Having left school at the age of 16 with an ‘A’ grade in O-Level Art, Steven entered Hammersmith Art College and the following year, 1966, as ‘Cat Stevens’, recorded his first single. From then right up to 1977 Cat Stevens composed and sang many hit records including ‘Mathew and Son’, ‘Here Comes My Baby’, ‘Wild World’, ‘Morning Has Broken’ and ‘Moonshadow’, selling approximately 40 million Long Playing records throughout the world.
Following a bout of TB during his career, Cat Stevens undertook an ongoing search for peace and ultimate spiritual truth. This yearning often expressed in his songs and reflected through his investigations into eastern faiths such as Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Astrology, resulted in him embracing the Islamic faith in December 1977 when ‘Cat Stevens’ became Yusuf Islam.
Since embracing Islam, Yusuf Islam has married and now has five children.
He is a leading and active member of the Muslim community in Britain and is principally involved in three areas: Education of Muslim children, Da’wah to non-Muslim and Humanitarian Relief work. His well known projects include:
- ISLAMIA SCHOOLS: Islamia Primary School was founded by Brother Yusuf in October 1983, with 13 boys and girls aged 3 and 4. The School grew in popularity, numbers increased very quickly and the following year the waiting list exceeded one thousand. In 1989 he set up the Islamia Girls’ Secondary School, teaching up to the GCSE examination level. This soon became a top-ranked school in local examination results and set a new standard for Muslim Schools in the UK. Today Islamia Schools Centre teaches over 430 pupils and has recently expanded its activities to include A-Level courses for girls.
- OTHER EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES: Brother Yusuf is also Chairman of the United Kingdom Islamic Education Waqf (UKIEW) which offers financial help to Muslim schools. He is also Chairman of the Association of Muslim Schools which gives advice on educational matters and representation to over 40 schools in Britain.
- WAQF AL-BIRR EDUCATIONAL TRUST: Waqf al-Birr Education Trust a registered UK Charity, was founded by Brother Yusuf Islam in 1992 specifically to cater for Da’wah as well as educational research and development. It is instrumental in providing expert advice and assistance to both new and well established Muslim schools in matters relating to staff recruitment, curriculum development and teacher training. This is done through its involvement with the International Board of Educational Research and Resources (IBERR). In September 1996 Waqf al-Birr opened its Brondesbury College for Boys in London. The college was founded by Brother Yusuf in recognition of the need for the provision of a board system of educational excellence that would meet the demands of parents who want their sons to have the necessary skills and moral qualities for tomorrow’s world. The school holds 125 boys of secondary age.
- MOUNTAIN OF LIGHT: Mountain of Light was set up as a Company by Brother Yusuf Islam in December 1994 and its activities were fully operational by July 1995. Its principle aim was to provide high quality Da’wah material, primarily in audio-visual form. Brother Yusuf turned his attention to studio work and this has resulted in an audio recording of his highly popular CD and cassette release of ‘Life of the Last Prophet’. This spoken- word production, which is designed for both Muslim and a non-Muslim listening public is Brother Yusuf’s first official record since departing from the music business nearly twenty years ago. This latest production is a Book and CD / Cassette recording of ‘A is for Allah’, which teaches Islam.
- RELIEF WORK: Muslim Aid, an international aid agency, was established by Brother Yusuf Islam in 1985 in co-operation with other Muslim organisations, he being the founding Chairman. Its aim was to alleviate poverty and provide relief for the victims of wars and natural disasters. In 1994/1995 the organisation helped some 400,000 people in need around the world, distributing around £2 million in aid. Last year Brother Yusuf resigned his role as Chairman and left Muslim Aid, but is still very actively involved in Relief with his new charity Small Kindness which concentrates on orphans and families. He currently supports 2,500 orphans and children in Kosova and is supporting ‘100 – Homes’ building project in Turkey.