Zaytuna College Convocation 2010

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Event Name: Zaytuna College Convocation 2010
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 6/14/2019
Transcript Version: 1

Transcript Text

co-founder of Zaytuna College

yeah Hamza Yusuf is an American convert

to Islam who studied for several years

under leading scholars in the Muslim

world he is the co-founder of the tuna

College in California and has translated

into modern English several classical

Arabic texts and poems he also advises

Stanford University's program in Islamic

studies and the center of Islamic

studies at the Graduate theological

Union in Berkeley would you please

welcome Hamza Yusuf

Spiner rahim allah and i see the know

muhammad wanna annual sake was adam

Tasneem akira what i heard over after

what ain't had a near darling but hum

didn't de all praise is due to God alone

the the this this - that was made has a

symbol on it of this is a symbol that's

found all over the Muslim world you'll

find it in fact in Morocco you find it

over the doors of the Moroccan houses

you find it in mosques in India in Syria

and it's it's it's a symbol of the

Prophet sandal and it's a sandal

actually that's honored in the Topkapi

Palace in Istanbul the sandal is

actually there and this is the form of

the sandal and the Muslims have always

honored the sandal of the Prophet and it

said that his two sandals were the

sandals of fear and hope and these are

the two sandals that are necessary to

walk the path of life to have the sandal

of fear in the Senate of hope it's it's

basically paradise in the inferno and so

we set out on this path with fear and

with hope we set out on this path with

fear that our intentions might not be up

to the standard that they need to be I

know that Fatima Fatiha when she founded

the bada Wien university which is our

teacher who stood Abdullah is a graduate

of the 13 when she actually donated the

land to build the university there which

is the oldest university in the world

probably in the true sense of that that

word she fasted the entire time that the

place was being built in hopes that it

would be accepted from God as a place of

learning and we find many many stories

of the early people the type of

sincerity and devotion that they


in doing these things so we we are

trusting and I don't want to make a

claim because the Quran says wanting you

to look at out of lava huwa has poo

whoever truly trusts in God God will

suffice but I come from a tradition that

warns us of making claims and that's

where the hope comes and we hope that

we're truly trusting in God to make the

claim of I am indeed trusting in God

like the men who arrived in the

pilgrimage from Yemen and they had no

provision with them and the Quran tells

people to take provision on your journey

and say now Omar saw them he said who

are you and they said were the motuhake

dune were the people that trust in God

he said no you're the mataki loon you're

the people that need to beg for food and

then he said - soweto take provision and

then the Quran reminds us but the best

provision is the provision of piety a

word unfortunately that has been almost

removed from the English language

it's it's become almost a a historical

anomaly this idea of piety and I

remember my dear sister and I think it's

auspicious that and and and I don't say

this lightly I think it's auspicious

that a direct descendent of Patrick

Henry is here with us in this

convocation because he really started

the American Revolution and this is part

of the American Revolution what's

happening here today is part of the

American Revolution because America

began as a place that wanted to depart

from the ways of the old world and the

ways of the old world was fighting each

other over religious doctrine this was a

place that they wanted to see people

actually able to express their faith and

Patrick Henry was amongst those and

there was an early debate that wanted to

see Christianity as the religion of

America and he was a profoundly devout

Christian and he actually argued for

having religious tests there were a

group of founding fathers and they're

quoted constantly by a certain

of an extreme religious right in this

country arguing that America is a

Christian nation but there was another

group of founding fathers that actually

argued against that and they were the

ones that won the day and in some ways

were back in that struggle again of

defining what America is and there are

some people that want to retain a vision

of America that perhaps never was my own

and we were talking about the Catholics

earlier and I completely agree with dr.

