Zaytuna College bought the old Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, Calif., pictured here.

First Muslim college in US buys Lutheran seminary campus in Berkeley

(RNS) — A Muslim liberal arts college that offers subjects such as Islamic law alongside courses in math and philosophy has bought a former seminary campus for its undergraduate program.

Zaytuna College, the nation’s first accredited Muslim college, paid $10 million for the 10-acre Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary on a hilltop in Berkeley. The college, whose name means “olive tree” in Arabic, integrates Islam with the Western canon.

Zaytuna, which has 52 male and female undergraduates enrolled this fall, will move to the seminary grounds in January. It will continue to own three buildings near the Graduate Theological Union, also in Berkeley. Those buildings will be used to develop a graduate-level seminary down the road, said Amna Mirza, a spokesperson.

The seminary Zaytuna bought is one of seven in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Pacific Lutheran, which is part of California Lutheran University, moved to an office building in downtown Berkeley this summer.

Spokeswoman Karin Grennan said admissions at the seminary have fallen off but it also wanted to be able to provide its graduate students opportunities to work with social service agencies and develop urban ministries near downtown Berkeley.

Pacific Lutheran has 49 students enrolled in various degree programs. It had occupied the hilltop campus, with six buildings, for 64 years.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, an influential Islamic scholar, founded the Zaytuna Institute in 1996, and it evolved into the college. He is now its president.

Zaytuna is seeking to partner with the Graduate Theological Union, a consortium of research centers and seminaries in Berkeley.

The new campus, which includes a cathedral along with offices, classrooms and scenic gardens, also has a dormitory. Tuition is $19,000 a year, and housing is an additional $10,000.