Zaytuna College Commencement 2018

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Event Name: Zaytuna College Commencement 2018
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 6/17/2019
Transcript Version: 1

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I love mud why



Rahim I now declare this a tuna college

commencement began please be seated miss

Melara honor him was her Ottawa Sarah

marsinah Mohammed wanna Eddie vaisakhi

was an empty cinema Gojira one of the

Idina to her daddy Littlefield

sorry he know how to say that Eddie was

like he wasn't him it's my honor to

welcome you to our fifth commencement

and to the graduating class of 2018 on

behalf of the faculty staff and board of

trustees I want to want to thank you all

and your families for trusting us with

your education and I want to

congratulate all of you on successfully

completing your graduation requirements

yours is no small accomplishment we have

developed and refined a curriculum that

we know all too well takes a great deal

of time effort and dedication to

complete hence congratulations and kudos

to all of you I want now to acknowledge

say tuna college's Board of Trustees

particularly our chairperson professor a

she and our secretary Sigma being safe

for law and for all of the trustees

extraordinary efforts in helping to make

this year a landmark one for Zaytuna I

also want to especially thank dr. mark

Delp our Dean of Faculty it's been my

privilege and pleasure to work closely

with him and he is someone who truly

understands and shares the vision of

Zaytuna College and its commitment to

not only the liberal arts but to

restoring intellectual traditions to the

Abrahamic faiths dr. Dell brings to our

school over 30 years of experience

in the liberal arts religion but also

the knowledge of what makes a small

college great dr. Dell was helped

immensely to strengthen our school and

our faculty on our pedagogy

he's worked tirelessly to develop with

others a new master's program in textual

studies of the classical Arabic and

Islamic tradition that we plan pending

WASC approval to launch this fall we

hope it will be a watershed program for

the greater American and Muslim

community I also want to thank our head

of operations Kathryn Hamza we call her

Catherine the Great at Zaytuna along

with her staff for all of their hard

work and tireless efforts in

strengthening zetas worldly needs its

resources fast facilities and operations

so that our students and faculty can

benefit from that most important

civilizational institution we call the

ivory tower where loftier thoughts can

take place in a rarefied environment

free from profane concerns Imam a chef

that he said if I had to concern myself

with the price of onions I would have

never learned anything the ivory tower

too often maligned and mocked is

nevertheless a vital institution and

enables us as a species to have a haven

of stillness and calm that is conducive

to reflection and to thinking deeply

about the human condition for an

extended period of time the ivory tower

also enables students to develop their

intellect and character in preparation

for a meaningful life of flourishing if

our institution of higher learning

prepares our students well god-willing

from among them will emerge those who

can guide us when we deviate from our

course lest we jeopardize not only

ourselves but our society as vice

flourishes and virtue languages the

Quran reminds us let not all of you go

out in defense but let there be a group

who stays back to become learn it in

order to warn those who return to stay

the course that they may all flourish

finally I want to thank the esteemed

public intellectual his

durian rhetorician biographer classicist

and all-around Renaissance man dr. Garry

wills for gracing us with his presence

despite the distance and travel that at

any ages arduous but in the fall of life

even more so now I'd like to speak to

our students directly for a few moments

you've had I think at Zeitoun ecology

unique experience an experience that was

purposefully designed to facilitate your

studies within the context of an ancient

tradition that tradition began in a

misty and mysterious past when members

of our collective tribe contemplated

deeply the question what makes us human

and determine that above all it resides

in our ability to know through

abstraction and to communicate to others

but not just our needs as many animals

are quite capable of that but also our

understanding of the purpose of our

existence animals can communicate primal

needs just watch a cat sit by a closed

door and meow clearly communicating to

its owner a demand get up and open the

door cats as their lovers well know our

imperious creatures we actually have a

family cat that we call mr. bean who I

was in the bedroom and the cat came up

and began to just meow frantically and I

knew it was not normal so I got up and

he led me downstairs and there was smoke

all over the lower floor so there was

actually a fire on the stove in the

house and I initially I felt an immense

amount of gratitude as if he was saving

my life but I deeper reflection I

realized he was he was really saying

listen dummy if you're going to stay

indoors and asphyxiate at least open the

door and let me out so I can assure you

that mr. bean does not hang out with the

local cats

discussing the existence of God

there's no imaginary atheist cat

challenging him to a debate about

whether they have a creator or not that

level of abstraction and communication

is the sole purview of our species

since language and thought makes us

human it's the language art that became

the foundation of all humane and

civilized learning in Botticelli's

wonderful mural lorenzo turin when he

presented by grammar too pretentious and

