June 2013 Newsletter


Our New Vice-President for Academic and Student Affairs

Dear Zaytuna College Community:
Greetings of peace and the blessing of Allah to all of you!

Eager to share the knowledge and experience Allah has allowed me to gain over decades at colleges and universities both here and abroad, I am delighted to join the dedicated staff and faculty at Zaytuna College. My career has included faculty positions at Yale University’s English Language Institute, at the United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain, and at Tunxis Community College, where I also taught Spanish and World Religions. It was there that I learned college administration as Dean of Academic Affairs for nine years.

Every day I come to Zaytuna with the Prophet’s words etched in my heart and mind: “If anyone travels on a road in search of knowledge, Allah will cause him to travel on one of the roads of Paradise.”

Zaytuna College is blazing a historic trail. As such, our success will, insha Allah, inspire other Muslim institutions such as hospitals and think tanks. We can be that beacon of light for the broader Muslim community. With the consistent support of Muslims, Zaytuna is going through a growth spurt.

In addition to acquiring the new campus in Berkeley, we have recently been joined by Dr. Fadi Elhin from Montana to teach Arabic and serve as director of the Summer Arabic Intensive, and Faraz Khan from Texas has come aboard to teach Logic in the Qur’an and Islamic Tradition, and to develop the Honors Program. Dr. Mark Delp from the Graduate Theological Union will soon join us to teach courses on logic and philosophy.

Under my direction, a re-organization of the Office of Academic and Student Affairs has been underway to improve our effectiveness and support growth. Dawood Yasin from Dartmouth College will soon join us as Director of Student Life and be here to welcome our fourth cohort of students this fall. We will graduate our first class of scholars in Spring 2014 insha Allah.

I am grateful to have been called to this inspired and inspiring project of positive growth. May Allah make it possible for us to be the very best we can be.

Colleen Keyes
Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs


“Take advantage of everything we offer you.”

None other than the late, great American poet Robert Frost welcomed students from around the country to Zaytuna’s sixth Summer Arabic Intensive, the annual residential language program. It wasn’t, naturally, the poet resurrected—but, rather, his timeless wisdom, distilled through Zaytuna co-founder Zaid Shakir’s commentary during a first-week session on “The Road Not Taken,” in which he reminded the students that the path they chose for the summer—to surrender themselves to the Arabic language—deserved its full right. Contemplating the possibilities embedded in any alternative path, he added, would only serve as an unnecessary distraction away from Frost’s realization that the path taken “has made all the difference.”

Indeed, the Summer 2013 program will demand the full attention of its student body, which, at 58 students, is the largest to date. “Take advantage of everything we have to offer you,” Dr. Fadi Elhin, the incoming program director for the Arabic Intensive,” advised the students in an introductory letter last week. “Take part in extracurricular activities, attend events, visit your instructors and teaching assistants during office hours, and engage with fellow students to gain further perspectives and insight.”

In addition to attending Level 1 or Level 2 classes five days a week, the students heard from all three of Zaytuna’s co-founders during the first week. In his remarks, delivered through a live Skype session from the United Kingdom, Hamza Yusuf relied on didactic stories to give life to the actual study of Arabic. He emphasized that the language is a means—not an end—that opens doors to other areas of study.

Along with Dr. Elhin, joining the program for the first time are two new instructors: Faraz Khan, who has studied and taught Arabic and traditional Islamic Studies several years, most recently in Houston, Texas; and, Joanna Bell, an Arabic language instructor at The Ohio State University. As with last year’s program, the Arabic Intensive will extend into Ramadan.

“Ramadan,” Dr. Elhin reminded the students, “is fast approaching so let us prepare ourselves for the holy month and support each other during this time. An intensive program is challenging and fast-paced but in sha Allah the blessing of Ramadan will make it easier and beneficial for everyone.”


As we approach the blessed month of Ramadan, it is a time for reflection and introspection, and an appropriate time for all us to reflect on one of the five pillars of Islam, the obligation of zakat. Stemming from the tri-literal root z-k-w, the word relates to purification, signifying the cleansing of one’s lawfully earned income from any taint or impurity. As such, zakat benefits both the giver and the receiver.

At Zaytuna, we want to remind our friends and supporters that we use zakat donations only for students in need.

This is part of our effort to ensure that the zakat funds we have been entrusted with are spent in the most judicious and least controversial manner. Hence, we do not spend zakat for the acquisition, renovation or maintenance of our physical infrastructure. Furthermore, only those students who fall into the categories of destitute, indigent and debtors (tuition, housing and related costs are considered debts that the student may owe to the College) receive zakat funds that are given to the College to dispense.

Prophet Muḥammad, upon him be peace, is reported to have said that people have a right to receive charity from wealthy individuals beyond mere zakat. Such supererogatory acts of charity fall under the umbrella of sadaqah. And at Zaytuna, we use sadaqah donations to help grow the college; we use the funds for our endowment, for renovations of our new campus, and for funding our educational and operational needs.

We will soon be launching our Ramadan campaign to seek your financial support, insha’Allah.


On May 25th, Zaytuna College hosted a day-long conference and an evening fundraising event in Anaheim, California, titled “Reclaiming Our Faith: Negotiating Modern Theological Fault Lines.” A capacity crowd heard Zaytuna College scholars, as well as visiting scholars, address a series of topics relevant to Muslims in the West. The videos we are posting include talks by Zaytuna scholars, including Hamza Yusuf, Mahan Mirza, and Faraz Khan, as well as talks by our guest speakers, including Tamara Gray, Jonathan Brown and Sherman Jackson.

For those who were unable to attend the event, we’re delighted to post the videos of the talks. For those who attended the event, you may want to share these videos with friends and family who were unable to attend.


Dr. Hatem Bazian Helps Launch Major International Conference

Islamophobia is a pervasive form of racism and discrimination, not just in the United States, but in the rest of the West, especially in France and other European countries. That is why the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project (IRDP), a research unit founded by Zaytuna College co-founder Dr. Hatem Bazian at the University of California-Berkeley, is hosting an international conference on Islamophobia to be held in Paris, France, on December 13-14, 2013.

“In Western Europe, Islamophobia is on the rise,” says a statement released by the sponsoring groups. “France is among the countries where Islamophobia acquires complex and multi-layered dimensions. … The time is right for an international conference in Paris, France, to examine the problematic Islamophobic discourses in France and Western Europe and the curtailment of Muslim legal status as religious, ethnic and racial minorities.”

The IRDP, along with Paris-based co-sponsor Centre d'Analyse et d'Intervention Sociologiques (CADIS), issued a call for papers in anticipation of the conference, titled “The Epistemic, Racial, Cultural and Structural Exclusionary Measures in France and Europe.”

The call for papers is open to specialists, academics, and activists researching issues related to Islamophobia in France and Western Europe. Those interested in responding should send a title, a 300-word abstract, and a one paragraph biography by September 2, 2013, to Dr. Hatem Bazian hatemb@berkeley.edu no later than September 2, 2013

To learn more, visit: http://crg.berkeley.edu/content/islamophobia