Yusuf Islam is the founder of Britain’s most Famous Muslim School Chain, Islamia Schools, his company Small Kindness supports thousands of orphans and children around the world, Is a active participant in the Campaign against Aids, Is the author of several Islamic Booklets and Audio/Video Lectures, His company MOL has produced many video/audio cassettes of songs about World Peace and Harmony. But his past was very different.
Ex Cat Stevens was one of the Greatest British POP/Folk Singer-songwriter, at just 19 His first solo album Matthew And Son was a hit, after which many of his songs reached at first position in Britain as well as America even against stiff competition by the Beetles. Still a teen he was every were ,media was after him ,fans were crying for him. He was in the front cover of many world magazines including Rolling Stones .His name was taken with the Beetles, Rolling Stones. He was declared as one of the Golden Artists of all time in the USA. In his Country he was just sensation. In a short music career he sold more than 40 million LPs throughout the world.
Born in London in 1948 to a Swedish mother and a Greek Cypriot father, Stephen Demetri Georgiou aka Cat Stevens was educated in Sweden, where he studied native songs and dances as well as classical music. He grew up in the city, amidst the steady rumble of traffic, the rush and bustle that never stopped, the smoke and dirt, the bright lights and the few patches of grey grass.
Cat himself writes:
I was brought up in the modern world of all the luxury and the high life of show business. I was born in a Christian home, but we know that every child is born in his original nature - it is only his parents that turn him to this or that religion. I was given this religion (Christianity) and thought this way. I was taught that God exists, but there was no direct contact with God, so we had to make contact with Him through Jesus - he was in fact the door to God. This was more or less accepted by me, but I did not swallow it all I looked at some of the statues of Jesus; they were just stones with no life. And when they said that God is three, I was puzzled even more but could not argue. I more or less believed it, because I had to have respect for the faith of my parents.
The boy and his parents were Greek, so the music played to him while growing up was the music of that wise and ancient country. Full of richness, emotions, joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, it was a good music to have as teacher (sic), and the boy learned well. As he grew older, the boy started to write his own music. He was very good, and before long he came to the attention of a very important man who knew how to make people famous. Now, not only was the boy very talented, he was also very handsome, so before very long he and his songs were well known from one end of the land to the other.
Still a young teen, fame and wealth was all over him. Huge number of people bought his songs and magazines printed pictures of him which girls stuck on their bedroom walls, so as to have him near them in their dreams. Tunes such as, "The First Cut Is The Deepest ", “I Love My Dog”, "I'm Gonna Get Me A Gun ", and "Here Comes My Baby ", were all highly representative of the diverse ability that this artist had to offer. Finally, in 1967 cat was only 19, there came his first album "Matthew & Sons. It became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic and opened up many an ear and eye to the talent of the young man.
The boy became very famous, worked very hard at his new job, traveled a lot, appeared in a lot of shows, and wrote songs for other people, who in turn became famous.
But all the time the boy became more and more unhappy. The songs people wanted him to sing were not the songs he wanted to sing. He was writing songs which were far better than the ones he was famous for, and try as he would to change their minds, the people who controlled his fame and fortune did not want him to sing those songs. Then in 1969 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis .He was so ill in fact that when he saw a doctor he was told to spend at least three months in a hospital or he would die. So the boy went into the hospital for three months, and while he was there he was able to think seriously about himself and his life. He did not like what he saw in himself, and so he determined to make a complete break from the past
While recovering, Stevens underwent a spiritual crisis and began studying Eastern religions, practicing vegetarianism, and writing highly introspective songs.
Cat writes himself about the hospital time-
After a year of financial success and 'high' living, I became very ill, contracted TB and had to be hospitalized. It was then that I started to think: What was to happen to me? Was I just a body, and my goal in life was merely to satisfy this body? I realized now that this calamity was a blessing given to me by Allah, a chance to open my eyes - "Why am I here? Why am I in bed?" - And I started looking for some of the answers. At that time there was great interest in the Eastern mysticism. I began reading, and the first thing I began to become aware of was death, and that the soul moves on; it does not stop. I felt I was taking the road to bliss and high accomplishment. I started meditating and even became a vegetarian. I now believed in 'peace and flower power,' and this was the general trend. But what I did believe in particular was that I was not just a body. This awareness came to me at the hospital. One day when I was walking and I was caught in the rain, I began running to the shelter and then I realized, 'Wait a minute, my body is getting wet, my body is telling me I am getting wet.' This made me think of a saying that the body is like a donkey, and it has to be trained where it has to go. Otherwise, the donkey will lead you where it wants to go. Then I realized I had a will, a God-given gift: follow the will of God. I was fascinated by the new terminology I was learning in the Eastern religion. By now I was fed up with Christianity.
