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U.S. 'Madrasa' mixes subjects to achieve an American feel

Sunday April 14, 2013 06:21:37 PM, Agencies

Berkeley (California): Mixing Qur'anic and Arabic studies with Greek, scholastic and Western sciences, America’s first Muslim college is setting a unique example as a Muslim version of the great American universities.

"I believe the liberal arts are key to understanding Islam," Mussab Abouabdalla, 19-year-old Muslim student who attends Zaytuna College, told The New York Times on Saturday, April 13.


"We need to understand our tradition trans-historically. When someone makes a lampooning of the Prophet Muhammad, why do we react with violence? Why don't we react with art and literature?"

Admiring his study at Zaytuna College, Abouabdalla studies the Noble Qur'an, the quadrivium, the Renaissance curriculum, comprising arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy.

These seven arts were once the basis of a European education, and they have recently become popular with some Christian home-schoolers.

Zaytuna College, which stems its name from the Arabic word “olive”, opened doors to first students in its rented space in a Baptist seminary in Berkeley in August, 2010.

It offers two majors; Arabic language and Islamic law and theology.

Zaytuna College earned its reputation as a great educational institute, being compared to great Catholic colleges, such as Georgetown or Notre Dame.

Being a Muslim school with a quasi-"great books” curriculum, it was compared to Harvard College, circa 1850 — but instead of the Bible, Greek and Latin, and Plato, it’s the Qur'an, Arabic and Plato.

Mahan Mirza, a Pakistani-born scholar, invoked the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s "Great Books of the Western World" series, published in 1952.

"The series jumps from Augustine in 400 to Aquinas in the year 1200," said Dr. Mirza, who studied at the University of Texas and Yale, then left Notre Dame for a job here.

He added that intervening years included a golden age of Islamic scholarship.

"We consider ourselves part of that conversation, rather than something separate,” he said.

The Zaytuna college, a brainchild of Imam Shakir, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and Professor Hatem Bazian, aspires to be America’s first accredited, four-year Muslim liberal arts college in the United States.





 

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