Read the full interview with Imam Dawood below.
What was the inspiration behind having bees on campus?
Dawood Yasin: To understand that, we need to go back and talk about what the inspiration was for having a garden on campus. Allah talks in the Qur’an about gardens, which are promised for human beings—as you come to love the garden in this life, you yearn for what is promised in the next. Similarly, bees are mentioned in the Qur’an; they have their own chapter. Allah mentions what He loves in the Qur’an, thus the bees represent an opportunity for us to explore the deeper meanings of their functions and benefits.
How do the bee colonies fit into Zaytuna’s educational vision?
DY: If we think about educating the whole individual—the body, mind, and soul—the bees represent all three. There’s a physical aspect of caring for them; there’s knowledge one must acquire about them; and there’s the metaphysical understanding of their presence in the Qur’an. At Zaytuna, we want our students to grow in each of these dimensions, and we hope they instill what they learn into their own lives.
Will we be harvesting honey from the bees?
DY: We expect about six pounds of honey per frame. There are eight frames in a hive, so each hive can produce about sixty pounds of honey. Hopefully, our bees can produce two to three times a year. The honey will be used on campus for culinary purposes; there will be a commercial aspect as well and, with the generosity of our tradition, some gifting too.
How do you envision the garden looking and functioning in the next ten years?
DY: We’d like to expand the general footprint of the garden. There’s the public aspect: in the future we could see a farmer’s market happening on campus, accessible only by foot or bike which represents an attempt to return to a simpler way of living. I would love to engage some culinary talents. I’ve just spoken to an herbalist—we have chamomile, echinacea, and other herbs that we could use medicinally. We’d like to produce our own lavender essential oils. I see the garden as a place of learning. Perhaps there will be students interning, researching, connecting with other universities, and training in a summer program.