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Zaytuna College: first accredited Muslim college in the United States

Will be able to confer ‘Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Law and Theology’.

By Raif Karerat

WASHINGTON, DC: Zaytuna College in Northern California has been given accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, making it the first formally recognized Muslim college in the United States.

According to the approval letter, the school may now confer an accredited “Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Law and Theology.”

“Five years ago, we introduced an undergraduate liberal arts program inspired by the idea of restoring the holistic education that had been offered in the great teaching centers of Islamic civilization,” President Hamza Yusuf said via the school’s website.
“Today, Zaytuna’s accreditation roots this vision in a reality recognized within American higher education. It gives our community its first accredited academic address in the United States. And we hope, God willing, that there will be more such Muslim colleges and universities to come.”

The college’s first academic program was the “Summer Arabic Intensive,” a two-month, residential language course that launched 2010. The undergraduate program subsequently welcomed its inaugural freshman class for the Fall semester that same year. By 2012, it had also secured a flagship building for its permanent campus atop Berkeley’s famed “Holy Hill,” an academic neighborhood named after the plethora of religious colleges that have resided there.

Zaytuna was co-founded by Hatem Bazian, who also serves as a senior lecturer at UC Berkeley, as well as Hamza Yusuf and Zaid Shakir, both prominent American converts to Islam.

Yusuf, an influential Muslim scholar who was granted the title of Sheik at 28 in Mauritania, in West Africa, has been called “the most influential Islamic scholar in the Western world,” according to a report by ThinkProgress.

Shakir earned degrees from American University and Rutgers before pursing Islamic studies in Syria, and was lauded by Jewish magazine Tikkun as “one of the most thoughtful and dynamic teachers about the true nature of Islam in America today.”

Religiously-affiliated schools are a dime a dozen in the U.S., but the overarching majority are Christian, including famous names like Notre Dame and Boston College. There are some Jewish institutions of higher education — such as Brandeis — and even a few Buddhist schools, but until Zaytuna was officially recognized on March 8 there were no Muslim colleges in the United States.

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