July 2013 Newsletter

This Ramadan, Let’s Finish What We Started

Last year, Zaytuna College met a monumental milestone when we purchased the flagship building for our campus atop Berkeley’s “Holy Hill,” a center for faith and higher education. We had found ourselves a home—a permanent academic address for Islam in America.

Now we need to make that home ours. We have already moved our administrative offices there, but we need to prepare the campus for our students and faculty. We need to craft classrooms, study lounges, a library—and a serene space for worship and reflection.

For this, we need to raise $4 million for renovations. “Muslims have always ensured that beauty and learning walk hand-in-hand,” says Waheed Rasheed, our Vice President for Administrations and Operations. “We want our students to experience a campus that inspires them to learn and grow—and we want the American Muslim community to experience a campus that inspires them about the future of their faith in this country.”

This Ramadan, you can help us finish what we started.

Last year, we unveiled our Brick by Brick campaign to raise money for the new campus. Many of you came through, dedicating bricks in your name and the names of your loved ones for each gift of $1,000. This builders’ wall, once displayed at Zaytuna, will be an enduring testament to the pioneers who made our vision a reality.

You can still be one of them. Join our Brick by Brick campaign this Ramadan.


Scholar Studying American Islam’s “Crisis of Authority” to Headline Zaytuna Convocation

Dr. Zareena Grewal, an emerging Muslim scholar who teaches at Yale University, has been named to deliver the keynote remarks at the 2013 Convocation (Aug. 27), where we welcome our newest freshman class. This year will mark the first time that all four cohorts—freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors—will be represented at the Zaytuna Convocation.

Currently, Dr. Grewal is completing a major work, Islam is a Foreign Country, about American Islam’s “crisis of authority.” In the book, she “follows the journeys of American Muslim youth who travel in global, underground Islamic networks” to seek a religious home. Her publisher, New York University Press, continues: “By examining the tension between American Muslims’ ambivalence toward the American mainstream and their desire to enter it, Grewal puts contemporary debates about Islam in the context of a long history of American racial and religious exclusions.”

Dr. Grewal, a historical anthropologist and documentary filmmaker, teaches courses at Yale on Muslims in America, U.S. cultural and political interests in the Middle East, and ethnographic and documentary film. In 2004, she directed and produced By the Dawn’s Early Light: Chris Jackson’s Journey to Islam, a film that explores the scrutiny American Muslims face about their patriotism toward their country.

Previous speakers at the Zaytuna Convocation include James A. Donahue, then the president of the Graduate Theological Union; Sherman A. Jackson, the King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture at USC; and Sulayman S. Nyang, professor at Howard University.


“Even Your Dreams Should Be in Arabic”

Dr. Fadi Elhin sees the effects of seven weeks at Zaytuna College every day. He sees it in the student who arrived in June and did not know the Arabic alphabet. Now, that student challenges himself by striving to access the Qur’an and hadith. For Dr. Elhin, the director of the eight-week Summer Arabic Intensive, these past seven weeks have been a revelation.

“I have some students who basically had no idea what Arabic even looked like, whether it starts from right to left or left to right,” he says. “But now, we have many of them being able to read, write, and speak—not at the highest level, but they can communicate.”

This Friday, Aug. 2, the Arabic Intensive will hold a graduation ceremony for the 57 students who completed the summer program. Zaytuna has held the program each summer for the past six years, and this year’s program has been the largest to date.

It’ll also be Dr. Elhin’s first graduation with Zaytuna, and he’s looking forward to it. He studied Arabic and Islamic Studies in Jordan and, after stops in New York and Montana, arrived at Zaytuna this June .“Zaytuna,” he says, “gives you freedom if you want to learn the language. You have it in the very beautiful conditions for these students to study here.”

Under his leadership, meanwhile, the program has already made subtle changes—everything from reducing extracurricular activities to adjusting for a more Ramadan-friendly schedule—that have significantly improved the learning experience.

“To succeed in seven or eight weeks,” says Elhin, “students should have nothing to do except Arabic this summer. We limit all other things, except for studying. That’s why if you leave everything to spend eight weeks to focus on the language, even your dreams should be in Arabic.”


Spread the Word: Zaytuna Seeks Controller

As Zaytuna College continues to grow by leaps and bounds, its operational and administrative needs are also growing. Now, we have an immediate opening for a Controller to oversee our accounting and finance functions. We ask you to spread the word to anyone who may be interested in applying.

The Controller reports to the VP of Administration and Operations and is responsible for the overall management of accounting functions and the provision of financial data and guidance to the Zaytuna Operations, including the monthly closing process and production of actual financial results, cash flow management and reporting, purchase order control, budgets, cash management, and other processes and internal controls. Click here for details.