the other liberal arts that hangs in the

Louvre museum in Paris the seven arts

are personified as beautiful women there

was a time when men were the ones that

generally went to college they were

personified as beautiful women to be

pursued the artist portrays grammar as

the woman who introduces the young

student to the other seven with

Prudential or wisdom overlooking all of

them and throned above them with her bow

and arrow and the bow was symbolic of

the idea of hitting the mark it's

fascinating to me that the word in

Hebrew and in Greek Amartya in Greek and

in Arabic hudley the word for sin in all

three of the Abrahamic languages means

it's an archery term that means to miss

the mark

and that's why Prudential wisdom has the

bow and arrow because she's the master

archer wisdom is what enables you to hit

the mark three of the liberal arts

comprised the Trivium grammar which

traditionally included not only grammar

but literature poetry and history what

the Arabs called Mahabharat Elmen

Mahabharat logic which is the grammar of

our thinking and its sister dialectic

which is a learner discussion in pursuit

of the truth between two or more

interlocutors and this was completed

with the summation of these arts in

rhetoric the art which enables members

of our society to thrive in a culture

that excels in civil and persuasive

discourse as opposed to argument by

blood as is the want of people who lack

the skills of reasoned and eloquent

discourse grammar logic and rhetoric

function as a lens through which one

speculates from the Latin specularity to

see from which we derive our word

spectacles once a student requires

proficiency in these three arts he or

she is ready to pursue a real education

traditionally always rooted and informed

by religion for well over a thousand

years Jews Christians and Muslims not to

mention Hindus and Buddhists pursued

some form of the language arts in order

to penetrate the mysteries of our

existence to understand revelation and

to seek wisdom for most civilizations

this was limited to a Scholastic class

the Brahmins

the clergy or the rabbis but as friends

Rosenthal the great Jewish orientalist

points out Islam democratized knowledge

it obliged everyone to study the Quran

begins with the command acara reads the

Prophet said sallallahu said I'm seeking

knowledge is incumbent upon every man

and woman the Quran asked rhetorically

are they the same those who know and

those who don't know another verse

states God elevates those who believe in

those who have been given knowledge so

you are among a privileged few who have

who have not only the desire and leisure

to pursue knowledge but we're fortunate

to have skilled and learned teachers to

facilitate that pursuit and we're today

celebrating your commencement in other

words this is really the beginning of

the life of learning and our prophet

reminded us that learning is from the

cradle to the grave and his wife Aisha

reminded us that a person will continue

to be a scholar as long as they seek

knowledge but the day they say I am

learning they have become ignorant a

true liberal education engages students

with the classic works of the greatest

minds in human history as such it is a

training in humility it reveals to us

how little we know it humbles us but it

is also a

training in boldness because it

challenges us to pursue excellence

mimesis or imitation embeds in our human

nature we are imitative creatures but we

will imitate what is presented to us if

the culture is degraded we too have

become degraded and if it is exalted and

lofty then it invokes within us a desire

for loftiness according to one of the

Masters of the liberal arts liberal

education is liberation from vulgarity

the Greeks had a beautiful word for

vulgarity they called it a pyro kaalia

lack of experience in things beautiful

liberal education supplies us with

experience in things beautiful God is

beautiful and loves beauty the prophet

sallallaahu said I'm informed us we hope

that we've exposed you in these four

years to many beautiful things and that

henceforth you will always seek the

beautiful and never settle for the

impoverished and too often ugly works

and ideas swirling around us this is a

time of the proving of spirits we are

being tested as a species in

unprecedented ways technology has become

a Magnum force that has seduced our

hearts and minds addictions are rampant

niall ism and its twin atheism are on

the rise but this is no time for despair

it's a time for waging spiritual warfare

and for enlisting in the intellectual

war of ideas the age of swords is long

gone those who live by the sword will

die by the sword but the spiritual and

intellectual wars are appropriate for

every time and place be warriors of the

heart spreading peace where there is

conflict stillness where there's

commotion care where there is neglect

beauty where there's ugliness virtue

where there is vice and perhaps most

importantly spread knowledge

where there's ignorant there are those

who claim that altruism is a lie that at

our core we are simply selfish beings

The Selfish Gene prove them wrong the

Quran reminds us that there are those

among us who do good works without

desire for reward or praise the poor on

also tells us hell is a lesson a lesson

is virtue anything other than its own

reward go out and make your mark

but guard your souls don't let them be

sullied by the vulgarity and degradation

that very often surrounds us as the

quran states alaikum fusa come take care

of your own souls those who are astray

will not harm you if you yourselves are

guided and again be witnesses unto

humanity even against your own Souls our

prophet sallallaahu Saddam was the most

beautiful of men he spoke beautifully he

dressed beautifully in fact that bara

