Hamza Yusuf

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Hamza Yusuf
Yusuf at Yale University, 2016
Mark Hanson

1958 (age 64–65)
MovementIslamic neo-traditionalism
Main interest(s)Tasawwuf, Aqida, Fiqh, Islamic Eschatology
OccupationIslamic scholar, Author
YouTube information
Years activeApril 25, 2013–present
Subscribers128 thousand[4]
Total views8.7 million[4]
Associated actsZaytuna College
YouTube Silver Play Button 2.svg 100,000 subscribers

Last updated: 26 October 2022
Muslim leader

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

He is an advisor to both the Center for Islamic Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and the Islamic Studies programme at Stanford University.[11][12][13] 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.[14][15] He also serves as vice-president of the UAE-based Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, where Abdallah bin Bayyah also serves as president.[16]

The Guardian has referred to Yusuf as "arguably the West's most influential Islamic scholar".[17] The New Yorker magazine also called him "perhaps the most influential Islamic scholar in the Western world",[18] and journalist Graeme Wood has called him "one the two most prominent Muslim scholars in the United States today".[19] He is one of the signatories[20] of A Common Word Between Us and You, an open letter by Islamic scholars to Christian leaders calling for peace and understanding. Yusuf was also one of the signatories of an open letter to former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi that sought to refute the principles promoted by the terrorist organization.[21]

He has been listed in the top 50 of The 500 Most Influential Muslims (also known as The Muslim 500), an annual publication compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, Jordan, which ranks the most influential Muslims in the world.[22] He has nevertheless been widely criticised for his views on race, politics, and the Arab revolutions.[23][24][25][26][27][28][29]

Early life and education[edit]

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 as a practicing Irish Catholic 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 to Islam.[2][30] 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[31]—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.[32][33] 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.[32] Yusuf became fluent in the Arabic language and also learned Qur'anic recitation (tajwid), rhetoric, poetry, law (fiqha) and theology (aqidah) among other classical Islamic disciplines.[32]

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.[34] In Mauritania he developed his most lasting and powerful relationship with Islamic scholar Sidi Muhammad Ould Fahfu al-Massumi, known as Murabit al-Hajj.[32]

In 2020, Yusuf completed his Ph.D. at the Graduate Theological Union. His dissertation was titled, "The Normative Islamic Tradition in North and West Africa: A Case Study of Transmission of Authority and Distillation of Knowledge in Ibn Ashir’s Al-Murshid al-Mu’in (The Helpful Guide)." Yusuf previously earned an associate degree in nursing from Imperial Valley College and a bachelor's degree in religious studies from San José State University.


Zaytuna College[edit]

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.[35] He was joined by Zaid Shakir and Hatem Bazian in establishing what was then Zaytuna Institute. In the fall of 2010 it opened 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".[36] Zaytuna College became the first accredited Muslim campus in the United States after it received approval from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.[37][38] Yusuf stated that "We hope, God willing, that there will be more such Muslim colleges and universities to come".[37]

Hamza Yusuf has been involved in controversies in recent years on issues of race, politics, and the Arab revolutions.[23][24][25][26][27][28][29]

2016 Black Lives Matter comments[edit]

In December 2016, Yusuf made comments that were perceived as critical of the tactics employed by the Black Lives Matter movement. Yusuf claimed there were more endemic issues facing the black community within, such as the breakdown of family.[39] He also raised concerns about racist sentiments in the Muslim community, where the condemnation of 'white privilege' is fierce, but silent on 'Arab privilege', citing the treatment of Pakistanis and Indians in some parts of the Arab world.[39] For these comments he was attacked on social media, but many scholars defended Shaykh Yusuf, such as Imam Zaid Shakir who stated, "I can say with absolute confidence that there is not a racist bone in Shaykh Hamza’s body. A racist is someone who believes in the superiority of one race over another. Shaykh Hamza, like any serious Muslim, totally rejects that idea."[40]


Yusuf participates in the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies hosted by the UAE. He praised the UAE for its increasing tolerance and its adoption of multi-faith initiatives and plans to build a multi-faith centre in Abu Dhabi.[41]

Comments on the Syrian Revolution[edit]

In 2019, Yusuf urged patience and caution in relation to the Syrian crisis. Although some viewed these comments as supportive of the Syrian regime, this has been unequivocally rejected by Yusuf, who apologised for any hurt caused.[25][42][43][44] Yusuf translated a poem titled the 'Prayer of the Oppressed' in 2010, dedicated to all the oppressed peoples around the world.[45]

Views and influence[edit]

Yusuf has taken a stance against religious justifications for terrorist attacks.[46] 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."[47]

Jordan's Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre currently places him 36th on its list of the top 500 most influential Muslims in the world.[48][49] 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.[48]


Publications and works by Hamza Yusuf
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 Archived 2014-09-05 at the Wayback Machine

Be Like Ahmed A poem dedicated to Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), recited at the ceremony of Youman Nabi (Prophet's Birthday) on the 12th of Rabi' al-Awwal (9th of October 2022). 2022 Poem

