BERKELEY, Calif. — Zaytuna College in California has become the first accredited Muslim college in the United State, according to reports.
The college, which was founded five years ago in Berkeley, offers just one degree—a B.A. in Islamic Law and Theology. Students are required to have five years of study in Arabic, and likewise mandates memorization and recitation of portions of the the Quran.
It website states that it “aims to provide its students a foundation in the intellectual heritage of not one but two major world civilizations: the Western and the Islamic.” There are currently only 50 students and 15 faculty members.
“[Students are to] understand there is not a dichotomy between Islam and the West,” Vice President of Academic Affairs Colleen Keyes told the Religion News Service. “The role of Muslims in America is to think about Islam in a non-Islamic environment and think about how we are American and Muslim at the same time.”
Classes include “Islamic Law: Purification and Prayer” and “Qur’anic Sciences,” as well as math, English and philosophy.
Earlier this month, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges issued Zaytuna officials a letter confirming that it had been approved for accreditation.
“The Commission affirms the team’s findings that Zaytuna has come into existence to fulfill a critical defining role within the Islamic faith community, both locally and globally,” the letter reads. “Guided by this mission, the institution’s curriculum, pedagogy, and student affairs activities cohere to produce promising outcomes for its students.”
The college also posted a photo on Twitter earlier this month which shows officials from Zaytuna being affirmed of the institution’s accreditation in person, in what appears to be some sort of ceremony.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
Seyyed Hossein Nasr, university professor of Islamic Studies at the George Washington University, told Education News, that he sees the matter as similar to how universities such as Harvard and Yale began as Christian institutions in early America.
“They were established, as were most schools in the U.S., as part of a church or religion,” he explains. “They provided an ethical and spiritual vision in which educational exercises would take place. The same logic applies to Zaytuna, except with a Muslim framework.”
But some have expressed concern over the accreditation, stating that many Americans would be opposed to Islamic schools in the U.S.
“Biblical history dates back to eons even before Islamic history came to be contrived,” stated one commenter simply identified as Edward. “Now, the U.S. taxpayers (90% of whom don’t believe in [the] Quran) will unwittingly be supporting this contrived history by this accreditation and support of ‘Islamic studies.'”