Donnie that we have an immense amount of

knowledge in previous religious

experiences and the Catholic religious

experience in this country is one of the

richest as well as the Jewish religious

experience in this country for Muslims

to benefit from but my own family who

work on my father's side were Catholic

Irish Catholic immigrants to this

country and they built churches they

built my great-grandfather was a patron

of st. Joseph's Catholic College in

Philadelphia and my grandfather

graduated from that College on my

mother's side we have my

great-grandfather Peter your gapless who

changed they changed the name to George

built the first Orthodox Church in San

Francisco at the turn of the of the 20th

century so I come from a family that has

a rich tradition of expressing religious

faith in an environment that was

antagonistic to that faith because the

Orthodox faith a hundred years ago was

not really an acceptable form of

Christianity to many many people in this

country and the Irish Catholics probably

suffered as much as any minority that's

come to the the the shores with the

public exception of the African American

community but the Irish American

community suffered greatly for their

faith and for their beliefs

so this country is is about liberty and

what was articulated in starting this

revelation revolution was give me

liberty or give me death that Liberty

was more precious to that man who

who made that statement and and the

greatest freedom is the freedom of

conscience the ability to actually say

what you think to be able to believe

something and to articulate that belief

and not be ashamed of it not to not have

to hide that we have Muslims in the

United States of America right now that

are hiding their faith that have changed

their names that use other names this is

what my great-grandfather who dropped

the OH from Hanson my grandfather's name

was Hanson but his grandfather's name

was Oh Hanson and they hid their Irish

roots because it was very difficult to

be Irish in this country in a certain

strata of American society my Greek

grandfather changed his name from Yogi

appleís to George and hid his Greek

roots he was a light-skinned Greek and

he was able to be somebody who said he

was actually from France until the 60s

enabled him to reassert his Greek

heritage and then he actually

participated in building the Greek

church now in San Anselmo in in Marin

County he was the president of that

church but it took an evolution in

American consciousness for him to feel

comfortable enough to assert the fact

that he was a greek orthodox immigrant

to the United States of America we would

have thought that we have transcended

this problem that were we've arrived

Obama Barack Hussein Obama is President

of the United States we were at the

inauguration in the church setting and

we had a woman in a hijab who actually

was part of the ceremony and Barrack

Obama's grandmother a Luo tribes woman

from Kenya was sitting in the front pew

wearing a traditional Kenyan Muslim

hijab and I'm thinking subhanAllah

you know glory to God masha'Allah but

ground zero has erupted this debate and

this country is really I think

struggling again about who it is and

what it

who we are as a people we're in a time

of incredible confusion for many many

people our young people when we look out

I mean just coming to this convocation

and and we wanted something dignified

and I said the my only criterion was it

wasn't pretentious but I wanted

something dignified because religion is

about dignity it's about the dignity of

human beings we are not animals we are

the meeting place between the

terrestrial and the celestial wear

something exalted wear something

extraordinary we have language we

produce language we write poetry we have

feelings that other creatures do not

share with us we have the concept of

infinity and yet outside in one of the

greatest universities in the United

States of America we have frat houses

and people coming just walking up the

street the the sights that we see for me

it saddens me I don't know how anybody

could be happy about seeing young people

with such a loss of dignity for me I see

this as a loss of dignity and I see it

really it's becoming a global phenomenon

the t-shirt and the shorts have become

the global uniform of globalization and

it wasn't that long ago when just dress

and the dignity of dress if you look in

traditional societies everywhere people

had such dignity in the way they dressed

even the poorest of people dressed with

such dignity Aboriginal peoples the

native some Native American tribes used

to call off conflicts if it rained

because they didn't want the feathers to

get dampened that it was more important

to be dignified in the battle than to

actually fight the battle great American

poet that I like began a song blind what

wise men looking in a blade of grass

young man looking at the shadows that


poor man looking through painted glass

for dignity dignity that really is what

education is about

it's what not just higher learning but

from the primary school treating

children with dignity we know what harm

now is caused by humiliating children

imam al-ghazali the great articulator of

islam said never scold a child in front

of other children but always take it

aside because he said when you shame a

child in front of children you create

humiliation in their hearts and he said

those children will lose the sense of

shame and they will actually get worse

and worse we have an immense task ahead

of us as a tuna College is an attempt

