Zaytuna College, a liberal arts college in Berkeley, California, is now the country's first accredited Muslim college. The school was granted accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, a label that adds value to institutions while, at the same time, increasing accountability.
The Muslim college received a letter from the award-giving body, stating it had been granted "initial accreditation." The approval letter went on to announce that the school may now offer a Bachelor of Arts degree in Islamic Law and Theology, Kristin Decarr of Education News reported.
"Five years ago, we introduced an undergraduate liberal arts program inspired by the idea of restoring the holistic education that had been offered in the great teaching centers of Islamic civilization," said College President Hamza Yusuf, as stated on the college's site.
"Today, Zaytuna's accreditation roots this vision in a reality recognized within American higher education," he added. "It gives our community its first accredited academic address in the United States. And we hope, God willing, that there will be more such Muslim colleges and universities to come."
Founded in 1996, Zaytuna briefly ran as a Muslim seminary before becoming a Muslim liberal arts school in 2009. The first official graduation took place in 2014.
The school currently has about 30 students. Based on its website, Zaytuna's mission is to ground "students in the Islamic scholarly tradition as well as the cultural currents and critical ideas shaping modern society."
Most of the religiously-affiliated colleges in the United States are Christian, while others are Jewish and Buddhist schools, Jack Jenkins reported for Think Progress. However, no Muslim college in the country has been granted accreditation before Zaytuna. When it comes to admissions, the college noted that it does not descriminate based on "age, race, sex, religion, or national/ethnic origin."
"[Accreditation] gives our community its first accredited academic address in the United States," said Yusuf. "And we hope, God willing, that there will be more such Muslim colleges and universities to come."