The 53-year-old, born in Alexandria, Egypt, studied civil engineering and, in 1984, married a British woman, Valerie Fleming.
But throughout the 1980s, he slowly began to turn towards a fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran.
In 1990, he divorced his wife and returned to Egypt where he reinvented himself as a Muslim “holy man” or sheikh.
He travelled to Pakistan and then on to Afghanistan, which was at the time gripped by a civil war as differing factions fought to fill the power vacuum left by the retreat of Russian troops.It is unclear if he fought there, but when he returned to the UK with his British passport in the early 1990s he was missing his right hand and an eye.
He claims he lost the hand fighting jihad in Afghanistan.
In 1996 he re-emerged at Finsbury Park Mosque in north London preaching jihad to a young congregation.
Then, in January 1999 three British tourists were killed in Yemen, drawing public attention to the civil war between fundamentalists and the secular government there, which accused Abu Hamza of using his mosque to recruit Islamic warriors.
In February 2006, he was jailed in the UK for seven years for soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred.