Students at Zaytuna college, the first accredited Muslim liberal arts college in the United States, will be required to take a swimming, archery and horseback riding class next fall semester.
The college aims to revive the Islamic tradition by adding these classes to the curriculum.
Dawood Yasin, the director of student affairs at Zaytuna College, says he wants students at Zaytuna to experience a holistic education — one that involves traditional Islamic studies, spirituality and an understanding of the Western canon.
The idea of teaching swimming, archery and horseback riding is attributed to Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, who advised parents to teach their children how to swim, how to ride a horse and how to shoot arrows using a bow.
Yasin says there’s a reason why these specific activities are mentioned in the tradition and why he decided to implement them into Zaytuna’s curriculum.
“Each activity has a spiritual lesson and relates to where the students are in life and in their academic studies”
“Each activity has a spiritual lesson and relates to where the students are in life and in their academic studies,” he says.
Yasin gave the example of swimming and how it forces the students to function in a different environment than they are used to — further requiring them to put their trust in Allah and in themselves.
Therefore, swimming will be mandatory for incoming freshmen. Yasin hopes the class will help students adjust to university life since most will be leaving home for the first time.
Sophomores will learn archery and juniors will be on horseback.
Some students are already getting a taste of what’s to come.
This year’s freshmen are required to participate in archery, although it is not yet a class, since it started mid-year.
Yasin says the students are happy to have access to archery at the college, especially since people usually have this nostalgic idea when the sport is mentioned.
He hopes the mentality surrounding these sports will change for the better — and not only for his students, but for the entire Muslim community.
“I think it is something we have overlooked in our Islamic schools,” Yasin says. “We’ve given them soccer, basketball and all of these things, but we neglected something that is integral to our own tradition.”
Ultimately, Yasin says his goal is to get the students to a point where they can compete at a club level with other schools.
Photo: © 2017 Zaytuna College