Zaytuna is currently in escrow to secure a permanent home for Zaytuna College, the first four-year Muslim university in the nation, located in a community of religion-focused academic institutions in the North Berkeley area known as Holy Hill.
Currently, the college rents a space from the American Baptist Seminary of the West on the south side of Berkeley.“It was always part of a long term plan to have a permanent home, to own our own facility,” said Syed Mubeen Saifullah, secretary of Zaytuna’s Board of Trustees. “What (buying the new facility) does is reduce rental costs long term and brings us in to the theological discourse that’s happening right on Holy Hill.”
Zaytuna College’s new location across the street from the Graduate Theological Union and one block away from the University of California, Berkeley and will allow access to the Union’s $45 million library system and the university’s established Muslim community.
“It puts us in the heart of where we need to be,” Mubeen said.
The new facility is “significantly” bigger than the rented space with nearly 24,000 square feet for administrative offices, classrooms and a large assembly hall, according to Mubeen.
“It literally fulfills all our needs outside of housing,” he said, adding that the facility is surrounded by a number of apartment complexes and homes.
The building is owned by the Pacific School of Religion, a graduate school of religion and a member of the Graduate Theological Union, who bought the former Disciples of Christ church three years ago with the intention of bringing in another school.
Currently, about 1,000 students study in the nine seminaries and the existing centers for Judaism, Buddhism and Islamic Studies.
“To have an Islamic college close by seemed like a wonderful opportunity to work on how religion functions globally and increase conversations,” said Riess Potterveld, president of the Pacific School of Religion, which was founded in 1866. “We’re hoping that this will go through.”
The sale will not be finalized till the summer of 2012 and Zaytuna College still needs to obtain all the use permits from the city, he said.
“The idea that the religions need to be in conversation with each other, need to learn more about each others’ beliefs and ethics and history and traditions and rituals -- the more you live side by side, the more opportunities there are to have those kinds of learnings that go across religious communities,” Potterveld said. “That’s why it’s such a positive thing to have this.”