Hadid was born on 31 October 1950 in Baghdad. She grew up in one of Baghdad's first Bauhaus-inspired buildings during an era in which "modernism connoted glamour and progressive thinking" in the Middle East.
She studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before moving to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, where she met Rem Koolhaas, Elia Zenghelis, and Bernard Tschumi. She worked for her former professors, Koolhaas and Zenghelis, at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands; she became a partner in 1977. In 1980, she established her own London-based practice. During the 1980s, she also taught at the Architectural Association.