Hussein was born in Amman on 14 November 1935 to Crown Prince Talal and Princess Zein Al-Sharaf. Hussein was the eldest among his siblings, three brothers and two sisters – Princess Asma, Prince Muhammad, Prince Hassan, Prince Muhsin, and Princess Basma. During one cold Ammani winter, his baby sister Princess Asma died from pneumonia, an indication of how poor his family was then – they could not afford heating in their house.
Hussein was the namesake of his great-grandfather, Hussein bin Ali (Sharif of Mecca), the leader of the 1916 Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. Hussein claimed to be an agnatic descendant of Muhammad's daughter Fatimah and her husband Ali, the fourth caliph, since Hussein belonged to the Hashemite family, which had ruled Mecca for over 700 years – until its 1925 conquest by the House of Saud – and has ruled Jordan since 1921. The Hashemites, the oldest ruling dynasty in the Muslim world, are the second-oldest-ruling dynasty in the world (after the Imperial House of Japan).
The young prince started his elementary education in Amman. He was then educated at Victoria College in Alexandria, Egypt. He proceeded to Harrow School in England, where he befriended his second cousin Faisal II of Iraq, who was also studying there. Faisal was then King of Hashemite Iraq, but was under regency since he was the same age as Hussein.
Hussein (age eleven) seen behind his grandfather King Abdullah I
after the independence of Jordan was declared, 25 May 1946.
King Abdullah I, the founder of modern Jordan, did not see in his two sons Talal and Nayef potential for kingship, he focused his efforts on the upbringing of his grandson Hussein. A special relationship grew between the two. Abdullah assigned Hussein a private tutor for extra Arabic lessons, and Hussein acted as interpreter for his grandfather during his meetings with foreign leaders, as Abdullah understood English but could not speak it. On 20 July 1951 15-year-old Prince Hussein traveled to Jerusalem to perform Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque with his grandfather. A Palestinian assassin opened fire on Abdullah and his grandson, amid rumors that the King had been planning to sign a peace treaty with the newly established state of Israel. Abdullah died, but Hussein survived the assassination attempt and, according to witnesses, pursued the assassin. Hussein was also shot, but the bullet was deflected by a medal on his uniform that his grandfather had given him.