A Community United

Hamza Yusuf

(From left to right) Hamza Yusuf, Zaid Shakir, and Hatem Bazian supplicate at the ribbon cutting ceremony of the Marin Campus of Zaytuna College.

Ramadan is upon us. May its blessings shower you with grace and goodness in these dramatic days of drawing closer to our Lord. From dawn to dusk, believers everywhere subdue their natural appetites and, through discipline, sublimate their souls for the sake of Allah. This prophetic practice, common to most traditions, teaches us the power of our will to harmonize with divine injunctions.

We can view Ramadan, in essence, as continuing education for the daily, weekly, and yearly practices of our faith. It reaffirms our consistent commitment to the chronical demands of our five diurnal devotions and weekly congregation prayer. “Verily, the prayer was prescribed for believers in specific times” (Quran 4:103). It is also a time to reflect on the immense blessings of small things we take for granted: a glass of water, a date, a hug from our spouse. The regimen of fasting dilates simple pleasures into immense gifts from a generous Creator, who asks simply that we feel grateful for these gifts.

Ramadan also has an ennobling benefit for us: it spurs us to go beyond ourselves and think of the less fortunate — the hungry, the destitute, and the downtrodden — and to share our blessings with them. The Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, was the most generous of all, even more so in Ramadan, His prolific nature elicited the description of him as “a fecunding wind.”

Generosity has been a hallmark of American Muslims, who are among the strongest and most highly educated minorities in our nation, and, by the grace of God, our charitable contributions are commendable. Clearly, many crises around the world have squeezed our community, but even as we tend to those immediate needs, we must also invest in our collective future by supporting visionary institutions in our community.

It is worth noting that Catholics built more than 300 accredited colleges and 1,500 high schools in the U.S. to protect their youth from straying from their faith. We face greater threats as a community today than they did a hundred years ago, so it is imperative that strong Muslim educational institutions take root in America.

Zaytuna College — your college — presents an academic face to the larger culture and has already begun to engage with our nation’s leading institutions and scholars. Meanwhile, through the “Zaytuna In Your Community” program, our faculty members are bringing their knowledge to Muslim communities across the nation.

We are also actively working to launch two important centers this year. One will directly address the misperceptions about Islam, as well as religious illiteracy among our own community; the other will explore ways in which we can promote sustainable and ethical living from within the matrix of the Islamic tradition.

We are a nascent enterprise and growing fast, but we are committed to being the best that our tradition has aspired to and achieved in the past. I sincerely hope that you help us today to build the future we want tomorrow, for we truly believe God helps those who help themselves. “Verily, God does not change the condition of a people until they change themselves” (Quran 13:11).

May we all combine our wealth and our work this Ramadan and in the year ahead to help change the condition of our community, God willing.