its success is going to be entirely

determined by the support of the

community there's immense support in our

community so far it's nowhere near what

we need but we're looking forward to it

and inshallah trusting in God to the

best of our ability I want to thank many

many people who have come here I want I

want to thank I saw Rabbi Lerner Michael

Lerner come in and I'm so glad to see

him well and healthy


Rabbi Lerner was in my personal prayers

when he was when I found out that he was

sick so it's it's really an honor to

have him here with us and many other

people I really I think dr. Donna his I

really feel like what he articulated and

you are a tough audience because I would

have given him a standing ovation hands

down but it was just such an incredible


it was such an incredible articulation

on many different levels and so much

went into it and I was just honored by

the fact that he took so much time to

put that thought into it and and I want

to study it and I really hope the other

faculty members and the students look at

it and really think about what he was

saying because this is a man who's

coming with an immense amount of

experience in the very things that we're

going to be grappling with and gtu the

Graduate theological union has in some

ways the seed was planted by sister Mary

Ann Farina many many years ago she's

here today she is a devout Catholic nun

who's also a lover of Imam al-ghazali

and actually wrote her dissertation

looking at Imam of gazanian st. Thomas

Aquinas and she came to me over 10 years

ago and we had a meeting in a yurt and

there are meetings in life that you

don't forget and then there's meetings

that you forget and then there's

meetings you wish you could forget but

that that was a meeting that I I could

not forget because she she really

planted a seed she said at the Graduate

theological Union we have we have all of

these religions on the top of this hill

teaching their traditions and she says

you're one-fourth of the world's

population where are the Muslim colleges

where's the Muslim seminary to teach

Muslims you need to do it as a tuna

should think about that and that was

really a turning point that came from

sister Mary Ann and I really thank you

and honor you for coming today in

support of of what we're trying to do

and now this this this is a courageous

group of young people they really are



religion is about faith and and their

presence here really is an act of faith

because they're coming into something

that is new we're all starting new and

and also some of the parents not all of

them needed their parent's permission

but some of the parents that allowed

their students I mean we had some

students that could have easily gone to

Ivy League colleges and and they chose

to come here and support this endeavor

it's it's a it's a historical group of

young people and and we thank them for

honoring us in putting placing their

trust in their Lord but also we would

say and then in us so we we really honor

that many many other people I see here

that I want to thank for for coming and

supporting us we've had immense support

in the Muslim community Zaytuna is known

now all over the world and when when I

was at the oz har University which is

one of the oldest universities they have

over three hundred thousand students at

al-azhar which just floored me I had no

idea they had that many students but

it's one of the oldest universities in

the Muslim world and the US as Hadees

the the ones that begin from that early

period and go through go through an

incredibly rigorous training and they're

actually quite stunning as scholars they

really are a lot harder has fallen on

hard times they're really trying to

reinvigorate it but they want a

relationship with us the I was also in

Morocco I just was a guest at the Kings

lectures there in the Douro sarracenia

the the minister there of religious

endowment also said that we are behind

you and the Peruvian University which is

a great Islamic University is also

looking to establish ties with us I mean

this is incredible it's just a blessing

and in light of that I just want to

remind myself and all of you we've heard

a lot of poetry but you're going to hear

one more poem and and it's important

because poetry to me religion without

poetry is is is like the nuclear waste

it becomes toxic if you don't have

religion with poetry all of the

Companions of the Prophet

the great ones that we know of were

poets I have a book called Cheryl Sahaba

the poetry of the Companions of the

Prophet they all wrote poetry the

Prophet loved poetry once he was riding

on a camel with a companion and he said

do you know any of the poetry of ibn ABI

salt he was a pre-islamic poet and he

said yes and the and the Sahaba said I

was ashamed to recite something so I

just recited two lines and the Prophet

said e let's hear some more and he said

so I recited two more and then he said

hehe let's hear some more and he said I

kept going until I recited over a

hundred verses in another narration say

now Omar asked somebody if they knew the

poetry of Eibon Abby cinema one of the

great poets of the jahaly period and one

of them even i-best said yes and he said

let's hear it and he kept reciting it

until they heard the Athan of Fujio and

then he said let's hear some Quran so

the the the prerequisite of learning

quranic tov seal or exegesis

is to master the jolly poetry it's a

prerequisite and some of it is quite

rivaled it shocked me when I was

studying in fact there's a whole slew of

erotic poetry in the Arabic tradition