CALIFORNIA – Making history for Islamic education in the US, a Muslim college has received formal academic accreditation last weekend, becoming the first officially recognized Islamic institution of higher learning in the country of seven million Muslim population.
“Today, Zaytuna’s accreditation roots this vision in a reality recognized within American higher education,” Hamza Yusuf, president of the college, said in a statement celebrating the announcement and cited by Thinking Progress on Tuesday, March 11.
The statement also added, “[Accreditation] helps ensure that Zaytuna successfully fulfils the objectives outlined in its curriculum, which grounds its students in both the Islamic and Western scholarly traditions.”
Yusuf’s statement followed the declaration that Zaytuna College, a liberal-arts school based in Berkeley, California, was formally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
The WASC is one of six official academic bodies responsible for the authorizing public and private colleges and universities in the United States.
In its letter granting Zaytuna accreditation, WASC lauded the school for its “rigorous and high-quality learning experience, one that… can be viewed as an exemplar in the liberal arts tradition.”
Zaytuna College, a brainchild of Imam Shakir, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and Professor Hatem Bazian, stems its name from the Arabic word “olive”.
It opened doors to first students in its rented space in a Baptist seminary in Berkeley in August, 2010.
It offers two majors; Arabic language and Islamic law and theology.
Zaytuna College earned its reputation as a great educational institute, being compared to great Catholic colleges, such as Georgetown or Notre Dame.
Being a Muslim school with a quasi-”great books” curriculum, it was compared to Harvard College, circa 1850 — but instead of the Bible, Greek and Latin, and Plato, it’s the Qur’an, Arabic and Plato.
The college administrators said they hope their success leads to greater acceptance of their style of Islamic education and Muslims at large.
“[Accreditation] gives our community its first accredited academic address in the United States,” Yusuf said.
“And we hope, God willing, that there will be more such Muslim colleges and universities to come.”
The United States is home to a Muslim minority of between six to eight million.
A 2013 survey found that American Muslims are the most moderate around the world.
It also showed that US Muslims generally express strong commitment to their faith and tend not to see an inherent conflict between being devout and living in a modern society.