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Light without Fire: The Making of America's First Muslim College [Kindle Edition]

Scott Korb
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The story of America’s first Muslim institution of higher education, Zaytuna College
In the fall of 2010, anti-Muslim furor in the United States reached a breaking point, capping a decade in which such sentiment had surged. Loud, angry crowds gathered near New York’s Ground Zero to protest plans to build an Islamic cultural center, while a small-time Florida minister appeared on national television almost nightly promising to celebrate the anniversary of 9/11 with the burning of Korans. At the same time, fifteen devout Muslims quietly gathered in a basement in Berkeley, California, to execute a plan that had been coming together for over a decade: to found Zaytuna College, “Where Islam Meets America.” It would be the nation’s first four-year Muslim liberal arts college, its mission to establish a thoroughly American, academically rigorous, and traditional indigenous Islam.
In Light without Fire, Scott Korb tells the story of the school’s founders, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir, arguably the two most influential leaders in American Islam, “rock stars” who, tellingly, are little known outside their community. Korb also introduces us to Zaytuna’s students, young American Muslims of all stripes who admire—indeed, love—their teachers in ways college students typically don’t and whose stories, told for the first time, signal the future of Islam in this country.
From a heady theology classroom to a vibrant storefront mosque, from the run-down streets Oakland to grand ballrooms echoing with America’s most powerful Muslim voices, Korb follows Zaytuna’s students and teachers as they find their place and their voice. He ultimately creates an intimate portrait of the school and provides a new introduction to Islam as it is being lived and re-envisioned in America. It’s no exaggeration to say that here, at Zaytuna, are tomorrow’s Muslim leaders.


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews


“Will Islam become an American religion or remain permanently estranged? Will Muslims in America develop an identity that contributes to their country or one that emphasizes isolation and opposition? Scott Korb knows just how crucial these questions are, and in Light Without Fire tells the story of the leaders and animating ideas behind America’s first Muslim liberal arts college—an institution seeking to build an American Islam—in all its fits and starts, and in prose that is both clear and compelling. I for one could not put it down—it is essential and riveting reading.”
—Eboo Patel, Founder and President, Interfaith Youth Core, author of Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice and the Promise of America

About the Author

Scott Korb is the author of Life in Year One: What the World Was Like in First-Century Palestine and coauthor of The Faith Between Us. He teaches at the New School and at New York University and lives with his family in New York City.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1167 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (April 16, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008ED6C20
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #962,665 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read! A lovely book! April 23, 2013
By Walid
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Scott Korb's book "Light Without Fire" was a pleasure to read. Scott does a great job incorporating humor into this book. I enjoyed that very much. He explains the historical background of Zaytuna College (formerly Zaytuna Institute), and gives mini-biographies of its founders. Scott also gives mini-biographies of the "Zaytunies" (students at Zaytuna). Scott does a great job explaining Arabic terms and Islamic rituals so the reader doesn't feel ignorant. I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants to read about being a story of the American Dream!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book is really good at capturing the feeling of the students, but it ignores the earlier Islamic colleges in the United States -- there are actually more than a dozen now. The most glaring absences are the American Islamic College in Chicago and the American Muslim College started by Imam Warith Deen Muhammad's followers in the 1980s.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intimate portrayal of Zaytuna College July 12, 2013
By Nora
Many Americans have no idea America's first Muslim college has been growing since 2009 in Berkeley, CA. Korb presents his account of the college in an intimate, witty and sometimes cynical if not sarcastic style. Muslim Americans are often dehumanized as terrorists who have no allegiance to America. With the portrayal of Zaytuna College and its integral scholars, Hamza Yusuf, Zaid Shakir and Dr. Hatem Bazian, the picture becomes clear of these individuals who want to sincerely contribute to America from their Islamic tradition and the American/Western tradition. I loved reading the profiles of the students whom Korb presents each in a unique light. Zaytuna has the support of the American Muslim community, not just Californian Muslims. But, he also shows that Muslim Americans disagree on certain issues like Christian or Jewish Americans because of our inherent diversity and variety of thought. There were a few typos and sometimes I didn't like the writing style, but overall, this book leaves me hopeful of the great coexistence between Islam and America because there is no conflict. Hamza Yusuf emphasized, as Korb has written repeatedly, that Zaytuna is just as American as any other Christian seminary. Zaytuna College will contribute to the American mosaic because there is sincerity in the intentions of its founders and students. Zaytuna College will hopefully become as well-known as any other seminary and will show that American Muslims care about this country and sacred knowledge and seek to bridge the traditional Islamic sciences with the wisdom of Western knowledge.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting documentation April 19, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Disclaimer: I haven't finished the book yet, but am about halfway through. The book thus far is a balanced account of the events around the founding of the country's first Muslim college. It's not a rosy-eyed fan take, and there are a couple of places where those who have supported the school might feel a twinge or two, or squirm a bit in our seats wondering why things happened as they did. That said, the writer was present as the college was being brought to life. In this year (2014) that the college is graduating its first class of baccalaureates, it is great to have a clear record of how it came to be here - the vision, collaboration, dedication and faith that brought it into being. The book will definitely be a "keeper" on many bookshelves for this reason.
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More About the Author

Scott Korb is the author several books, including LIGHT WITHOUT FIRE: THE MAKING OF AMERICA'S FIRST MUSLIM COLLEGE (Beacon, 2013), LIFE IN YEAR ONE: WHAT THE WORLD WAS LIKE IN FIRST-CENTURY PALESTINE (Riverhead, March 2010), and THE FAITH BETWEEN US (Bloomsbury, 2007), which he wrote with Peter Bebergal. He is co-editor of GESTURING TOWARD REALITY: DAVID FOSTER WALLACE AND PHILOSOPHY (Bloomsbury Academic, summer 2014) and associate editor of the HARRIET JACOBS FAMILY PAPERS (UNC Press, 2008), the first and perhaps only papers collection that will ever exist of a woman held in slavery. Scott currently teaches at the New School and New York University.

Photo Credit: M. Ryan Purdy


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