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Zaytuna College (formerly known as Zaytuna Institute) is a Muslim liberal arts college located in Berkeley, California. Zaytuna is the first accredited Muslim undergraduate college in the United States and was founded in 2008[1] by Hamza Yusuf, Zaid Shakir and Hatem Bazian.[3][4][5] Prior to becoming a college, Zaytuna was an institute, founded in 1996 by Hamza Yusuf, Zaid Shakir and Hesham Alalusi.[6] Zaytuna College seeks to incorporate the importance of the liberal arts and humanities into a traditional Islamic education curriculum. In the academic year 2014-2015, Zaytuna College had an undergraduate student body of about fifty students,[2] most of whom live on campus. Zaytuna College offers one major, in Islamic Law and Theology, with courses ranging from Arabic grammar and Islamic jurisprudence, to American history and literature.[7] Zaytuna College also conducts an intensive Arabic language summer course.[8]

Zaytuna Muslim Liberal Arts College
Location, ,
ProgramBachelor of Arts in Islamic Law and Theology
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata

Zaytuna College was conceived from the imperative to establish centers of Islamic learning for the Muslim-American community in the West which are equipped to interpret Islamic scriptures authoritatively and educate Western students in light of the cultural context in which they live.[9] Zaytuna College has been recognized as an institution that has the ability to bridge the divide between America and the Muslim world.[10]

The faculty of Zaytuna College consists of scholars of Arabic, Islamic Studies and Liberal Arts.[9][11] The institution derives its name from the Arabic word Zaytuna, which means olive tree.[5] Biblical and Qur'anic scholars deem the olive a source of great benefit and worth.[5]


In 1996, the Institute was founded by Hamza Yusuf, Hesham Alalusi and Zaid Shakir and incorporated in California as a non-profit, educational institute.

The Institute's mandate was to teach courses on Arabic and Islamic Studies as well as to engage in community service and outreach.[12] Zaytuna Institute acquired a campus in the city of Hayward, CA and in 2001, Zaid Shakir and other instructors conducted a four-year pilot seminary project from which five students graduated.[12] With the learned experience of the pilot program, Zaytuna Institute went on to establish Zaytuna College.[13]

Zaytuna Institute conducted a summer Arabic intensive program in 2008 and soon after officially changed its name from Zaytuna Institute to Zaytuna College in 2009. Undergraduate classes started in 2010. Moving to Berkeley from Hayward, CA was seen as an opportunity to expand the resources available to Zaytuna College and to collaborate with established institutions such as the University of California-Berkeley and the Graduate Theological Union.[12]


Zaytuna College was situated in a facility rented from the American Baptist Seminary of the West (ABSW) in Berkeley, CA. Zaytuna College has engaged in a fundraising campaign across the country, visiting dozens of Muslim communities. As a result of this effort, Zaytuna has managed to purchase, in July 2012, a new facility which is situated in Berkeley's “Holy Hill”.[4] Holy Hill consists of multiple theological schools of multiple Christian denominations.


In 2015, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges granted Zaytuna Institute accreditation to award a single degree, "the Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Law and Theology,"[14] making Zaytuna Institute the first accredited Muslim campus in the United States.[1][2][15][16][17]

Student bodyEdit

Zaytuna College's student body includes only 50 students.[2] About half are from California. The rest are from states including Ohio, Colorado, New York, Michigan, as well as other states. According to the Washington Post, the students are both American and foreign born, and are of "Pakistani, Arabic, Turkish, African-American and Latino backgrounds".[9][18] Many of the students at the college are converts to Islam.[9] The first Zaytuna College class consisted of eight women and seven men.[9] Some Zaytuna College students have previously received undergraduate degrees from Ivy League universities such as Columbia; others have begun their undergraduate studies at Zaytuna College without prior undergraduate experience.[9] Some Zaytuna College students have turned down offers to attend notable universities such as the University of Chicago and others, to attend Zaytuna College, because of the emphasis on character development embedded in the culture of Zaytuna College.[9] The student body consists of converts to Islam, as well as second generation Muslims and others who have backgrounds that extend to Muslim majority countries. There are no admission restrictions based on religious affiliation or sect.[8]

Zaytuna College's yearly tuition is $12,177.00. The College offers housing on campus with an estimated additional annual cost of $6,873.75.[19]


