Experiential Learning Requirements
Zaytuna College aims to foster a holistic environment of learning where inquiry, transmission, and debate take place as a way of life inside and outside the classroom. The College also organizes a wide range of public events on social, political, and religious topics each semester, often collaborating with schools and centers from neighboring institutions, such as the Graduate Theological Union and the University of California, Berkeley. Some of these events, sponsored by Zaytuna’s journal, Renovatio, bring Muslim scholars and leaders into conversation with each other, as well as with intellectuals and activists of different faiths and perspectives, to address and contend with today’s most pressing societal and moral issues.
Students also engage in a structured learning activity outside the classroom through an experiential learning program. Faculty advisors are available to advise students as they advance through the program, to discuss and help overcome challenges, and to guide and counsel their career aspirations. Faculty and students work closely to facilitate an integrated learning environment where every conversation becomes a class, and every class an adventure.
The tradition of sunnah sports is based on the saying of the Prophet s, who is reported to have said, “Teach your children swimming and archery,” and ¢Umar b. al-Khaţţāb’s statement “Teach your children swimming, archery, and horse riding.” To revive the tradition, Zaytuna College includes swimming, archery, and horseback riding in its curriculum. Student cohorts take swimming, archery, and horseback riding in their freshman, sophomore, and junior years, respectively.
The principles of a liberal arts education create a foundation that emphasizes interdisciplinary study. To be liberally educated is to be personally transformed by an integrated curriculum that over time unifies the student’s body, mind, and soul. Liberal education is the cultivation of wisdom and virtues, and of habits that are the result of deliberate, focused, and disciplined effort. The College’s sunnah sports curriculum aspires to cultivate comparable virtues in an athletic setting, thus thoroughly integrating the spiritual development of the body with the spiritual development of the mind.
Swimming presents an environment in which students learn to overcome fears, such as fear of bodily harm, fear of failure, and fear of pushing one’s body beyond its capacity. Therefore, completing the swimming requirement builds courage and develops resilience in students. Archery compels an inner struggle with the self to reach one’s target, despite distractions and preoccupations. Therefore, to be successful in archery, students must demonstrate temperance, which leads to inner stillness and sharp focus. Horseback riding presents the challenge of working with another living being that has its own will and intelligence. Therefore, horseback riding teaches students how to regulate relationships with others, to be fair and just in their interactions, and to respect all of God’s creatures.
To achieve these goals, the College initiated its Sunnah Sports Program in 2017. The program is an integral part of the curriculum, and all students must meet the requirements for a degree to be issued. Students are offered the opportunity to test out of participating if they can pass the minimum requirements within the first two weeks of the semester. Participation in each sport is for both semesters of each school year.
Every freshman at Zaytuna College—unless medically excused—must achieve a level of proficiency in swimming. Swimming classes are an hour long and are held once a week for each gender.
All Zaytuna College students must learn to swim continuously for three hundred yards, using a combination of freestyle (with side breathing and a strong kick) and one other competitive stroke (butterfly, breaststroke, or backstroke), with correct coordination and satisfactory power. Students must also be able to tread water continuously for two minutes.