said I never saw anyone more beautiful

than the Prophet in his red cloak with

his hair hanging on his shoulders the

Quran says of him surely you are of a

vast ethical nature everything he did

was done beautifully the Prophet loved

poetry he loved beautiful language he

had a wonderful sense of humor but was

never course or crass he was given a

book whose miracle is considered to be

the beauty of its language and the

loftiness of its meanings form and

content don't ever let them be separate

in your lives our Muslim civilization

was historically recognized for its

overwhelming commitment to beauty

whether the great Taj Mahal the alhambra

palace or the magnificent adobe

cathedral esque mosques of of my

which I saw and prayed in myself the

hallmark of Muslims whether in Asia in

Europe or Africa was beauty and

excellence emanating from a deep

knowledge that was both celestial and

mundane the poet said Tilka Authority

doula Elena fondo roba Donna Allah a

theory these are our traces we leave

behind for you to know who we are so

look after us at what we have left

behind so ask yourselves who were those

people that had such sublime visions

what was in their souls that could

produce such ethereal beauty look at

their calligraphy which is a commitment

to embellishing language calligraphy a

beautiful writing look at the

illuminated manuscripts of the poor on

they produce painstakingly handwritten

with God's name on every page emblazoned

in gold the care they had for every jot

and dot verily God has decreed beauty

and excellence in everything cut applaud

asana at a cool ìshe be people of asan

of beauty and excellence be bold and

Providence will come to your aid show

the world but more importantly show

yourselves and show your Lord that you

are worthy of being called a battle rock

man the servants of the merciful Allah

Dini I'm Shana Allen or Dione that tread

gently on the earth and when the

ignorant provoke them they simply reply



Sarla come today I'll be reading three

poems the first poem is by imam shafi'i

baccata lkd Takata tsubame Ali

lamentable Allah Sahir Ali Ali women

Rama l-'alameen Radhika de nada al hamra

feat Alabama Holly Terran will estimate

anomaly lon Yahoo Sol Muharram

intolerable early the degree of effort a

German determines ones Heights a seeker

of glory holds vigil at nights to seek

the heights without effort or pain one

wastes a life while seeking in vain you

desire distinction with pleasure and

ease to possess precious pearls one

plunges disease this next poem is by

Mark Van Doren titled slowly slowly

wisdom gathers slowly slowly wisdom

gathers golden dust in the afternoon

somewhere between the Sun and me

sometimes so near that I can see yet

never settling late or soon would that

it did and a rug of gold spread west of

me a mile or more not large but so that

I might lie face up between the earth

and sky and know what none has known

before then I would tell as best I could

the secrets of that shining place the

web of the world how thick how thin how

firm with all things folded in how

ancient and a hope full of grace this

last poem is by Langston Hughes titled I

too sing America with a change of a few

words I too sing America

I am the Muslim other they want me to

eat in the kitchen when company comes

but I laugh and eat well and grow strong

tomorrow I'll be at the table when

company comes nobody will dare say to me

eat in the kitchen then besides they'll

see how beautiful I am and be ashamed I

too AM America


it's my honor and pleasure to introduce

dr. Garry wills who's a reknowned

American author and historian a true man

of letters in our age who specializes in

American history politics and religion

especially the history of the Catholic

Church he's received innumerable awards

for his achievements including the

presidential medal of the endowment to

the Humanities the National Book Critics

Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for

general nonfiction awarded for his book

Lincoln at Gettysburg dr. wills is a

recipient of 21 honorary degrees

doctorates including from George

Washington University and Bard College

he's written nearly 40 books on religion

and politics which include inventing

America why I am a Catholic and what

Jesus meant he received his doctorate

degree from Yale University in the

classics and has taught at 12

universities including Yale Princeton

and most recently Northwestern


he is currently professor emeritus of

history his brave book which is I was

very much aware of dr. wills before and

had a couple of his books in my library

but I found his book I actually stumbled

on it in a new-age bookstore what the

Quran meant and why it matters and it

wasn't that I was looking for any New

Age books but I whenever I passed by a

bookstore I kind of feel a magnetic pull

so I went in there and I I found his

book what the Quran meant and why it

matters it received wide critical

acclaim with the New York Times

proclaiming that wills has written

perhaps the best introduction to the

Quran the Chicago Tribune has called

Garry wills America's public

intellectual the New York Times said

he's one of our most important

intellectuals so please welcome our

commencement speaker dr. Garry wills


I made it


my dear brothers and sisters under the

one god it is generous of you to invite

me here to share your time of proud

achievement you have mastered two

cultures to advance the prosperity of

both and foster greater understanding

between fellow creatures and our shared

God the unsung heroes of most ceremonies

like this are the parents they are the

ones who first taught the graduates and

have supported and encouraged and

inspired them through years that was

certainly true of my parents neither of

them had gone to college but they were

