All praise to Allah and peace and blessings upon Rasulullah Muhammad (s).
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf- A living example of the pious
A city, famous in history for its sweet onions and agriculture, gave birth to a little boy who had a great future ahead for him which compensated for his great efforts and struggle for mankind.
In the year 1960, in a Greek orthodox family, Mark Hanson was born to a US academic world war two veteran father and an activist mother in Walla Walla, Washington which is in the southeastern region of Washington, approximately five hours by car from Seattle, Washington and thirteen miles from the Oregon border.
Having attended mostly catholic schools and boarding schools where sometimes he would stay for just one month in Santa Barbara, California in the year 1977 when Mark was traveling in a car, there was a car accident. This was to be a dramatic turning point for the teenager. For some this is known as a near death experience, but to him it is something different. Speaking to Mark Lawson about Islam in America, he mentioned that “God gave me a second chance”.
It is amazing for a young boy of seventeen to start thinking about religions. Most young men and women of our time only think about nightclubs, rock and roll, alcohol, crime, drugs….the list is endless. But for Mark it was to be a different thought altogether. What is the purpose of life? Where I’m I going? What I’m I doing here?
His mum used to take him to Church, Mosque, Hindu temples etc. to give him an insight into different religions. Mark opted to look into Islam.
It was a time just before his eighteenth birthday that Mark Hanson, in the year 1977, embraced Islam. He is now to be called Hamza Yusuf Hanson.
Hamza Yusuf embarked on a journey that would change his life and others who tagged along in his spiritual journey.
He spent four years studying in the United Arab Emirates and other places in the Middle East.
He then traveled to West Africa and studied in Mauritania, Medina, Algeria, and Morocco under prominent scholars such as Shaykh Murabit al Haaj; Sheikh Baya bin Salik, head of the Islamic court in Al-'Ain, United Arab Emirates; Sheikh Muhammad Shaybani, Mufti of Abu Dhabi; Sheikh Hamad al-Wali; and Sheikh Muhammad al-Fatrati of Al Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.
Having returned from the knowledgeable journey in the East, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (as we recognise him now) along with Hesham Alalusi founded Zaytuna Institute in California, United States of America with the inspiration of commitment to revive and promote the Sufi version of Islam in a contemporary context.
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf came into the public spotlight when in 2001 he advised President George W Bush. This was to be the driving force in which Shaykh Hamza was to be criticized or be complimented. It was in fact from the advice and instruction of his teacher Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah that Shaykh Hamza met with President Bush.
Shaykh Hamza himself has said “I advised George Bush, but he didn’t take my advice”. People criticized the Shaykh for this meeting with Bush, but it has to be understood that Shaykh Hamza advised Bush of the consequences of going into war with Afghanistan.
Shaykh Hamza made many journeys to the United Kingdom and often appears in Friends House, Euston Road. He delivers speeches from his heart which creates great love for Allah and his messenger Muhammad Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him amongst the listeners of his bayans and speeches.
Many criticize Shaykh Hamza, but he is one scholar who openly talks against falsehood and condemns extremism. His words unite people together. He talks about unity, to bring people together. His knowledge is on various subjects.
I have never seen a scholar like Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, who has all these silly remarks and criticisms surrounding him, talk beautifully about Rasulullah (s). He even cried when he mentioned about the Prophet’s (s) struggle of Uhud!
May Allah give us the tawfiq to sit in the gatherings of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and be enlightened by his wisdom and speeches. May Allah preserve him and his family and those who make dua for him.