Born Steven Demetre Georgiou, the son of a Greek Cypriot father and Swedish mother, Yusuf Islam grew up above the family shop in Londons theatre district, situated at the northernmost junction of Shaftesbury Avenue and New Oxford Street, near the heart of Londons West End.
While studying at Art College he was auditioned by a record producer, Mike Hurst, formerly of the pop-folk trio the Springfields. The resulting tracks impressed the Decca Record chief so much that the young artist - now known as Cat Stevens - was selected to launch the new Deram Label, which also signed new British talent such as David Bowie and the Moody Blues.
Cat Stevens went on to become one of the biggest solo artists of the 1960s and 1970s, penning such classics as Matthew & Son, Moonshadow, Wild World and Father & Son and selling over 60 million LPs.
Following a bout of TB early in his career he undertook an ongoing search for peace and ultimate spiritual truth. After almost drowning in the Pacific Ocean at Malibu he received a translation of the Qur'an as a gift from his elder brother, David. His spiritual quest for answers was fulfilled and he embraced Islam in December, 1977. Six months later he changed his name to Yusuf Islam, walked away from the music business to start a new life and raise a family.
Today, Yusuf Islam is arguably one of the world's most famous converts to Islam. His pioneering work in the field of education resulted in securing a landmark decision by the British government to certify and support Islamic education throughout Great Britain. The three schools he founded in Londons Brent district Islamia Primary, Islamia Girls' Secondary and the Brondesbury College for Boys consistently top the boroughs examination league tables.
His U.N.-registered charity, Small Kindness, provides humanitarian relief, through direct aid as well as social and educational programs, to orphans and families in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and other regions of the world.
Since 1994 he has once again turned his attention to the recording studio, releasing ten albums to date under his Mountain of Light label. His Sarajevo concert in 1997, to celebrate Bosnian culture, was his first public appearance for 20 years. Recently he has contributed to a number of major charity concert events including Nelson Mandela's 46664 AIDS benefit concert at the close of 2003 in Cape Town where he coupled with Peter Gabriel and the Soweto Choir to perform Wild World, and also a fund-raising concert in Jakarta to aid the victims of the recent tsunami where he premiered a new song, Indian Ocean, inspired by the disaster.
In 2003 Yusuf Islam was awarded the 'World Social Award' for his humanitarian relief work. Previous recipients of this award include Pope John Paul II, Steven Spielberg, and Sir Paul McCartney.
In November 2004, he was honoured with the 'Man for Peace' award by a committee of Nobel peace laureates.
More recently, in November 2005, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Gloucestershire for services to education and humanitarian relief.
Yusuf Islam is currently working on a stage musical based metaphorically on his spiritual journey and has completed the recording of a new album of spiritually inspiring songs, called An Other Cup. It will be his first mainstream release in 28 years and marks 40 years since he first entered the music industry in 1966.