Zaid Shakir was born in 1956 in California, USA as Ricky Daryl Mitchell to a multi-ethnic Christian family. His poor background instilled in him ethics, cooperation, mercy, the desire for social change, and economic justice.
He obtained a BA in International Relations and a MA in Political Science. In 1977, he converted to Islam while serving in the US Air Force due to the influence of his fellow Muslim soldiers. He changed his name to Zaid Salim Shakir and left for Syria to study Islamic studies.
When he returned, he began to give lessons on Sharia and Quran. He opposed Islamophobia and sought to present a correct image of Islam in the West due to violence committed in the name of Islam. He is considered one of the most influential Muslim figures in the US.