Bin Bayyah was born in Timbédra in a household with an Islamic environment in which he studied all of the Islamic sciences. He began his formal studies with his father, the judge Shaykh Mahfoudh; meanwhile, he studied Arabic with Shaykh Mohammed Salem bin al-Sheen, Quran with Shaykh Bayyah bin al-Salik al-Misumi.[better source needed]
In his youth, he was appointed to study legal judgments in Tunis. On returning to Mauritania, he became Minister of Education and later Minister of Justice. He was also appointed a Vice President of the first president of Mauritania. He resides in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and teaches Islamic Legal Methodology, Qur'an and Arabic at the King Abdulaziz University. He is fluent in Arabic and French.Hamza Yusuf serves as his translator.
Bin Bayyah is said by some Sufis to be a scholar of uṣūl al-fiqh (Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence) today and have competency in all four Sunni juridical schools. Some Muslims look upon him as one of the symbols of moderation and centrism. The West, and especially Western government, has taken his views and fatawas as an source and reference for Muslim minorities living in those countries. His viewpoints are characterized by seeking to adapt Islamic legal theory to the realities of the contemporary age, which enable him to find solutions to the emerging obstacles in the path of the modern Muslim, which has earned him much criticism from orthodox Muslims.