Living Links

Linking Our Community to a Living Tradition

Living Links is a Zaytuna College educational initiative that seeks to revive two traditions: the time-tested Islamic tradition of conveying religious knowledge from teachers to students through sound chains of transmission, and Zaytuna’s own tradition as an American Muslim institution committed to community-based learning.

The Living Links courses, all taught by Zaytuna College faculty, are part of the Zaytuna Honors Program but are also open to the local community in the San Francisco Bay Area. The classes aim to restore the experience of a traditional circle of knowledge, a model once prevalent throughout the Muslim world. Another key element of classical Muslim learning was memorization, and each Living Links course has a core text that honors students are expected to memorize.

One of the great wisdoms of the Islamic tradition is that learning involves more than the mere transfer of information from the lines of books to the student. It also involves human hearts connecting with one another, and the transfer of states of being. Zaytuna’s Living Links program affirms what Muslim scholars have always said: “Knowledge is to be found in the hearts of humans, not in the lines of books.”

Living Links classes are open at no cost to the San Francisco Bay Area community, as well as to an online audience through live-streamed broadcasts. Classes will be held at Zaytuna College, 2401 Le Conte Ave. in Berkeley. Please sign up here for live-stream alerts.

Spring 2015 Courses

Courses have been completed for this semester. All recorded sessions are available under our 12000 Strong program.

The Roots of Interpretative Disagreements

Instructor: Abdullah bin Hamid Ali
Text: al-Waraqat
Saturdays: 10am–11:15am PST | Free

Muslims often say that diverse scholarly interpretation is a mercy. However, many of us belie this claim when we attempt to impose our favored viewpoints upon others. This course endeavors to unearth the root causes of the legal disagreements between the major schools of Islamic law -- because knowing why we differ can enable us to be better at how we differ.

There exist a number of Muslim schools of law and theology, spiritual orders, and sects, even though we all read the same Qur’an and believe in the same Prophet, upon him be peace. What is it about the language of the Qur’an and Hadith that opens Islam's sacred sources to so many different interpretations? Is it possible for more than one interpretation to be valid and acceptable?

Through a study of al-Waraqat, Imam al-Juwayni’s foundational didactic poem on the principles of Islamic jurisprudence, we can examine the issues that produced tolerance in our tradition.

Abdullah bin Hamid Ali is a graduate of the University of al-Qarawiyin in Fes, Morocco, and a doctoral student at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. At Zaytuna, he teaches classes on Islamic law, theology, and hadith.

The Discerning Eyes' Delight

Instructor: Faraz Khan
Text: Qurrat al-Absar
Saturdays: 11:30 am to 1pm PST | Free

The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, is reported to have said, "None of you truly believes until I am more beloved to him than his parents, his children, and all of humanity."

This sublime virtue -- loving God's messenger above all else -- is acquired and deepened by knowledge of his blessed life and character. The Qurrat al-Absar of Imam Lamti, an erudite 10th century scholar from Morocco, is a brilliant didactic poem that explores not only the Prophet's life events, but also his blessed family, closest Companions, miracles, and names. The poem is truly a unique work of the sirah, detailing even his garments, furniture, and animals.

Indeed, every aspect of God's most beloved is imbued with a light. Through that light, the believer's soul finds a repose that the Arabs would call the 'coolness' or sheer delight of the eyes, the true basis of joy and celebration. "Say: by the bounty of God and His great mercy, in that alone let them rejoice..." (Q. 10:58). May God's blessings and peace be upon him, his folk and his Companions.

Faraz Khan has studied the traditional Islamic sciences in Amman, Jordan. He directs Zaytuna College's Honors Program and teaches classes on theology, logic, and prophetic biography.

About the Honors Program

These weekend courses are one component of the Zaytuna College Honors Program. Zaytuna College students pursuing the Bachelor of Arts degree in Islamic Law and Theology are offered an Honors Program through which they complete additional courses beyond those required for the degree. The Honors Program consists of an extensive memorization component and a Senior Thesis that demonstrates mastery of a subject through research, writing, and a public presentation. The College offers weekly sessions for students in the Honors Program to study the texts that are being memorized. These sessions are also open for enrichment to students not enrolled in the Honors Program.

Living Links Questions