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From Light without Fire
Finding ways to explain himself is what sent a Muslim student of mine to Zaytuna Institute in the first place. Explaining themselves as traditional Muslim scholars is also what founders Sheik Hamza Yusuf, Imam Zaid Shakir, and Dr. Hatem Bazian have in mind with Zaytuna College, which, after years of planning, finally opened its doors in 2010. Because as much as nearly everyone involved in the story that follows would like to deny it, or like it not to be the case, there’s no getting around the fact that the 9/11 terrorist attacks occupy a central place in how we—all of us, Muslim and non-Muslim alike—think about Islam in contemporary America. We’d seen it once again at Fort Hood. What we’d been hearing for nearly a decade is that where Muslims gather—in the public square, a local mosque, or a military base loaded with guns—Allah is in their midst, raising Cain.
When Zaytuna College opened its doors, I was there. And I was there again and again all throughout that first year—in the classroom with Rasheeda and Faatimah and Leenah, with Mahassin and Sumaya and Reem; in the mosque with Dustin listening to sermons from Imam Zaid; in Islamic centers tucked away in low-rent industrial parks with Omar and his kids; and in the dormitories and Zaytuna library with Haroon and Chris and Ahmad and Hadeel the deejay. We ate together at halal restaurants and celebrated the birth of the Prophet almost every visit. Where Muslims gather, Allah is in their midst. This much I now know is true.