By Laura Fawaz, TMO Contributing Reporter
Dearborn, MI – Last Sunday Zaytuna College held a fundraiser event at The Henry Hotel in Dearborn, in efforts to further their five-year plan for the college and the students. About 500 attendees were present from across the country.
“Who represents Muslims intellectually?” said Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, Zaytuna College President as he was speaking on Muslims once being at the forefront of academics. He pointed out that the early founders of science, algebra and architecture were all Muslims. Islamic attire and home décor were once mimicked and strived for by the wealthy in London and Spain. Today’s Muslims need to adopt similarly holistic approaches to Islamic learning, he said.
Today the Muslim world faces extreme suffering from within as well as from outside. Yusuf said that the Coptic Christians were in Egypt for 1400 years as a protected minority, but that recently in Libya they were slaughtered like sheep by ISIS. “Our Prophet (SAWS), in Sahih Al-Bukhari, promised he will be the lawyer for these Coptic Christians on the Day of Judgment. He’s going to be their advocate on the Day of Judgment, so where do you stand when the Prophet is the lawyer against you, because he’s the defender and the prosecutor?” said Sheikh Yusuf, and added, “We as Muslims need to stop letting our religion be dragged through the mud.”
“No matter how difficult it gets we have to maintain the faith. We cannot abandon the faith. … no matter what they do to us we have a religion that tells us what to do.
“We have an immense challenge and we have to wake up. ISIS has a magazine for western youth that anyone can download. We need to protect our youth against these things.”
The goal of this fundraising event was to raise $500,000. This would help with renovations of the new buildings and growing the student body. The new Zahra Women’s Center needs $1.3 million worth of renovations, and once complete, Zaytuna will be saving money every month that would have otherwise gone towards renting the building to house the students. The second goal is called the 50/50 plan by 2020. The plan is to raise $50 million for endowment, and $50 million for operations, renovations, student life and for capital funds.
Waheed Rasheed, the Vice President of Operations at Zaytuna College, explained the five-year plan for the school, which include doubling their student body to at least 100 students by 2020. “And this requires us to have a lot more infrastructure around student life, around operations to support the student body,” Rasheed said.
One of the most important milestones Zaytuna is working on achieving is accreditation from The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). WASC is one of the six official academic bodies responsible for the accreditation, and is seen as the best on the West Coast. Becoming an accredited school will make it able for Zaytuna.org to become Zaytuna.edu. This will also give opportunities for Zaytuna to accept visas from international students.
Rasheed pointed out that the college has made major steps each year over the past five years. Within the last five years of conception, Zaytuna College has achieved their first convocation in 2010 with their first set of students, taking on 15 of them. Two years later they opened their administrative campus in Berkeley, CA. The following year, another building was purchased. In 2014, Zaytuna College held their first commencement for the class of 2014. This year, coming later this spring, is the path of accreditation with WASC.
“America is indeed a place where you can come and fulfill your dreams and aspirations, but you have to pay your dues to those who came before you,” said Dr. Hatem Bazian, co-founder of Zaytuna College.
Dr. Bazian spoke about the creating an academic address for Muslims in America, citing it to be one that is deeply rooted spirituality; confronting issues Muslim Americans face in the U.S., as well as across the world. “I am very critical of a particular approach of Muslims where they want to be the shining city upon the hill, but they only want to inhabit it with a particular type of racial community. That city upon the hill has to be inhabited with a rainbow of people,” Dr. Bazian said.
“During my four years at Zaytuna I learned that Islam is for everyone,” said Faatimah Knight, a graduate of Zaytuna College who spoke at Sunday’s fundraising event. “Some day in the far future, someone is going to look back and maybe even marvel a bit, that the generations in this room, made America’s first Muslim liberal arts college,” added Knight.
“I hope that when those future people write our story, they will remember us as a community that gave life; a community that gave life to black boys through education, at a time when others were shooting them down, shooting us all down, a community that gave life to people of all walks of life, who were thirsty for a rare kind of education,” said Knight.