Students at Zaytuna College (photo: Associated Press)
America has its first accredited Muslim college, joining the ranks of other institutions of higher learning with theological roots.
Zaytuna College, based in Berkeley, received its accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges around a week ago. The certification allows the school to apply for various federal and private grants and lets students transfer credits to or from other accredited schools.
The founders are Hatem Bazian, who also works at UC Berkeley as a senior lecturer, and Hamza Yusuf, who serves as the college’s president, and Zaid Shakir, said to be “prominent American converts to Islam,” according to ThinkProgress. Yusuf is considered by some to be the most influential Muslim scholar in the Western world.
The school said in a statement: “[Accreditation] helps ensure that Zaytuna successfully fulfills the objectives outlined in its curriculum, which grounds its students in both the Islamic and Western scholarly traditions.”
The liberal arts school was founded in 1996 as an institute and also operated as an Islamic seminary before transforming into a four-year college in 2009. It offers a B.A. in Islamic Law and Theology as well as courses in politics, astronomy, rhetoric and American history. There are also courses in Islamic Law: Purification and Prayer and Qur’anic Sciences.
Students must complete five years of Arabic to graduate. The school only has around 50 students.
Jack Jenkins at ThinkProgress noted that “religiously-affiliated colleges are plentiful in the United States, but the vast majority are Christian, such as Liberty University, the University of Notre Dame, Kenyon College, or Boston College. There are a few Jewish higher education institutions such as Brandeis and Yeshiva University, and even some Buddhist schools.”