very pleased that I was able to do that

and go on to graduate school and go on

to teach

It was as if they had done it themselves

and in a sense they had I come here out

of a certain degree of shame it was

shame that made me belatedly study and

come to love the Quran despite a

lifetime of studying religion I was

ashamed that I had not read the Quran

until the claims that it was responsible

for the tragedy of 9/11 made me start

investigating such hateful charges as I

came to know more about Islam I also

felt shame as an American

that a man who is now the President of

the United States would mock and

humiliate the parents of an American war

hero who died for this country

captain Humayun Khan who Mayans father

kids recon who has a law degree from

Harvard tried to instruct Donald Trump

on the Constitution only to have Trump

insult his wife and call him a puppet of

Hillary Clinton such ignorance is alas

not uncommon but as is not normally

rewarded with the presidency I'm I am

also ashamed for this country whose

boast has been that it supports freedom

of religion and yet it sees actions to

prevent the building of mosques or to

encourage the desecration of them this

despite the fact that the Quran says

that believers in the one God should

protect one another's places of worship

including I quote monasteries churches

synagogues and mosques you graduates

have completed today an important stage

in a project that is vital to our

country to increase the understanding of

the role Islam should play in American

life fulfilling the First Amendment's

pledge of religious freedom you

understand what kisra Khan was trying to

teach that recalcitrant student to

Donald Trump you are trained not only in

Muslim scholarship but in the liberal

arts whose aim is to know the whole

culture of the human mind many years

ago when I was a young the liberal arts

were somewhat restricted in their range

they referred especially to the Greek

and Roman cultures and to Europeans who

boasted that they were transmitting

these classics the high school I went to

offered its students four years of Latin

and two years of Greek the Greek

language appealed to me so much that I

went on to study it throughout college

and throughout graduate school and I

taught Greek for some years as a faculty

member but it took me a while to realize

that the humanities were not as

exclusively European as I had first been

taught during the Dark Ages in Europe

the writings of Aristotle the great

Greek philosopher had been entirely lost

in the West but they were preserved

studied and commented on in the Muslim

world he was not until the 13th century

that Western thinkers like Albertus

Magnus and Thomas Aquinas retrieved

Aristotle from great Muslim thinkers

like Avicenna and Avera Wiis who had

been experts in that subject for a year

for centuries before the West even

became aware of them the revelations

were so new to Europeans that they tried

to reject them as an alien intrusion in

1277 the University of Paris the

principal center of theological study at

the time the place where thomas aquinas

had been a teacher condemned

acquaintances teaching saying have made

him more an Aristotelian than a

christian just think what a shrunken


their own past the teachers in Paris

would have bequeathed to us if that

condemnation of the new information had

been retained and deepened now we know

that the humanities the liberal arts

include the study of many cultures after

all humans are humans wherever they live

and if one believes in one God he is the

maker and protector and the mall Allah

and the Quran says that he sends

messages to all people all the time

speaking to them in their own languages

there were some Americans who objected

when the first Muslim was elected to the

United States Congress and took his oath

of office not on the Bible but on the

Koran few of them realized that the

Quran keith Ellison placed his hands on

was the very personal copy that had been

owned by Thomas Jefferson it is now in

the Library of Congress which led it to

congressman Ellison for his swearing in

Jefferson it turns out was far ahead of


in knowing that we should be interested

in all the religions of all men the

importance of this to him was such that

he listed his Virginia statute of

religious freedom among the three things

he wanted to be remembered for the only

things to be inscribed on his tombstone

they were the Declaration of

Independence the statute of religious

freedom in the founding of the

University of Virginia he wanted those

things listed and quote not a word more

close quote Jefferson in his

autobiography describes his aim in the

statute of religious freedom it was

quote to comprehend within its mantle of


the Jew and the Gentile the Christian

and the Mohammedan the Hindu and the

infidel of every denomination close

quote Jefferson with his curiosity about

all things probably knew that as many as

twenty percent of the slaves brought to

America from Africa were Muslims the

Jeffersonian principle of religious

freedom was recognized in the White

House during the presidencies of Bill

Clinton George Bush W Bush and Barack

Obama in all of which Ramadan was

celebrated along with Passover and

Easter this official recognition of our

major religions is another American

tradition President Trump does not

recognize the three presidents I

mentioned all visited the Washington

area mosque during their presidency and

when he was there President Obama said

prompting laughter Thomas Jefferson's

opponents tried to stir up things by

suggesting he was a Muslim so I was not

the first you graduates have great

things to contribute to our expanding

culture and some ugly prejudices to

contradict with by your accomplishments

this day part of your obligation is to