October 2013 Newsletter

Living Links: "These Classes Are a Blessing"

Idris Bayan believes strongly that every Muslim should seek knowledge, if they can. “I think it’s a necessity of Islam to have knowledge,” says Bayan, an American convert sporting a pencil-thin Van Dyke goatee. About 20 years ago, he converted to Islam without reading the Qur’an or having met a Muslim. But parts of the religion fit him like a glove: "I always tried to have good character, good manners, and to be good toward people regardless of race, color, or creed," he says.

Years later, he moved 30 miles up the highway from San Jose, Calif., to Hayward, where the old Zaytuna Institute then offered classes for the San Francisco Bay Area community. That move made a profound change in his life. "I would not know what I know now," he says. "If it hadn’t been for Zaytuna, I wouldn’t know some of the Arabic I know, some of the words I use."

Today, Bayan hasn’t stopped seeking knowledge -- and he’s found himself again at Zaytuna. Last Saturday, he was at Zaytuna College, attending classes on hadith and theology -- classes that are part of the college Honors Program but are open for community members to enroll in person (or watch free online via livestreaming).

A lot has changed since those days in Hayward—most notably, a community organization has become a liberal arts college—but the classes Bayan attends, part of Zaytuna’s new Living Links program, are a throwback to the days before the college was founded, when Zaytuna Institute was a magnet for weekend warriors searching for faith-based instruction and inspiration.

“These classes are a blessing for the Bay Area,” said Bayan after the program’s first Saturday sessions. “The teachers are a blessing. If possible, everybody should come and learn.”

The Living Links courses, introduced this year as part of the Zaytuna Honors Program, are offered as an extracurricular track alongside Zaytuna’s undergraduate program. The classes ask students to study and memorize seminal didactic poems and other materials that span across the breadth of the subject areas of the Islamic tradition. This year, Zaytuna co-founder Zaid Shakir is teaching, with other instructors, The Forty Hadith of Imam Nawawi while Hamza Yusuf, also a co-founder, and Faraz Khan, a Zaytuna faculty member, are jointly teaching Jawharat al-Tawhid, a classical creedal poem.

Living Links, so named to emphasize the role that teachers fulfill as inheritors of an unbroken chain of knowledge, is intentionally designed to occur in a traditional setting, complementing the college’s usual classroom-style instruction. Students, men and women divided by a short barrier, sit on BackJack floor chairs neatly assembled before the instructor, who teaches, seated, from an elevated dais.

For anyone familiar with Zaytuna’s history, the nod to the days in Hayward is apparent—and even more so because Living Links courses, like those offered by Zaytuna Institute, are also open to the public, attracting weekend students like Bayan. Additionally, the courses, through a partnership with the Deen Intensive Foundation, are broadcast live, at no cost, each week. So far, more than 2,000 people across the country and abroad have signed up for the free livestream.

Mahan Mirza, the Dean of Faculty at Zaytuna, told the community members attending the classes: “This is your college; it is our college… The goodwill, donations, and prayers of each and every one of you have enabled us to be here today.”

Online Open House: Learn, Listen, and Ask Questions

For anyone mildly curious about the undergraduate program at Zaytuna College -- or seriously considering enrolling -- there is a unique opportunity Tuesday to interact directly with our faculty, staff and students.

Starting at 5pm (PST), Zaytuna College co-founder Hatem Bazian will headline a group of diverse hosts representing the Zaytuna family at an Online Open House for anyone with questions, especially prospective students and their parents. The session is ideal for students curious about the details of Zaytuna’s liberal arts education and what the rhythm of life is like at a Muslim college in the United States.

Participants learn more about Zaytuna’s mission and how it translates to the student experience. The Open Houses also feature a brief overview of the admissions process, and perhaps most critically, the invaluable opportunity to interact with the Zaytuna hosts through questions and comments.

A senior member of Zaytuna’s faculty, Bazian holds a Ph.D. from the University of California-Berkeley, where he also teaches in the Departments of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies and where he founded the Center for the Study and Documentation of Islamophobia. He is a leading San Francisco Bay Area human and civil rights activist, and he directs his scholarly attention on historical Palestine, the War on Terror, and Muslim emigration to Northern California.

In addition to Bazian, who will address the college’s educational vision, Tuesday’s Open House also features Dawood Yasin, the Director of Student Life, who will present Zaytuna’s vision for a holistic student community. Students Faatimah Knight (’14) and Ali Kirat (’15) are also slated to present, along with admissions officer Yusuf Samara.

For prospective students living closer to Zaytuna College in Berkeley, the college will also host an on-campus Open House on November 16.

Please register here: http://www.formstack.com/forms/zaytunacollege-2013openhouses

Open House Schedule

Representatives Tuesday, October 29, 5 pm Pacific ONLINE Saturday, November 16, 2 pm Pacific ON CAMPUS Wednesday, December 11, 4 pm Pacific ONLINE
Faculty Hatem Bazian Abdullah Ali Faraz Khan & Mark Delp
Administration Yusuf Samara Colleen Keyes Mahan Mirza  
Student Life Dawood Yasin Dawood Yasin Dawood Yasin
Student Body Ali Kirat, Junior Faatimah Knight, Vice President, Student Union Board Aaron Choy, Sophomore Rasheeda Plenty, President, Student Union Board Haroon Imtiaz, Senior Leena Safi, Senior