The college is accredited to offer only a single degree, in Islamic law and theology.[2][18] All students are required to learn Arabic, to enable them to study Islamic texts in the original language.[18] Zaytuna College takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of humanities and social sciences.[5][20] The College's liberal arts program consists of subjects like American history, ethics, philosophy, literature and logic.[7] As a Liberal Arts institution, Zaytuna believes in the need to equip its students with the basic tools for the acquisition of knowledge, along with a broad understanding of American and Islamic culture and history. It is with this grounding in the Islamic scholarly tradition and understanding of American society and history which will allow Zaytuna College students to establish Islam as a healthy feature of American society.[10]

Zaytuna College courses on Islam include Islamic History, English Composition, Islamic Theology, Islamic Law and Arabic.[21]

Zaytuna College also offers a Summer Arabic Intensive program. Students of Arabic at Zaytuna College are required to have completed the Arabic summer intensive, or its equivalent at another institution, prior to starting at Zaytuna College.[8] The Arabic summer intensive enrollment has continued to grow and, by 2012, had doubled from its inaugural year in 2008.[8]


Zaytuna's mission is to "serve our Lord and honor our Prophet ... through providing the highest quality educational programs, materials, and training in the traditional sciences of Islam in the most beautiful way, using the most effective tools of our time."[22]

The College's motto is "Where Islam Meets America".[9] Zaytuna College envisions creating a lasting institution of higher learning and aims to educate and prepare morally committed professional, intellectual, and spiritual leaders, who are grounded in the Islamic scholarly tradition and conversant with the cultural currents and critical ideas shaping modern society.[13] Zaytuna College sees itself following in a tradition of religious communities who established colleges for their communities such as Catholics and Jews.[8] Zaytuna College has been compared to other private religious liberal arts schools such as Georgetown, Brandeis, Notre Dame and others.[5][8]


  1. ^ a b c Song, Jason (March 11, 2015). "Muslim college gains accreditation". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e Frost, Aja (4 May 2015). "Zaytuna becomes first accredited Muslim college in the U.S." USA Today. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  3. ^ Korb, Scott (May 15, 2013). "Welcome to Zaytuna, the Nation's First Muslim Liberal Arts College". Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Shellnutt, Kate (2012-05-10). "Lifestyle: U.S. Muslim College Leaders to Visit Here". Houston Chronicle online. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
  5. ^ a b c d e Kamal, Shazia (2010-09-29). "On Faith: Zaytuna College a Sign of Hope for Islam". Washington Post online. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
  6. ^ Zoll, Rachel (23 January 2008). "US scholars planning Islamic college". The Guardian. London.
  7. ^ a b Shavelson, Lonny (2010-08-02). "News / USA: America's First Muslim College Opens This Fall". Voice of America online. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Scholars Plan U.S.' First Four-Year Accredited Islamic College". Fox News online. Associated Press. 2009-05-17. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Shavelson, Lonny (2010-07-18). "Founders, Students Defend Islamic College". NPR News online. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
  10. ^ a b Corman, Joanna (2010-08-24). "Zaytuna College, First Muslim College In U.S., Opens In California". Huffington Post online. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
  11. ^ Bradley Hagerty, Barbara (2010-09-08). "New College Teaches Young American Muslims". NPR online. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
  12. ^ a b c Kamal, Sameea (2012-01-01). "Seeds of Change: Zaytuna Shakes Its Roots". Illume Magazine online. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
  13. ^ a b "Affiliates". Berkeley Law School online. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
  14. ^ "WASC letter" (PDF). Zaytuna College. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  15. ^ "US gets its first accredited Muslim college". The Express Tribune. March 12, 2015. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
  16. ^ Schwartz, Stephen Suleyman (29 April 2015). "Don't Believe the Hype about Zaytuna College". Middle East Forum. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  17. ^ Beth, Mary (May 4, 2015). "Muslim college carves niche in USA". USA Today. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
  18. ^ a b c Winston, Kimberly (18 March 2015). "Zaytuna College recognized as first accredited Muslim college in the US". Washington Post. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  19. ^ "Admissions". Zaytuna College.
  20. ^ Hillou, Dalal (2012-02-07). "'Brick by Brick'". Arab American Institute online (blog).
  21. ^ "Zaytuna College looks to serve Muslim students". 2011-05-15. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
  22. ^ Michelle Bertho; Beverly Crawford; Edward A. Fogarty, eds. (2008). The Impact of Globalization on the United States: Culture and society, Volume 1. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 238. ISBN 0275991822.

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