Synopses & Reviews
The story of America’s first Muslim institution of higher education, Zaytuna College
In the fall of 2010, anti-Muslim furor in the United States reached a breaking point, capping a decade in which such sentiment had surged. Loud, angry crowds gathered near New York’s Ground Zero to protest plans to build an Islamic cultural center, while a small-time Florida minister appeared on national television almost nightly promising to celebrate the anniversary of 9/11 with the burning of Korans. At the same time, fifteen devout Muslims quietly gathered in a basement in Berkeley, California, to execute a plan that had been coming together for over a decade: to found Zaytuna College, “Where Islam Meets America.” It would be the nation’s first four-year Muslim liberal arts college, its mission to establish a thoroughly American, academically rigorous, and traditional indigenous Islam.
In Light without Fire, Scott Korb tells the story of the school’s founders, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir, arguably the two most influential leaders in American Islam, “rock stars” who, tellingly, are little known outside their community. Korb also introduces us to Zaytuna’s students, young American Muslims of all stripes who admire—indeed, love—their teachers in ways college students typically don’t and whose stories, told for the first time, signal the future of Islam in this country.
From a heady theology classroom to a vibrant storefront mosque, from the run-down streets Oakland to grand ballrooms echoing with America’s most powerful Muslim voices, Korb follows Zaytuna’s students and teachers as they find their place and their voice. He ultimately creates an intimate portrait of the school and provides a new introduction to Islam as it is being lived and re-envisioned in America. It’s no exaggeration to say that here, at Zaytuna, are tomorrow’s Muslim leaders.
"Korb (Life in Year One), a writer who teaches at N.Y.U., explores the origins and founding of Zaytuna College, the first Muslim four-year undergraduate liberal arts college in the United States. Zaytuna was founded in 2008, so Korb has access to the founders and the first cohort of students, and details some of the triumphs and struggles of establishing a college, with a writerly eye for local color and character detail. The idea behind Zaytuna is to provide a place for integrating Islam and the West, and to cultivate a generation of truly American Muslim scholars. Korb's account delves deeply into these ideas, also exploring the daily life and religious practices of Muslims, as well as the religious philosophies and backgrounds of Zaytuna's founders, all of them prominent Muslim thinkers, clerics, and writers. Some of Korb's discussions are overly ambitious for a book of this size and detract from the intended main focus on Zaytuna College. Nevertheless, readers interested in Islam in America or the dynamics of Islamic education will find the book fascinating. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The first extended look into the nation’s first Muslim institution of higher education, Zaytuna College
Light Without Fire closely follows the inaugural class of Zaytuna College, the nation’s first four-year Muslim college, whose mission is to establish a thoroughly American, academically rigorous, and traditional indigenous Islam. Korb offers portraits of the school’s founders, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir, arguably the two most influential leaders in American Islam. Along the way, Korb introduces us to Zaytuna’s students, young American Muslims of all stripes, who love their teachers in ways college students typically don’t and whose stories, told here for the first time, signal the future of Islam in this country. It’s no exaggeration to say that here, at Zaytuna, are tomorrow’s Muslim leaders.
About the Author
Scott Korb is the author of Life in Year One: What the World Was Like in First-Century Palestine and coauthor of The Faith Between Us. He teaches at the New School and at New York University and lives with his family in New York City.
Table of Contents
Introduction: "Going Muslim"
Chapter 1: Zaytunah
Chapter 2: Al-Madrasah
Chapter 3: Al-Tullab
Chapter 4: A Muslim Stillness
Chapter 5: 631 Jackson Street
Chapter 6: The Dear Self
Chapter 7: Reviving the Spirit
Chapter 8: Peace Be upon Him
Chapter 9: Sacred Caravan
Chapter 10: The Citizen
Chapter 11: Jesus, the Son of Mary (Peace Be upon Them)
Chapter 12: Year One