Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf was born in Walla Walla, Washington, and grew up in Northern California in a Greek Orthodox family. He is founder of the Zaytuna Institute. He embraced Islam in 1977 in Santa Barbara, California when he was only 17 and set off almost immediately to study Arabic, Islamic jurisprudence, philosophy, and spiritual psychology with masters in the Muslim world.
In 1979, he moved to the United Arab Emirates and studied in the Islamic Institute of Al-'Ain for four years, augmenting his studies with lessons by leading scholars of the Islamic world.
Some of the scholars he studied with include Shaikh Baya bin Salik, head of the Islamic court in Al-'Ain; Shaikh Muhammad Shaybani, Mufti of Abu Dhabi; Shaikh Hamad al-Wali; and Shaikh Muhammad al-Fatrati of Al-Azhar University. In 1984, Hamza Yusuf entered the Bilal ibn Rabah Madrasa of Tizi, Algeria and studied with Shaikh Sidi Bou Sai'd. After being expelled from Algeria by the government, he travelled to a unique madrassa in Mauritania and studied with the most noble scholar Shaykh Murabit al-Hajj bin Fahfu where he continues his studies periodically.
After ten-years of studies abroad, he returned to the United States and completed degrees in nursing at Imperial Valley College and religious studies at San Jose State University.
In the early 1990's he began to teach classes in the San Francisco Bay Area and in 1996 he established Zaytuna Institute. Two years later the institute acquired a property in Hayward, California, where it is now based. Zaytuna Institute is committed to inspiring a traditional understanding and study of the core Islamic sciences. In addition to weekly classes, week-long and month-long educational programs, and annual conferences that addresses contemporary issues affecting the American people, Zaytuna Institute has published four small books and several major audio-tape sets of Shaykh Hamza's classes.
His classes on the life of the Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, produced as a 24-audio tape set, has sold well thousands of copies world-wide.
As the executive director of the Zaytuna Institute, Shaykh Hamza travels frequently to major North American and European cities to teach and lecture to both Muslims and non-Muslim audiences.
After years of passionate work Shaykh Hamza completed the first comprehensive English translation of the Burda of Imam Al-Busiri. In June 2002 Sandala Productions in the UK has released “The Poem of the Cloak: The Burda of Al-Busiri.” The poem, on two cds, is sung by the Fez Singers and and the book is calligraphed by Mohamed Zakariya, a world renowed calligrapher and the teacher of Ustadha Aishah Elinor Holland.
He presently resides in the Bay Area with his wife and four children.