Hamza Yusuf (born 1958) is an American Islamic scholar and co-founder of Zaytuna College. He is a proponent of classical learning in Islam and has promoted Islamic sciences and classical teaching methodologies throughout the world.
He is an advisor to the Center for Islamic Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. 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. He also serves as vice-president of the UAE-based Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, where Abdullah bin Bayyah also serves as president.
He is one of the signatories 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 refuted the principles promoted by the terrorist organization. The Guardian has referred to Yusuf as "arguably the West's most influential Islamic scholar," and The New Yorker magazine also called him "perhaps the most influential Islamic scholar in the Western world.". 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.
Early life and education
Yusuf was born as Mark Hanson in Walla Walla, Washington to two academics working at Whitman College and he was raised in northern California. He grew up as 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. Yusuf has Irish, Scottish and Greek ancestry.
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.
He and other colleagues founded the Zaytuna Institute in Berkeley, California, United States, in 1996, dedicated to the revival of traditional study methods and the sciences of Islam. 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. 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". 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. Yusuf stated that "We hope, God willing, that there will be more such Muslim colleges and universities to come".
Hamza Yusuf has been involved in many controversies in recent years on issues of race, politics, and the Arab revolutions.
In December 2016, Yusuf made comments critical of the African American community. Specifically, he argued that America was one of the least racist nations in the world, and that many of the problems of African Americans was due to the breakdown of the family in these communities. In a discussion with The Atlantic, Ubaydullah Evans, who is the executive director of the American Learning Institute for Muslims (ALIM) said in 2017 that he saw "Yusuf’s comments as a way of perpetuating myths about “black pathology” and blaming African Americans for violence."
Support for the UAE
Yusuf has been working as an official of the UAE in recent years, where he works with the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies. His involvement with the UAE has been attacked by Qatari-backed medias such as Al-Jazeera and Middle East Eye.
Work with the Trump administration
Yusuf has been criticized by Qatari-medias such as Al-Jazeera and Middle East Eye, as well as Shia Haseeb Rizvi's The Muslim Vibe, for working with the Trump administration as a committee member in a committee advising the President on human rights.
Comments on the Syrian Revolution
In 2019, a video was released in which Yusuf comments on the Syrian revolution in a way that some viewed as mocking the attempts to unseat Bashar al-Assad. Qatari media, such as Middle East Eye and The New Arab, attacked Yusuf over this in their publications. Yusuf later apologized for these comments.
Views and influence
Yusuf has taken a stance against religious justifications for terrorist attacks. 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."
Jordan's Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre currently places him 36th on its list of the top 500 most influential Muslims in the world.
|Beyond schooling: building communities where learning really matters||2003||Books and Pamphlets|
|Agenda to Change our Condition||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)||Translations|
|Imām Mawlūd, Purification of the Heart: Signs, Symptoms and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart (2004, 2012).||Translations|
|Shaykh Al-Amin Mazrui, The Content of Character (2004)||Translations|
|Imām Ṭaḥāwī, The Creed of Imam al-Tahawi (2007).||Translations|
|Imām Muhammad bin Nasir al-Dar'i||The Prayer of the Oppressed (2010).||Translations|
|Imām al-Zarnūjī, Instruction of the Student: The Method of Learning (2001).||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).||Edited Books|
|Caesarean Moon Births Part 1||Papers|