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "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.
  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 978-0231139571.
  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. ^ a b "About Hamza Yusuf". YouTube.
  5. ^ "إضاءات :. حمزة يوسف". youtube.com. Archived from the original on 2021-12-12.
  6. ^ al-Azami, U. (2019-09-26). Neo-traditionalist Sufis and Arab politics: a preliminary mapping of the transnational networks of counter-revolutionary scholars after the Arab revolutions. C.Hurst & Co. Ltd. ISBN 978-1-78738-134-6.
  7. ^ Quisay, Walaa (2019). Neo-traditionalism in the West: navigating modernity, tradition, and politics (http://purl.org/dc/dcmitype/Text thesis). University of Oxford. {{cite thesis}}: External link in |degree= (help)
  8. ^ Multiple sources :
  9. ^ Grewal, Zareena (2014). Islam Is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority. New York University Press. p. 377. ISBN 978-1479800568.
  10. ^ Cesari, Jocelyne (2007). Encyclopedia of Islam in the United States. Greenwood Press. p. 643. ISBN 978-0313336256.
  11. ^ "Carnegie Workshop Biographies". 10 May 2012.
  12. ^ Affairs, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World. "Hamza Yusuf". berkleycenter.georgetown.edu. Retrieved 2022-07-13.
  13. ^ "Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson". Religions for Peace. Retrieved 2022-07-13.
  14. ^ "Introducing global center for renewal and guidance « Bin Bayyah". binbayyah.net. Archived from the original on 2012-11-12.
  15. ^ Haque, Mozammel. "Introducing global center for renewal and guidance". Saudi Gazette. Archived from the original on December 19, 2014. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ a b 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. ^ Wood, Graeme (2016). "The War of the End of Time". The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State. Random House. p. 214. ISBN 9780812988765.
  20. ^ "Signatories - A Common Word Between Us and You". acommonword.com.
  21. ^ College, Zaytuna [@zaytunacollege] (2014-09-24). "A Letter responding to #ISIS leader al-Baghdadi and signed by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf as well as 125 Sunni scholars... fb.me/6M9gDKUy1" (Tweet). Retrieved 2020-01-16 – via Twitter.
  22. ^ "Hamza Yusuf Hanson". The Muslim 500. Retrieved 2020-01-13.
  23. ^ a b "Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson". The Muslim 500. Retrieved 2019-09-28.
  24. ^ a b Bokth, Noshin (2019-07-19). "The controversy of Hamza Yusuf being appointed Human Rights Adviser to the Trump administration - TMV". Retrieved 2019-09-28.
  25. ^ a b c Hamza Yusuf under fire for comments about the Syrian revolution, archived from the original on 2021-12-12, retrieved 2019-09-28
  26. ^ a b Hilal, Maha. "It's time for Muslim Americans to condemn Hamza Yusuf". aljazeera.com. Retrieved 2019-09-28.
  27. ^ a b "Hamza Yusuf and the struggle for the soul of western Islam". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 2019-09-28.
  28. ^ a b 5Pillars (2016-12-25). "Hamza Yusuf stokes controversy with comments about Black Lives Matter and political Islam". 5Pillars. Retrieved 2019-09-28.
  29. ^ a b "Influential Muslim scholar criticised for calling the UAE a 'tolerant country'". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 2019-09-28.
  30. ^ O'Sullivan, Jack (October 7, 2001). "If you hate the west, emigrate to a Muslim country". The Guardian. London.
  31. ^ Read Secret Practices of the Sufi Freemasons Online by Baron Rudolf von Sebottendorff | Books.
  32. ^ a b c d Grewal, Zareena Islam Is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority p 160-171
  33. ^ Ukeles, Raquel The Evolving Muslim Community in America: The Impact of 9/11 p 101
  34. ^ Grewal, Zareena (2014). Islam Is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority. New York University Press. p. 161. ISBN 978-1479800568.
  35. ^ Daniel Brumberg, Dina Shehata, Conflict, Identity, and Reform in the Muslim World: Challenges for U.S Engagement, p 367
  36. ^ "Zaytuna College". zaytunacollege.org. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
  37. ^ a b Song, Jason (March 11, 2015). "Muslim college gains accreditation". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
  38. ^ "US gets its first accredited Muslim college". The Express Tribune. March 12, 2015. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
  39. ^ a b "Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and The RIS Conference Controversy". Mvslim. 2017-01-02. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  40. ^ "Imam Zaid Shakir". facebook.com. Archived from the original on 2022-02-26. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  41. ^ "Plans for multi-faith centre in Abu Dhabi presented to the UN". The National. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  42. ^ "Hamza Yusuf issues apology for 'hurting feelings' with Syria comments". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 2019-09-28.
  43. ^ Arab, The New. "Outrage as Hamza Yusuf releases video mocking Syrian refugees". alaraby. Retrieved 2019-09-28.
  44. ^ Yusuf, Hamza. "Don't Curse the People of Syria". Youtube.
  45. ^ Don't Curse the People of Syria - Hamza Yusuf, retrieved 2020-04-26
  46. ^ Cohen, Charles L.; Numbers, Ronald L. (2013). Gods in America: Religious Pluralism in the United States. Oxford University Press. p. 186. ISBN 978-0199931927.
  47. ^ O'Sullivan, Jack (2001-10-08). "If you hate the west, emigrate to a Muslim country". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-09-28.
  48. ^ a b "The 2016 Edition is Here!" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-01-26. Retrieved 2017-06-04.
  49. ^ Esposito, J. (2009). The 500 Most Influential Muslims. Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre. p. 86. ISBN 978-9957-428-37-2.

External links[edit]