Assalamu alaikum, peace be with you dear readers,
A few weeks ago, I was greatly delighted to ‘attend’ online, the first commencement ceremony of Zaytuna college. Zaytuna (=Olive/Olive tree) college is North America’s first academic Muslim liberal arts college. I believe it’s degree certification is from UC Berkeley. It was set-up by Sh. Hamza Yusuf Hanson, the scholar interviewed in the series I blogged recently.
I have been following the budding and growth of this institution keenly the past four years and it was a proud moment to be able to witness its first commencement. The occasion was graced by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, one of the few remaining ‘giant scholars’ in the Muslim world. He is a master of many spheres, speaks fluent French in addition to a very high caliber of Arabic and has a CV I have no words to describe, so I won’t. Suffice to say, that in his demenour and service he has come to embody what a true scholar is, and he is one of the teachers of Sh. Hamza. It is a great compliment to Zaytuna college that Sh. Bin Bayyah made the trip out for the commencement despite his 80+ years and difficulty with travel. He did it due to his heartfelt support of the endeavor. And indeed, it is a desperately needed endeavor. You may catch a glimpse of him in the clip, the elderly gentleman in traditional garb with his scholars turban. Knowledge has always been a prized possession for the Muslim, and God bless Sh. Hamza and his likes, who are fighting hard to bring back the light of learning to the Muslim world.
Faatimah Knight is a shining example of what a young person schooled in such an environment of sound knowledge and real scholarship can produce. Imam Zaid Shakir, is a well known and well beloved figure in the North American Muslim world. He is an African American ex-US marine (if I’m not mistaken) who converted to Islam several decades ago, and then schooled in traditional Islamic scholarship, who is now a teacher at Zaytuna. Imam Zaid mentions that whenever he sees Faatimah walking down the aisle, he calls out to her as ‘Fathima Knight in shining armour’. A compliment this young lady well deserves. This young lady is just that – someone inspiring for her truthfulness, sincerity and determination to follow her true heart.
I was so inspired and ‘taken’ by the depth and wisdom of her commencement address, delivered with such obvious sincerity that I wanted to share it with you. It is a 9.5 min clip. I hope you will be able to listen and be as inspired as I was. I pray for this young lady and may there be many more like her. She is well named by wise parents, after the daughter of the beloved Messenger of God, Fathima az Zahra (=the resplendent one… a title given to her by the people out of love. The world’s second oldest continuously running university, Al-Azhar in Cairo is actually named after her)
May God protect and increase this beautiful young lady. I am happy to note she has been offered a full scholarship to grad school in the illustrious University of Chicago Islamic studies program. I believe she refused a full scholarship for undergraduate study in U of Chicago to go to Zaytuna. She is one of the 14 students of the class of 2014. May God bless them all, their teachers and all who have supported this difficult and challenging endeavor.