Islamic Scholars Plan for America’s First Muslim College

Sheik Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir share a vision for the next step in the evolution of Islam in America: creating the country’s first four-year, accredited Muslim college.

The two men, American scholars of Islam and leaders in the Muslim community, are criss-crossing the country building support for an institution they call Zaytuna College, which they plan to open next fall. The college will serve the nation’s growing Muslim population, blending traditional Islam and American culture and establishing a permanent place for the religion in American society.

Before any of that can happen, Zaytuna’s founders face steep challenges. They must hire a staff, establish a curriculum, develop admissions policies, and raise at least $5-million just to open their doors, all during a particularly trying time for college fund raising. At the same time, government scrutiny has put a chill on Muslim philanthropy.

Sheik Hamza Yusuf (left) and Imam Zaid Shakir, the Muslim scholars who are creating Zaytuna U., are often called upon to speak on behalf of mainstream Islam in the United States. Kathryn Masterson reports.

Scholars in the United States planning on starting an Islamic college

A plan to launch the country’s first four-year accredited Islamic college is moving closer to fulfilling its vision. Advisors to the project have scheduled to have a June vote to decide whether the proposed Zaytuna College – what some are calling a “Muslim Georgetown” – can open in the fall of next year. Imam Zaid Shakir and Sheikh Hamza Yusuf of California have spent years planning the school, which will offer a liberal arts education and training in Islamic scholarship. “As a faith community our needs aren’t any different than the needs of any other faith community,” Shakir told the Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals. Others have tried to start Muslim colleges around New York and Chicago, but such previous plans have remained obscure or quickly unfolded; Zaytuna college, however, appears to be a real potential.