahfu al-Massumi, known as Murabit al-Hajj.
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is an American Islamic scholar committed to inspiring a traditional understanding and study of the core Islamic sciences. He is the co-founder of Zaytuna College, which created history as the first accredited Muslim college in America. The Islamic university also offers a hugely popular summer Arabic intensive program. Shaykh Hamza is also a prolific writer, namely famous for authoring the hugely popular book, “Purification of the Heart: Signs, Symptoms, and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart”. He has leveraged technology by making his Islamic educational materials available online at his online portal, Sandala, as well as making his lectures available on demand on iTunes.
Jordan's Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre currently places him 36th on its list of the top 500 most influential Muslims in the world. The magazine Egypt Today described him as a kind of theological rock star, "the Elvis Presley of western Muslims." 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. In the April 2016 issue of Dabiq Magazine, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant declared him a murtadd (or apostate)
He and colleagues founded the Zaytuna Institute in 1996, which has established an international reputation for presenting a classical picture of Islam in the West and which is dedicated to the revival of traditional study methods and the sciences of Islam. Hamza Yusuf has also authored several encyclopedia articles and research papers. His published books include The Burda (2003), Purification of the Heart (2004), The Content of Character (2004), The Creed of Imam al-Tahawi (2007), Agenda to Change our Condition (2007), and Walking on Water (2010), The Prayer of the Oppressed, and The Helpful Guide. Hamza Yusuf is the first American lecturer to teach in Morocco's prestigious and oldest university, the University of Al-Karaouine in Fes.He is married and has five children, all boys.
“You will find yourself in the Quran, I guarantee you.”