Ramadan Abdallah Muhammad Shalah was born in 1958 in the Saja’iyyah neighborhood of the Gaza Strip, one of many siblings. As a high school student he joined the Moslem Brotherhood, which also funded his tuition at Zagazig University in Egypt, considered a stronghold of rising religious Islamic fundamentalism during the nineteen seventies. When he was a student (between 1977 and 1981), he met a group of other Palestinian students from the Gaza Strip, including Fathi Shiqaqi, who wanted to imitate the militant Jihad movements that were flourishing in Egypt at that time. Ramadan Shalah became one of the founders of the PIJ and edited its internal political journal.
When he returned to the Gaza Strip on 1981, he was hired as a lecturer in the Economics Department of Gaza’s Islamic University and became a sought-after speaker. In 1985, he continued his studies in England and was awarded a PhD in economics from Durham University. He then moved to the United States and lectured in international relations at Tampa University in Florida. He was chosen as the PIJ’s secretary general in late 1995 after Shiqaqi died in Malta.