I started making music again and this time I started reflecting my own thoughts. I remember the lyric of one of my songs. It goes like this: "I wish I knew, I wish I knew what makes the Heaven, what makes the Hell. Do I get to know You in my bed or some dusty cell while others reach the big hotel?" and I knew I was on the Path. I also wrote another song, "The Way to Find God Out." I became even more famous in the world of music. I really had a difficult time because I was getting rich and famous, and at the same time, I was sincerely searching for the Truth. Then I came to a stage where I decided that Buddhism is all right and noble, but I was not ready to leave the world. I was too attached to the world and was not prepared to become a monk and to isolate myself from society. I tried Zen and Ching, numerology, tarot cards and astrology. I tried to look back into the Bible and could not find anything. At this time I did not know anything about Islam, and then, what I regarded as a miracle occurred. My brother had visited the mosque in Jerusalem and was greatly impressed that while on the one hand it throbbed with life (unlike the churches and synagogues which were empty), on the other hand, an atmosphere of peace and tranquility prevailed.
For more than a year he did not work, but concentrated on his new writing. The money he earned from his early fame was enough to give him complete freedom, and gradually what he felt to be the real him surfaced. Eventually, he was sure he was ready. A changed man, Stevens signed a new record deal with Island, who had just landed a U.S. distribution agreement with A&M, and began recording new material With the help of some friends and sympathetic people, he went into recording studios for a month and recorded a collection of his new songs.
Stevens' first A&M release, 1970's Mona Bone Jakon, was a solid album that established Stevens' new image as a sensitive singer-songwriter. His next record, Tea for the Tillerman, was released later that same year to overwhelming success. With the hit singles "Wild World" and "Father and Son," the album became an instant folk-pop classic and went to No. 1 in the U.S., earning gold status.
1971's Teaser and the Firecat repeated Tillerman's success and contained the international anti-war hit "Peace Train." The album also spawned a children's book and short film. 1972's Catch a Bull at Four was Stevens' first No. 1 album, and was followed the next year by The Foreigner, which went to No. 3.
He was in the front cover of many magazines including Rolling Stones .His name was already compared with the Beetles, Rolling Stones. He was declared as one of the Golden Artist of all time in the USA. In his Country he was just sensation. But then what happened was absolutely unexpected.
In 1973 Stevens' brother David visited Israel and, aware of his brother's fascination with religion, returned with a copy of the Quran as a souvenir. Cat Stevens Writes about the incident himself-
When he came to London he brought back a translation of the Qur'an, which he gave to me. He did not become a Muslim, but he felt something in this religion, and thought I might find something in it also. And when I received the book, a guidance that would explain everything to me - who I was; what was the purpose of life; what was the reality and what would be the reality; and where I came from - I realized that this was the true religion; religion not in the sense the West understands it, not the type for only your old age. In the West, whoever wishes to embrace a religion and make it his only way of life is deemed a fanatic. I was not a fanatic, I was at first confused between the body and the soul. Then I realized that the body and soul are not apart and you don't have to go to the mountain to be religious. We must follow the will of God. Then we can rise higher than the angels.
