Imran Ghani, Class of 2018
Imran is from Houston, TX. He came to Zaytuna to work on his faith in God and to better understand Islam. His research interests include Qur'anic exegesis and the history of Islam in South Asia. He enjoys running, playing tennis, and daydreaming.
Imam Zaid Shakir
Imam Zaid is a co-founder of Zaytuna College and an esteemed senior faculty member. He is a prolific writer on an impressively diverse array of topics. He teaches Islamic Law and History and the Advanced Arabic Seminar at the College.
Safiyah Lazkani, Class of 2018
Safiyah is from Hayward, CA. She came to Zaytuna to strengthen her faith in God and her understanding of Islam. She finds joy in baking indulgent sweets for friends and family. Safiyah is passionate about societal issues and enjoys researching and writing about them.
Quratulain Shoukat, Class of 2017
Quratulain is from Baltimore, MD. She has a passion and appreciation for the great outdoors, southern cuisine, and good humor.
Dr. Colleen Keyes
Dr. Colleen is from New Haven, Connecticut. She loves her family, her work, students, books, and knowledge and actions that benefit humanity. Her research interests include the "history of Palestine, Edward Said's life and thought, questions of representation, the relationship between interpretations of religious texts and political theologies, and theologies of liberation."
Scott Doolin, Class of 2018
Scott is from the Bay Area and came to Zaytuna to readjust.
Scott likes to hike and the idea of gardening. He enjoys writing about the philosophy of language.
Omar Bayramoglu, Class of 2016
Omar is from New Jersey. He came to Zaytuna to work on himself. His interests include cosmology, technology, and Islamic theology. He plans to pursue further Islamic studies after Zaytuna.
Rohban Zahid, Class of 2017
Rohban is from Springfield, IL. He came to Zaytuna for its curriculum and the opportunity to learn Arabic. He enjoys playing sports and reading historical fiction, biographical works, and social theories. Rohban enjoys writing about human psychology and social issues and trends.
Aisha Ibrahim, Class of 2017
Aisha is from the South Side of Chicago. She enjoys a variety of artistic media- from ceramics and pottery to painting and cosmetics. When applying to colleges, she was told to go where she felt most at home. Zaytuna has not disappointed her. Aisha enjoys discussing and writing on legnth about racial and social inequality.
Reema Lateef, Class of 2016
Reema is from Orlando, FL. She is a marathon runner, an avid writer, aspiring lawyer, feminist extraordinaire, globe trotter, and a lover of Victorian English novels. Reema is a counter-culture advocate and a harsh critic of social and racial hypocrisies. She is also interested in the intersection of the law and sexual-based violence.
Hanna Kim, Class of 2019
Hanna is from the Bay Area. As she grew older and became increasingly exposed to the culture, customs, and general normalities of the "American life," she began to consider her role in the the narrative of Islam in the West. She intends to pursue a career in journalism.
Hicham Hall, Class of 2019
Moroccan-born and American bred Hicham hails from the DC area. He came to Zaytuna to get a world class education and to connect with God and His Messenger. Hicham is dedicated to perfecting his soul through the enlightened company of people of Knowledge. Hicham is also a dedicated gym-enthusiast.
Yusuf Masud, Class of 2018
Yusuf is from a suburb in Phoenix, AZ. He came to Zaytuna for its unique curriculum and the qualified scholarship. He is interested in the intersection of theology, philosophy, spirituality and metaphysics. He enjoys reading, writing, and romanticizing.
Ahmed Kunbargi, Class of 2017
Ahmed is from Southern California. His interests include, but are not limited to: sailing, backpacking, and reading. He loves mountains, forests, and trees.
Ayesha Darab, Class of 2016
Ayesha is from Vienna, VA. She enjoys gardening and, ever now and then, will philosophize. She is interested in Islam and psychology, law, and pastoral care. Ayesha will be pursuing her Masters degree.
Imam Bilal Ansari
Bilal is from New Haven, CT. He is the director of student life and a longtime chaplain with years of experience and training from Hartford Seminary. He loves keeping the company of shepherds and students of knowledge.
Photo Courtesy of Zaytuna College.
“Oh, so you attend Zaytuna College? What are you going to do afterwards?”
An overwhelming majority of students at Zaytuna do not seem to know what they want to do with their lives. This does not of course discount the fact that they are ambitious and intelligent; it only shows that they are lacking direction. This directionlessness is somewhat understood given that Zaytuna is a liberal arts college, and the purpose of liberal education is not for specific vocational training, but for the cultivation of the self. Liberal education aims to endow the individual with the tools to lead a fulfilling life and to learn to flourish. That said, at the end of the day, students do need to go on to do significant things if they are to carry the Zaytuna brand, while, at the bare minimum, ensure that they can put food on the table.
Sometime back, Imran and I were discussing this phenomenon amongst ourselves, and came to the conclusion that just as there are madhāhib in our jurisprudential tradition, there are schools of thought of what we as students should be aspiring towards. The two towering schools that we came to a consensus on are the Mahanian and the Bilalian school, named after Dr. Mahan Mirza and Imam Bilal Ansari, respectively. Dr. Mahan is the Dean of Faculty and a respected faculty member who received his PhD from Yale in Islamic Studies. Dean Bilal is the director of student life and a longtime chaplain with years of experience and training from Hartford Seminary.
The eponymous Mahanian school fashions students who are professional and intellectual warriors who are grounded in both the Western and Islamic traditions, but ready to engage with the challenges of their time. The Mahanian school seeks to produce thought-leaders.
The Bilalian school, on the other hand, aims to cultivate experts of emotional intelligence. These students will work as chaplains in hospitals, prisons, and college campuses. The Bilalian school strives to assemble grassroots activists.
The necessity of both is not doubted by any means and, in many cases, the work of thought-leaders and activists go hand in hand. However, there is a tension due to the presence of these two camps as they contend with one another. This tension is organic and healthy. Yet the question is: are they creating a bias? Zaytuna College’s mission statement reads, “to educate and prepare morally committed professional, intellectual, and spiritual leaders…” These schools may presently have the most influence, perhaps because of the charisma of their founders, but is it fair to say that they may have been overshadowed by the Yasinian, Delpian, Farazian, or even the Ranian school?
Before the four madhāhib were canonized, there were thousands of jurisprudential schools of thought. Only the Ḥanafī, Mālikī, Shāfīʿī, and Hanbalī schools we know today withstood the test of time. This was by virtue of the influence of their founders and their erudite students who promulgated and codified their teachings. We at Zaytuna find ourselves on the scene of a momentous, dare I say, watershed, occasion. What we choose to do now will influence many students to come and the paths they decide to take in life.
We are not saying that one school has to take precedence over the other. We are merely proposing to take this discussion to the forefront, and maybe the result will either be a consolidation of the schools or a further codification of them.
Perhaps one day in the future, as the college grows, there will be a point where one can major in Islamic Law and Theology, with a minor in chaplaincy, or biblical hermeneutics, or the great outdoors. But until then, we want to hear from you…