Zaytuna College is the first Muslim liberal arts college in the United States.
Zaytuna was established with the goal of educating the next generation of Muslims, and training future imams in America. Originally established as Zaytuna Institute in Hayward, California, in 1996, this community educational organisation was founded by one of the most prominent Muslim public figures and imams in America, Hamza Yusuf, together with Hesham Alalusi, a philanthropist in the San Francisco bay area. In 2004 under the guidance of another influential American convert, Zaid Shakir, Zaytuna Institute began a seminary programme and had five students graduate in 2008. Three partners Hatem Bazian, Zaid Shakir and Hamza Yusuf founded Zaytuna College in 2009 in Berkeley, California. Zaytuna College has gained in popularity amongst American Muslims thanks to Hamza Yusuf’s influential speeches; and it is also through Hamza Yusuf that the college has developed close ties with Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, a Gulf-based scholar.
Zaytuna promotes a traditional understanding of Islam. They teach the Ashari and Maturidi schools of theology along with Maliki, Hanafi, and Shafi’i jurisprudence. An inclusive and American institution, with a diverse student body from various states and ethnic backgrounds, Zaytuna’s degrees are open to both men and women. The college has its own, integrated curriculum which offers students a serious grounding in traditional Islamic texts as well as in texts from the western philosophical tradition. It effectively combines the essence of a medieval Islamic seminary with a liberal arts college, and courses range from American history and the constitution, to Arabic, theology and Islamic law. The college has recently secured accreditation and expanded its premises. Zaytuna does not receive direct funding from any government, but it is effective in mobilising resources and seeking out private donations: many of its students receive financial support from the college.