Citation for Yusuf Hanson, Hamza

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Tatari, Eren . "Yusuf Hanson, Hamza." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Women. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. May 17, 2022. <>.


Tatari, Eren . "Yusuf Hanson, Hamza." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Women. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, (accessed May 17, 2022).

Yusuf Hanson, Hamza

Hamza Yusuf Hanson (formally Shaykh Hamza Yusuf) was born Mark Hanson in Walla Walla, Washington, and was raised in Santa Barbara, California, as a Greek Orthodox Christian by his parents, both American-born academics. He converted to Islam as a teenager in 1977 and promptly traveled to North Africa and the Middle East, including Algeria, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates, studying philosophy, spiritual psychology, Arabic, and Islamic jurisprudence. He eventually traveled to a madrasah (school) in West Africa's Sahara Desert, where he studied under Shaykh Murabit al-Hajj. Upon returning to the United States, he obtained a BS in nursing at Imperial Valley College and an MA in religious studies at San José State University. Since then, he has continued to travel and lecture and co-founded Zaytuna College, an institution of higher education that combines the classical methodology of Islamic learning with a relatively liberal undergraduate education. He currently lives with his wife and five children in northern California.

Yusuf's primary focus appears to be reintroducing Islam while promoting an understanding that extends beyond the perceived misdoings of Islam. His newspaper and journal articles, in particular, stress the similarities between Islam and Western beliefs. He attributes his own interest in Islam to both its core values and what his own progressive mother taught him when he was younger. He has continuously advocated equality, peace, and social justice while pointing out the basic contradictions that exist in an “us versus them” ideology.

Yusuf is recognized at both the national and global levels. He is renowned for presenting Islam in a modern context, as well as showcasing classical Islam, leading to the resurgence of the traditional study of Islam and Islamic sciences and methods. He has published several books and newspaper and journal articles, and translated an equal amount of classical Arabic traditional texts into English. In the academic realm, he serves as advisor to Stanford University for its program on Islamic studies as well as Berkeley's Graduate Theological Union Centre for Islamic Studies. He was also the first American lecturer permitted to present and teach at the University of Al-Karaouine, Morocco's most prestigious and the world's oldest university located in Fez. He sits on the board of advisors for One Nation, a philanthropic organization that works to promote inclusion throughout America. He formed the Deen Intensive Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving and educating individuals on Islam's core sacred sciences as related from traditional sources.

One of Yusuf's most notable accomplishments is his co-founding of Zaytuna College, based in Hayward, California. Established in 1996, Zaytuna is currently undergoing the accreditation process, which would make it the first accredited Islamic college in the United States.

Outside of his prestige as a lecturer, translator, and scholar, Yusuf has also gained his fair share of notoriety for his previous anti-American and anti-Semitic sentiments and opinions. Since the September 11 attacks, Yusuf has modified his views, even advising U.S. president George W. Bush when he held office. He has expressed regret at his own frequent admonitions against America and Judaism, relating it back to the influence of having lived in the Arab world for over ten years. He also played a pivotal role in helping to calm the tensions that followed the Danish cartoon crisis in 2006.

In 2009 Yusuf was ranked as the Western world's most influential Islamic scholar on a list compiling the five hundred most influential Muslims. He continues to work and teach with the goal of increasing understanding and appreciation of the likenesses that bind the Muslim world and the West together.


  • Biography of Hamza Yusuf.”
  • Deen Intensive Foundation. “Teachers: Shaykh Hamza Yusuf.”
  • Esposito, John L., and Ibrahim Kalin, eds. The 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World. Amann, Jordan: Royal Islamic Strategies Studies Center, 2009.
  • O’Sullivan, Jack. “ ‘If you hate the west, emigrate to a Muslim country.’ ” The Guardian 7, October 7, 2001.
  • Santella, Andrew. “Modern Lessons from an Ancient Faith.” 84987267.html.
  • Sheikh Hamza Yusuf.”
  • Yusuf, Hamza. “Islam Has a Progressive Tradition Too: Most Western Views of Muslims Are Founded on Ignorance.” The Guardian, June 18, 2002.

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