March 8, 2015

In a historic first for the United States, an American Muslim college has now joined the nation’s community of accredited institutions of higher education.

On Wednesday, March 4, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) granted Zaytuna College accreditation. WASC is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and accredits institutions in several Western states, including Zaytuna’s neighbors such as Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.

“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,” said President Hamza Yusuf. “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.”

Accreditation is a mark of credibility, affirming Zaytuna’s strong educational mission and organization as well as its commitment to institutional quality, financial stability and accountability. It helps ensure that Zaytuna successfully fulfills the objectives outlined in its curriculum, which grounds its students in both the Islamic and Western scholarly traditions.

For Zaytuna’s current and future students, accreditation is good news—it means that their degrees are recognized by graduate schools and employers. Another immediate outcome of Zaytuna’s accreditation is that its internet address will soon change from zaytuna.org to zaytuna.edu, a domain shared by every other accredited college and university.

In its notification letter to Zaytuna, the WASC commission commended the College for several achievements, including the creation of “a rigorous and high-quality learning experience, one that… can be viewed as an exemplar in the liberal arts tradition.”

The letter added: “The devotion and availability of the faculty, together with their high expectations for student achievement, are setting a worthy norm for the institution as it develops its academic culture. The Commission notes that, while Zaytuna has developed an exceptionally demanding undergraduate curriculum, its students enthusiastically embrace the distinctive character of this educational opportunity.”

Zaytuna College earned accreditation in an unusually short period of time for colleges. In Fall 2010, the College notified WASC of its intent to become accredited. In December 2013, the College sought eligibility to apply for accreditation, which was approved by WASC in February 2014, and accreditation was granted on March 4, 2015.

The accreditation process included a site visit by a team of administrators from other colleges and universities appointed by WASC; it also included a comprehensive self-study of the ways in which Zaytuna substantially fulfills the four major WASC standards, divided into 39 criteria.

Zaytuna College began as Zaytuna Institute in 1996, an educational organization committed to reviving the traditional methods of pedagogy found in the Islamic intellectual tradition. In 2009, it was founded as a liberal arts college in Berkeley, California, by Hatem Bazian, Zaid Shakir, and Hamza Yusuf, with a mission that called for grounding students in the Islamic scholarly tradition as well as the cultural currents and critical ideas shaping modern society.

The College’s curriculum is rooted in the classical liberal arts aimed at equipping students with the tools of learning, critical thinking, and eloquent expression. Zaytuna graduated its first class in 2014.

On May 24 of this year, Zaytuna College will graduate its second cohort of students, marking the College’s fifth anniversary.