The first thing I wanted to do now was to be a Muslim. I realized that everything belongs to God, that slumber does not overtake Him. He created everything. At this point I began to lose the pride in me, because hereto I had thought the reason I was here was because of my own greatness. But I realized that I did not create myself, and the whole purpose of my being here was to submit to the teaching that has been perfected by the religion we know as Islam. At this point I started discovering my faith. I felt I was a Muslim. On reading the Qur'an, I now realized that all the Prophets sent by God brought the same message. Why then were the Jews and Christians different? I know now how the Jews did not accept Jesus as the Messiah and that they had changed His Word. Even the Christians misunderstand God's Word and called Jesus the son of God. Everything made so much sense. This is the beauty of the Qur'an; it asks you to reflect and reason, and not to worship the sun or moon but the One Who has created everything. The Qur'an asks man to reflect upon the sun and moon and God's creation in general. Do you realize how different the sun is from the moon? They are at varying distances from the earth, yet appear the same size to us; at times one seems to overlap the other. Even when many of the astronauts go to space, they see the insignificant size of the earth and vastness of space. They become very religious, because they have seen the Signs of Allah. When I read the Qur'an further, it talked about prayer, kindness and charity. I was not a Muslim yet, but I felt that the only answer for me was the Qur'an, and God had sent it to me, and I kept it a secret. But the Qur'an also speaks on different levels. I began to understand it on another level, where the Qur'an says, "Those who believe do not take disbelievers for friends and the believers are brothers." Thus at this point I wished to meet my Muslim brothers.
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 over 40 million LPs throughout the world.
Finally in 1977 Stevens made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In December of that year Stevens formally converted to Islam at a London mosque, taking the new name Yusuf Islam. Cat Steven writes-
Then I decided to journey to Jerusalem (as my brother had done). At Jerusalem, I went to the mosque and sat down. A man asked me what I wanted. I told him I was a Muslim. He asked what my name was. I told him, "Stevens." He was confused. I then joined the prayer, though not so successfully. Back in London, I met a sister called Nafisa. I told her I wanted to embrace Islam and she directed me to the New Regent Mosque. This was in 1977, about one and a half years after I received the Qur'an. Now I realized that I must get rid of my pride, get rid of Iblis, and face one direction. So on a Friday, after Jumma' I went to the Imam and declared my faith (the Kalima) at this hands. You have before you someone who had achieved fame and fortune. But guidance was something that eluded me, no matter how hard I tried, until I was shown the Qur'an. Now I realize I can get in direct contact with God, unlike Christianity or any other religion. As one Hindu lady told me, "You don't understand the Hindus. We believe in one God; we use these objects (idols) to merely concentrate." What she was saying was that in order to reach God, one has to create associates, that are idols for the purpose. But Islam removes all these barriers. The only thing that moves the believers from the disbelievers is the Salat (Prayers). This is the process of purification. Finally I wish to say that everything I do is for the pleasure of Allah and pray that you gain some inspirations from my experiences. Furthermore, I would like to stress that I did not come into contact with any Muslim before I embraced Islam. I read the Qur'an first and realized that no person is perfect. Islam is perfect, and if we imitate the conduct of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) we will be successful. May Allah give us guidance to follow the path of the ummah of Muhammad (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam). Aameen!
A&M released what was to be the last Cat Stevens album, Back to Earth, in early 1978; by 1979 Yusuf Islam had married and retired from pop music.
During the 1980s Islam settled in London with his wife and five children and became very involved in the local Muslim community, founding one of Britain's top Islamic school chains.
His Islamia School has become one of the most famous Muslim School. In 2000 ,Prince Charles visited his school ,congratulated Yusuf for his efforts towards the development of Peace And Harmony through education. And also declared himself a fan of Cats songs in 70s.
In 1995 Yusuf established a company MOL (mountain of light) and released his first "record" since retiring from pop music, a two-CD set called The Life of the Last Prophet which features one disc of Muslim chanting and another disc of Yusuf Islam reading a 66-minute biography of Great Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Though it was ignored in the West, the double-album reached No. 1 in Turkey and was a hit in most of the Muslim world.
Since then Yusuf has continued to release many albums for children, including recently released album for Iraqi Children, he has released many Video, Audio CDS ,Cassettes of DAWAH(Spreading the correct message of Islam).
His works include 30 plus DA’WAH Audio/video releases, booklets on the different topics of Islam including Booklets on misconceptions of non-Muslims towards Islam, has participated in many functions to discuss the message of Islam. He has and is working for many charity Trusts, collected money for Sep 11 victims, Kosovo Children, Iranian, Aids Charities. His own charity company Small Kindness is supporting 2,500 orphans of Kosovo, and working on 100-homes Project in Turkey, and with UNICEF Small Kindness is working for Iranian Children.